There are a couple of 2021 releases titled Limbo, and Soi Cheang’s gritty serial killer drama distinguishes itself with its relentless nastiness. Its cops and criminals use anything they can find as makeshift weapons and torture devices, making for some gut-churning and highly adrenalised action sequences. The fight choreography is extraordinary, integrating levels, light, and of course the found objects into carefully choreographed battles that read as realistic and scrappy. The editing and framing is meticulously thought out, with rapid cuts establishing the breakneck pace without losing sense of place and person.

The black and white cinematography from Cheng Siu Keung emphasises severe lines and the threat of the unknown – it is often hard to distinguish texture or shape until the object is in motion, in which case it is often too late for its target. Shots are crisp and favour close-ups of the scenery surrounding the crimes, emphasising the world that bred this gritty underbelly. This neo-noir fantasy has no mercy for anyone who falls into the detritus.

Limbo, however, gets far too nasty for its own sake, especially in the uneven treatment of its characters. Petty criminal-turned-informer Wong To (Liu Cya) has history with police veteran Cham Lau (a grim and stately Lam Ka Tung) after causing his wife’s coma, but her merciless treatment at his hands and an extended assault scene when undercover are hard to watch even in a such a brutal world. This is not to say she is underdeveloped as a character, but the violence meted out to its two equally fleshed-out (male) police officers feels more evenly matched.

Limbo hits the point of diminishing returns as it goes into its grim metropolitan underbelly, but its painstaking build and reveal structure and mastery of coherent fight choreography showcases some of the best of the genre.



CAST: Lam Ka Tung, Liu Cya, Mason Lee, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi

DIRECTOR: Soi Cheang

WRITER: Au Kin Yee

SYNOPSIS: After several severed hands are found, a rookie policeman, a veteran officer, and a criminal looking to atone for her past team up to catch the killer.