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Guilt By Design

Opening Date
24 Oct 2019
PG13 Some Violence
94 mins
Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitles
Action, Crime
Lai Siu Kwan, Liu Yongtai, Sze Pak Lam
Nick Cheung, Zhang Han
When a juror on a high-profile case learns that his daughter has been mysteriously kidnapped, he is forced to decide whether to use his special skills to influence the case as the kidnappers demand.
By Jason Lin  30 Oct 2019
Guilt by Design introduces the element of hypnosis to induce vigour into the aged genre.
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Cop and courtroom dramas and thrillers are a common staple and sight at the theatres. What never cease to captivate viewers is the sense of mystery and how the plot thickens through a screenplay with depth and thoughts. Put together by a team of relatively new filmmakers (co-directed and co-written by Lai Siu Kwan, Liu Yongtai, Sze Pak Lam), Guilt by Design introduces the element of hypnosis to induce vigour into the aged genre.
Hong Kong veteran actor Nick Cheung plays the lead protagonist – a leading academic practitioner in hypnosis and hypnotherapy. The film opens with an impressionable scene of what Cheung’s character is capable of and quickly progresses to the main agenda where a jury is convened to review a high-profile court case where family members of an established corporate enterprise are involved.
Guilt by Design is driven by a simple concept – to examine the impact and influence of hypnosis on the jury. One by one, Cheung’s character applies his craft on various members of the jury – not by choice as many would have guessed. There are people close to the court case who wishes to manipulate the verdict and thus deploys blackmailing tactics where the hypnotist’s daughter is held hostage.
With a promising premise, the film is not as taut and thrilling as some may have preferred. This is further aggravated with underwritten characters, including the various members of the jury. The investment of developing personal traits for the jury members could have paid off, especially since the main draw of the film is the challenge and process of how Cheung’s character navigates the critical situation imposed upon him.
Slightly below average cast ensemble and performance is noticed in the film. It is uncertain if it stems from the inexperienced directing or the limitations of the screenplay. The onscreen characters, which includes a range of talents like Babyjohn Choi, Zhang Han, Felix Lok and Kent Cheng, didn’t deliver any real emotions or overarching messages to the audience.
Throwing in the occasional car chase and (literally) high-octane action scenes may serve as a double-edged sword to add and subtract from the film. While genre fans will be pleased, it takes precious onscreen time and focus away from the jury and court case plot thread.
While the filmmakers’ endeavours might not have led to significant outcomes, they are nevertheless commendable efforts given the promising premise. With the right direction and guidance, the filmmaking trio might transit well in their onward cinematic careers after Guilt by Design.
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