The Terrorizers (1986)
A writer, a photographer and a criminal... walk into a nonlinear nightmare. This is a dark Taiwanese crime drama and there’s a lot more to it than three characters. We do have though is three plots running alongside one another. I like this device, waiting to see where the connections will arise. We have Li (Li-Chun Lee) a doctor who just got a fortunate promotion in his hospital, albeit one he’s orchestrated. He’s married to the writer, Zhou (Cora Miao) who has writers block and is looking for inspiration in old relationships. Then there’s Shu (An Wang) who’s broken her ankle jumping off a balcony to evade the cops and is locked in her apartment by her mother, scouring the phone book and making prank calls. Little Qiang (Shao-Chun Ma) the photographer has a bust up with his girlfriend, but he’s too cool to argue. He’s caught photos of Shu escaping and we’re obviously being lead to think this is going to be important. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not, it’s kind of up to the viewer. With all these threads, it’s easy to bury the lead and there’s a sense that we need to pay attention to every detail. The Cop (Pao-Ming Ku) seems to be the odd one out. Everyone else is kinda floating through their lives without much control. He though is full of swagger and confidence, an anchor of sorts. The Cop is Li’s friend. Helping him find his wife who’s gone missing as the threads start to entwine. The photographer ditches his girlfriend and moves into the flat where Shu committed her crime. It’s the very epitome of a slow burner, a creepy awkward tension cursing through each scene. No one is happy, but with each passing moment we understand a little bit more or are lead a little further to the wrong conclusions. I’m not sure if I like it or not, it feels oddly disjointed and connected at the same time. Intentionally so. Like a series of snapshot vignettes that although make perfect sense to the plot, lack any soul to tie it together. It’s ambitious though and does work. Even half way through, I’m thinking I’d like you watch this again. It feels like there’s more to unearth here then I can pick up in one viewing. This is largely down to the fact that what’s been unfolding in the first half of the film, disjointed incidents, are about to crash together spectacularly as the whole thing flips upside down and we, that is I, realise I’ve been had. The devil is in the details and in searching for meaning, the bigger picture slips delicately past. Time is fun to play with and this does it wonderfully. Even from the aha moment of a gunshot, the viewer still has work to do as we think we’ve understand what we’ve seen, might not be what we’ve seen at all. What is real and what is a nightmare. The Terrorizers is very crafty and it’s certainly left me wanting to explore more from director Edward Yang.