DVD Review: Re-Cycle / Director: The Pang Brothers / Screenplay: The Pang Brothers / Starring: Angelica Lee, Pou-Soi Cheang, Erin Cheng / Release Date: Out Now
The Pang Brothers have directed some interesting films in their career so far and are often more miss than hit apart from the occasional gem like The Eye or Bangkok Dangerous (the original). Looking at their filmography some of their titles are kind of obscure with many not even getting an international release, which is why Re-Cycle has suddenly appeared on DVD despite being released in the east in 2006.
The start of the film is very familiar, Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee) is haunted by the success of a trilogy of million selling romance novels she wrote and is struggling to come up with a follow up. A strange ghostly figure with long dark hair starts hanging around her apartment and she gets weird freaky phone calls. Just as you start to lose interest and think this is another in a tired series of similar films, things get weirder as she follows a ghostly grandma down a lift and into an alternate dimension full of abandoned ideas who take the form of ghosts and gigantic children’s toys. Ting-Yin meets up with a lost little girl who may hold the key to escape and inspiration for her new novel.
Re-Cycle is an incredibly frustrating film. It has the brilliant visuals you have come to expect from the Pang Brothers and has lush visually stunning sequences that rival the imagination landscapes seen recently in The Lovely Bones and Sucker Punch. It’s also pretty damn creepy with some really effective set pieces. Once you get past the familiarity of a dead long haired Asian ghost then you get some scenes involving a cave of screaming aborted foetuses and some zombies who have been hanged with stretched necks lurching towards our heroine. Its effective stuff and it’s nice to look at, but what does it all mean?
The trouble is not an awful lot. You go through many a finely realised sequence to realise that essentially what you have is a story about a woman who was too up her own ass to realise she had a wonderful life a few years back. There is what seems like twenty minutes of tearful scenes that left me scratching my head. It could have told you that in ten minutes, and maybe included a few magic tricks to stimulate your eyeballs.
The lower budget of the film is also an issue, as the ambition on display exceeds the effects budget so some sequences don’t stand up. It seems like a major loss as with a tighter script and an effects budget to match the Pang’s ambition this could have been cracking. As it stands Re-Cycle is a moderately diverting curiosity that’s still better than most of Hollywood’s fantasy output.