Thursday, March 24, 2011

Intruder (1996)


Poster for one of my favorite HK films ever! The 1996 Milkyway/Win's Entertainment co-production ,INTRUDER, is the warped brain child of prolific writer turned director for this film only, Sammy Tsang Kan-cheung. Almost completely different in tone from Tsang's other written works which include ROYAL WARRIORS, MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE, KING OF COMEDY, SHAOLIN SOCCER, and KUNG FU HUSTLE (how is THAT for a resume?), INTRUDER is a relentlessly dirty thriller that can be fairly compared to darker Hitchcock. Equating the films proceedings to Hitchcock's PSYCHO is understandable as the wonderful Wu Chien-lien sheds her A MOMENT OF ROMANCE persona and rips into this cold blooded killer character.
Wu Chien-Lien
INTRUDER rumbles along loudly only stopping for brief moments for gasps of air. Thunder and rain bang and pound for the majority of the film leaving an uneasy feeling within the viewer. A true sense of foreboding doom wreaks from beginning to end, not only in it's dark and shadowy style, but it's subtextual pre-handover theme (Yes. That overused chestnut) is surely felt and strikingly palpable. As a HK cinema outsider and picking up the cinema in it's pre-handover run-up to 1997, I was served heaping helpings of film and film comment of 'pre-handover jitters' theory and rhetoric. As a newbie around the time and eager to lap up any info esoterically HK cinema, I saw allegory in almost everything. Whether the 'jitters' were gospel or not is/was debatable. I really don't know? I wasn't there? Stories of HK talent defecting to the open arms and wallets of U.S. producers was a story oft told at the time so it certainly seems that there was tremendous trepidation, at least in the film biz. And the stories put on film in the late 80's early 90's point to a frightening infiltration by Mainlanders often portrayed as country bumpkins or brutal 'Big Circle Gang' types. Maybe the audience felt the pangs as well?

All of that nonesense aside, INTRUDER does swell with handover allegory. At least to this viewer. Wu Chien-lien's character is indeed a dangerous intruder from north of the border. Maniacal in her quest to secure a 'hongkies' existence for her and her hubby, played by Moses Chan Ho. Once Chien-lien sows the seeds of murder in the opening minutes by graphically and in a highly stylized yet tough to watch strangulation scene, she is straight as a blade and feral in her pursuit. By showing mucho depravity towards her antithesis, lazy and content to be Wayne Lai Yiu-cheung, a distinct separation of character traits, not only personal to the characters themselves but relayed to their respective peers as well, is created. Lai representing the comfortable layman of Hong Kong and Wu eerily echoing the unknown mainland interlopers to the north that could quite possibly infiltrate, saturate, and eventually change the existence of Hong Kong's denizens. While visually creepy and dangerous, with rough scenes of brutality, it's INTRUDER's fear of the unknown that really strikes home with a viewer or a viewing public facing an uncertain future?

Wayne Lai Yiu-cheung
Ok, so, enough of that trash talk. There is such a thing as over analyzing a film. This blog is supposed to be quick and fun. So I won't get into other subtextual aspects of the film and what I think about the inclusion of Lai's poor daughter and the terror this little one goes through. I'll let you watch the film yourself. Hey! Look at my cool poster, everyone!

That this is the lowest grossing Milkyway film,and virtually 'torpedoed Wu Chien-lien's film career'(thanks YTSL) is incredibly sad and defies my logic? This is not shiny happy people New Year's cinema or populous warm and fuzzy Wong Jing shenanigan's. INTRUDER was possible truth that people didn't want to face? Wayne Lai Yiu-cheung's character thus perfectly defining the HK audience. If I don't see it, it's not there. I'm just riffing here folks. I could be ALL wrong? =)

I rarely, if ever, use superlatives such as 'brilliant', 'genius' or 'masterpiece', often finding them overused and their meaning compromised, but with INTRUDER, I don't struggle to use these words in their most true forms. It IS a masterpiece in my eyes and in form extremely refreshing and different from what was showing in Hong Kong's theaters at the time. It's theme, considering it's time and place in the regions cinema is esoterically HK, but taken in a more broad sense is a globally frightening and entertaining thriller. Brutal and beautiful.


For another take on this wonderful film, plus a few screen shots, click on over to A Hero Never Dies. He's easing into his CAT III film watching like an old man easing into a warm bath (thanks Seinfeld). Carefully. It's a treat to see a HK film fan of over 20 years take his first tentative steps into this 'specialized' genre. Good stuff.


  1. Nice review, Kingwho! You definitely made me want to watch this again. It's been a long time since I saw it.

    I only recently (a couple of months ago) saw A Moment of Romance, so it's only now that I can fully appreciate Wu Chien-lien's risk-taking role.

    Love that poster!

  2. Wow Kingwho? You should mix it up and write more posts like this!

    The handover thing maybe an old chestnut, and it has been done to death on films that to me don't have anything to do with it, but if ever a film screamed out about it, its this one.

    The poster is very cool and looks pristine, nice!

  3. Hi Kingwho? --

    Wrote the following review of Intruder years ago:-

    It still might interest you though. :)

    Also, have you seen and like "Beyond Hypothermia"? Not as intense as "Intruder", to be sure, but one more early Milkyway Image film starring Wu Chien Lien that seems to have slipped under people's radars, alas.

  4. Kingwho or any NYC chinatown DVD dwellers. Do you think Intruder is available for sale in chinatown? Sounds like a movie that I would enjoy which went under my radar. Thanks for mentioning it!

  5. Duriandave, Thanks so much! I really enjoy Wu Chien-lien in the majority of her films. To think that this film started a downturn on her carreer kinda upsets me? Another of her films that I really enjoyed around the same time is Walk In. A pretty decent ghost story w/ Danny Lee. Seen it?

    AHND, thanks! This post was too much for me. I prefer short, sweet, and silly =P

    I'll leave the good write-ups to you and YTSL =)

    YTSL, how did I miss that review? I've utilized A View From The Brooklyn Bridge for years. It's a wonderful tool. Great review as well.

    I have seen Beyond Hypothermia. That was my first Milkyway film. I saw it on a bootleg vhs! It got a fairly wide dvd release here in the states about 5-6 years ago. That is a great film and one where I first took notice of the changing look of HK films. From lower quality images to something more sleek.

    Pat, Intruder is out of print, I believe. You might be able to find the 'Euro' version on Ebay, which is uncut. if you are into downloading from torrent sites, they are rife with copies. Cheers!

  6. I did see Walk In, but it was more than 10 years ago and I don't remember much about it except that it was one of those quirky HK genre benders I'm so fond of.

  7. Intruder is also available as a bonus film on the German release of RUN AND KILL. Wide, uncut and subtitled.

  8. Thanks for the info Kenneth, I've ordered that dvd. I was going to get Run and kill as my next cat III movie anyway!

  9. My wife and I watched Intruder last night and found it to be a very interesting film. It plays on the tension of the looming handover to great effect. Paranoia permeates the entire film. Intruder is a nasty little thriller that really manages to scare you with its all out nihilism.

    It examines the identity of pre-handover Hong Kong while refusing to comment on the future of it. The most unsettlingly part of the film is that it ends in uncertainty.

    With that said, I still find myself wrestling with the politics of the film. It’s hard not to view Wu Chien Lien and Moses Chan as the personification of ruthless Others trying desperately to assimilate. It’s certainly not hard to see why the audience didn’t response to this film. It takes a hard look at the uneasiness brought on by the inevitable handover and tells its audience that they damn right should be scared for what’s next to come.


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