I’ve recently been exploring in horror films made outside of American and I’ve learned there’s a lot I’ve missed out on aside from the forever popular French horror films (High Tension, Martyrs, etc). When I had the opportunity to check out TRIVISA I was excited to broaden my horizons. Especially when I realized it actually wasn’t a horror movie which was a nice change of pace for someone that almost exclusively watches horror films.
The film takes place in 1997 when a rumor is released that three notorious gangsters known as the Kings of Thieves would be crossing paths. I will say I was expecting there to be some element of horror involved in this, considering it’s a Shudder exclusive; however, being a huge true crime fan I wasn’t disappointed at all.
TRIVISA is centered around 3 gangsters, Yip Kwok-foon, Cheuk Tze-keung and Kwai Ching-hung, all of who have different criminal professions. The film opens with a heist involving Yip, his crew, and a man they work with called The Fence. After the loss of a member of his crew, he turns to selling stolen electronic merchandise. Cheuk is the more animated character in this movie. He’s a tyrant but also contributes some light-hearted comedy with his mannerisms and colorful language (as well as clothes). His criminal profession of holding people ransom also played out to be pretty comical in my opinion. The third character Kwai is the more deadly and articulate killer who robs jewelers. He is the more serious character out of the three and quite honestly a badass. I found myself feeling more for Yip throughout the movie because he seemed to be the more relatable character, doing what he needs to do to get by while playing nice with those he has to.
Although TRIVISA was released in this decade, it is based in 1997 right before the handover of Hong Kong to China from the United Kingdom. This is important because it’s referenced several times in the film. The time period also plays a role in the way the film is shot. TRIVISA feels very much like a 90s crime drama and it encapsulates the mid-90s fully with references to beepers, early cell phone use, and frequent shots of CRT televisions.
TRIVISA is a gritty, violent and fun ride through the Chinese underground crime scene in the mid-90s. All three players have their moments of necessary, or excessive, violence and they all carry the same level of notoriety in China. However, Kwai is hands down the most heartless in my opinion. He’s stone-cold and at a point considers killing someone that cares for him to protect his identity. With Cheuk, we see scenes of torture including beatings and waterboarding but there’s also an element that he brings of not taking it seriously. He has a near child-like demeanor about him that I really enjoyed.
I’ve never been a big fan of gangster movies but I do tend to find something enjoyable about Chinese and Japanese crime movies. In Japanese gangster movies, there’s always some sort of extreme element involved, whether it’s ultra-violent or there’s some sort of a wacky gag, it almost never feels like it should be taken seriously. A good example of this would be Ichi the Killer. Even though TRIVISA did have some moments I found to be comedic, overall I found it to be quite dramatic in a way that was enjoyable. I’m by no means a regular fan of dramas, but TRIVISA is definitely an exception for me.
If you have a Shudder account you should seriously consider checking out TRIVISA. Shudder hand curates the exclusives they have available on their streaming platform and I think TRIVISA finds a nice home nestled among the rest of the gems you can find on their service. You can find Shudder on multiple platforms and you can sign up for the very low price of $5.99 per month or $47.88 per year. Don’t believe how awesome it is? You can check it out for yourself with a free trial here https://www.shudder.com/!! TRIVISA is now available to stream on Shudder.