"Asian Genre Stew; not all that tasty, but fairly filling."
Taiwan's largest movie production to date and amalgam of films like "Black Rain", "Seven" and just about any horror flick out of the Far East, Kuo-Fu Chen's "Double Vision" (aka Shuang Tong) is full of bright (if unoriginal) ideas and strong performances...all in service of a narrative that's been covered extensively (and to better result) in a throng of earlier movies.Though the filmmakers deserve credit for mounting an impressive-looking flick and for bringing a welcome sense of cross-culturalism to its genre conceits, the simple truth is that Double Vision is too slow-moving and derivative to truly succeed on its own merits.
Hong Kong movie star Tony Leung plays Detective Huang Huo-tu, a typically burnt-out and haunted policeman consistently knee-deep in the seamier side of humanity. With an estranged wife, a traumatized daughter and a station full of unfriendly co-workers, Huang finds himself enmeshed in one decidedly goopy string of murders: a businessman is found frozen to death in the middle of a warm afternoon in his office, a woman of ill repute is burned to death in her apartment despite the lack of any fires, and a few more corpses pop up in various stages of dead grossness.
Seems the cuplrit is some sort of air-borne mega-virus, one that plants a fungus in one's brain and kills its victims through some sketchily-explained (and frankly silly) moments of high-end delusion. When the Taipei police find themselves stymied by the killer and his rather arcane methods, they consult with an FBI task force in the U.S. and a no-nonsense Yankee agent is dispatched to the scene in an effort to help out.
Everything just explained is more fascinating in premise than it is in practice. Chen certainly knows how to frame a scene, and Double Vision certainly looks sleek and fluid enough to impress the eyeballs. Most fault seems to lie with the screenplay, which is not much more than yet another police procedual with a lot of mystical-world mumbo-jumbo wedged in to make the killer (and his motivations) that much more mysterious. The approach only works in fits and starts, as Double Vision would have worked considerably better had it focused more on the horror angle and less on the "cross-cultural cops" concept that seems cribbed from NYPD Blue by way of The X-Files.
Leung is quite good in the lead role, and the filmmakers were at least wise enough to cast character actor David Morse as the skeptical American agent......but "Double Vision" presents long dry stretches in between its more compelling ideas and the end result is a movie that smells like it could make for an enjoyable Genre Stew but ends up tasting like limp noodles.