It takes a certain ingenuity to tell a story on film, and while the idea of a plot point in the form of a talking parrot may sound absurd on its face, you have to give filmmaker Andrew Fung (Fung Chih Chiang) credit for starting somewhere.
Deep in the thick of his fourth film, A Witness Out Of The Blue, we meet a maladroit detective named Lam (Louis Cheung) who runs a cat shelter when he’s not on the job. He’s also indebted to a gangster which doesn’t do much for his image, in addition to his feeble deportment and the fact that he wears a Fung Shui bracelet to protect himself from serious harm.
When a member of a notorious jewelry gang is murdered, Lam’s first instinct is to talk to the only witness who was on the scene: a halfwit talking red parrot, much to the dismay of his already disapproving superior, Inspector Yip (Philip Keung). As the police investigate both the murder and its connection to the gang’s most recent heist, gangleader Sean Wong (Louis Koo) is forced into hiding, renting a room out from Joy (Jessica Hester Hsuan), a half-blind landlady who serves as caretaker to three elderly residents.
While incognito, Wong commences his own investigation into the murder, often bumping into Lam whose own folly eventually implicates him in the eyes of internal affairs. When one murder turns into a string of killings, Wong, being the prime suspect, soon enlists the help of a rookie burglar to investigate Yip’s own role in these harrowing events.
It becomes all too clear that someone has marked the gang for death, though between the elusive Wong’s own inquiry and inner torment, Lam being scruitinized by his superiors, the lack of answers from the surving witnesses at the jewelry heist and the danger that awaits at nearly every turn, Lam’s own affinity for animals may very well be the lynchpin he needs to bring an end to a complex and deadly investigation.
One of the most interesting things to see unfold in Fung’s A Witness Out Of The Blue is how Wong’s anti-hero arc unfolds. Apart from the film’s main heist/murder story is the menacing degradation of Wong’s mind. He’s sleep deprived and when he’s not tormented by his own reflection, his hallucinations take turns instead, and that trauma eventually takes a dangerous turn with Joy, with whom he shares a budding romance that lies beneath their day-to-day business-like decorum.
What’s important, however, is Lam’s own redemption along the way, with partnering detective Charmaine (Cherry Ngan) as his only friend in the department. He knows he has all the potential in the world to be a great detective when he’s not blundering things, and maybe even a brave one if he can find it in himself to break out of his shell. He eventually does, and it’s executed brilliantly to the benefit of the story’s energy and action. More prevalently, as the story unravels between its lingering plot twists and turns, it becomes a little less about what Lam can extrapolate from the bird than not, though the bird is still a key fixture in the story up until the film’s most pivotal reveal much later.
The rest of the film teeters between the ensuing drama with Wong and surviving gang members Redhead (Ling Man Lung) and Clark (Sam Lee), and a litany of witnesses and suspects, including a butcher named Bull (Patrick Tam), and former jewelry store employees Sandy (Fiona Sit), and security guard boyfriend Tony (Andy On), and eventually Yip. The action takes a back seat for most of the way, but this takes next to nothing away from the film’s explosive moments and thrills, and you don’t have to wait too long before a proper gun battle with Koo unloading on a street full of cops.
A mix of characters carefully crafted and woven together to culminate an intriguing, seething and intense cop procedural with a psychological twist, A Witness Out Of The Blue serves up an admirable Hong Kong thriller, topped with consummate peformances headlined by Koo, Cheung and Hsuan, as well as On who gets a spot-on voice dub by Soi Cheang, and a non-CG parrot voiced by Lee Man Yi.