Review Re-Cycle


Member: Rank 4
For Monday's review, I give you Re-Cycle, a HK supernatural fantasy/adventure/thriller film by the Pang Brothers.

Re-Cycle (2006)
Directed by Danny and Oxide Pang
Starring Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Siu-Ming Lau,
In Cantonese or Mandarin with English subtitles
Film: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Every so often a movie comes along combining a clever idea, a visual feast, interesting characters, and a compelling story. More often, however, a couple of these attempts miss the mark a bit and we are relegated to thinking “what could have been.”

That was my reaction to Re-Cycle, directed by the Pang Brothers (The Eye films, Bangkok Dangerous). Clever idea? Check. Visual feast? Check. Interesting characters? Well, sortof. Compelling execution of the story? Again, sortof.

The idea behind Re-Cycle is that there is a place, a fantasy world, where the forgotten, the cast aside, and the abandoned are relegated. A writer starts a story and then trashes the manuscript half-way through? The characters brought to life by the pen only to be abandoned are destined for the Re-Cycle world. Likewise, toys grown out of from childhood; people who have died and have been forgotten by their families; memories; etc.

The heroine of the story, Ting-Yin, finds herself thrust into this world. The film is billed somewhat as a horror movie, which really only applies to the bookended portions surrounding Ting-Yin’s adventure in the Re-Cycle. In the real-life world of the film, we get the typical Asian horror elements—long black hair, running water, ghostly apparitions, mysterious phone calls, and jump scenes highlighted by high-pitched strings. These are somewhat trite, but effective.

But the story within the Re-Cycle is a fantasy adventure, coupled with a sense of sadness and loss. Ting-Yin has to negotiate her way through various scenes and trials: The abandoned city, the decadent carnival, the forest of hang, the toy ruin, the city of books, the corpse bridge, the embryo tunnel, the graveyard of the forgotten, and the floating landscape. This is the part of the film that is a treat for the eyes. The CGI effects are pretty neat and the colors are vibrant.

On her way through this world, Ting-Yin meets a couple of people who serve to help her on her way. One, an old man, gives her some helpful advice: when you see the “Re-Cycle” coming, get the hell out of the way. (Evidently, this world fills up fast, because an eroding force comes through periodically to clear room for the more newly forgotten). The second helper is a little girl of about 8 years old. Her name is Ting-yu and she is adorably cute. To me, she steals the show as far as acting is concerned. She is a natural in front of the camera, never appearing awkward or playing to the audience. (She reminded me of a live-action version of Chihiro/Sen from Spirited Away -- both in appearance and pluckiness). I would have put money on this young actress making a good go at an acting career, but I can only see two other roles since. Oh, well.

Anyway, Ting-yu becomes Ting-Yin’s guide in the Re-Cycle world, and it is this relationship that holds this part of the film together. I’m glad the adventure story was not just an excuse to show off CGI (there is some of that, especially toward the end) and have perilous escapes, but instead focused on the underlying themes of loss and abandonment.

The ending of the film seemed unnecessarily complex, like the directors were going for the “big finish” rather than keep the focus on the characters and the relationship. A little introspection at the end would have gone a lot further with me than what we get. (The ending is explained in the commentary, which is subtitled in English, if you need to check it out).

I’ve seen Re-Cycle twice, and upped my star rating from 3 to 3.5 the second go ‘round. I believe the film is served well by a second viewing, when you are less focused on the “horror” and plot, and can contemplate the underlying message.

The 2-Disc Director's Cut comes with a couple of booklets and a toy. The commentary track, as mentioned above, is subtitled in English. Likewise are the bonus features (behind the scenes, promo gala, interviews).

Previous reviews:
2/13: A Tale of Two Sisters
2/20: Comrades, Almost a Love Story
2/27: A Chinese Tall Story
3/6: The Mystery of Rampo
3/9: Clean
3/13: The Bride with White Hair
3/20: No Blood, No Tears
3/27: Angel Dust
4/3: A Chinese Torture Chamber Story
4/10: A Moment to Remember
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Member: Rank 5
I upped this from 3.5 to 4.5 after a re-watch. I think it's a tremendous film, in that it looks good sounds good, and has that little girl for cute overload. Pang's usually always get the sound design right.

I blurbed this at some point in time:

There may be better filmic ruminations on the basic idea of this film--exploring a place where all that's forgotten or abandoned congregates--(Spider Forest comes to mind), but few will be as engaging. I had no idea this film was going to take off into fantasy land. And stay there for the duration of the film. It came as quite the surprise, and kept surprising me.

I really liked Angelica Lee's man-shoes, and ... is there anything more adorable on this planet than an eight year old Chinese girl? Big round of applause for Yaqi Zeng!


Member: Rank 4
I know, right? That 8-year-old girl stole the show as far as I'm concerned. Up until now, I've re-watched all my reviewed films right before posting here, but did not get a chance for this one. It's very possible that I would up my score again on a 3rd viewing. As it is, a 3.5 from me is a movie I enjoyed quite a bit and can recommend. It does say something that a movie with weird ghostly things and a CGI fantasy adventure/thriller--and the main thing that hooked me was the little girl and the relationship with the Angelica Lee character. I found that more well-developed and interesting than the rest of the noise/action spectacle.

I'll revisit this once I watch it again.