The rain is falling heavy on Hong Kong. The city is reflected in a thousand pools of water, looking like a lost Monet painting, fresh from the artist's hands, the colors not yet dried, still in motion. A young woman walks through the empty streets, shielded from the rain by a colorful umbrella. When she suddenly senses that she's being followed, she panics and makes a run for it. She reaches her rendezvous point, where a friend is waiting, without incident. Little does she know that around the nearest street corner, a young man with murder on his mind watches from the shadows...
Tortured cop Suen (Aaron Kwok) is transporting a witness from Canada, to trial in Hong Kong. On the way from the airport, the witness is shot by a sniper, and Suen's car crashes. The sniper Coke (Daniel Wu) is a professional assassin, with many high-profile kills to his name. He disappears into the night and leaves no trace.
The witness that was killed was scheduled to appear at the trial of businessman Mr. Yui, accused of embezzlement and money laundering. His lawyer To (Ekin Cheng) is confident that they will beat the charges, and the dead witness certainly doesn't hurt.
Suen who is haunted by the disappearance of his girlfriend almost 10 years ago, uses his work to occupy his mind. When he begins to investigate the case, he comes across To's wife. Suen is shocked when he realises that she looks exactly like his missing girlfriend, and he begins to stalk the couple.
Meanwhile Coke finds that he can't stay away from the job he finished, and he will soon cross lines with Suen. As the cop and killer play a deadly game, the lawyer To lurks in the shadows. He too is caught in a high stakes game with some very powerful men. Soon the fate of these three men will converge and change their lives forever.
And let's not forget one important detail. One of the men is linked to the silent killer who stalks the streets of Hong Kong by night.
The weakest link in Hong Kong cinema is still the scripts. "Divergence" tries valiantly to combine classic Hong Kong police thriller, with a puzzle-like ensemble story ala "Short Cuts" or "21 Grams". It almost works.
The movie fails, only because the story is not properly focused. The problem isn't that it's not obvious where the story's going. The problem is that it's not obvious IF it's going somewhere. It simply doesn't bring all the different plot strands together in a satisfying way. Characters linger in pointless scenes, almost like they're waiting for their cue to be useful again. There are too many scenes that leaves you wondering "What is the character's purpose here? What does he want? What does he need?".
But "Divergence" is not a complete loss. There are some great scenes along the way. In the middle of the film, there's a big chase scene between Suen and Coke. It starts on foot, with the cop running after the killer on a busy road, zigzagging in and out between speeding cars, and it ends in a great fist fight at a market, where Suen spends half the time struggling to breathe through a plastic bag, because Coke is trying to strangle him. This is one of those sequences that will really get your heart going! And the film has a few more of those, but I won't spoil them for you.
Even though the film has too many scenes where Suen is just sitting in his car, contemplating life, while soft piano music grace the soundtrack (that gets tiresome real quick), for every one of those there's a moody montage sequence, set to opera music, or a fist fight in pouring rain, or some other cool scene.
"Divergence's" problems are not just found in the story. The characters are also problematic. In a good ensemble story, everybody is convinced that they are the lead character. In a bad ensemble film, everyone caters to the needs of the star, and ironically that's the reason it fails. This is the case with "Divergence" All the support-characters in "Divergence" could do with a stronger background, most of the actors are competent and manage to get though the film in one piece, but there's just something missing, they simply lack a life of their own.
As for the leads, Kwok and Wu are perfect in their respective roles. Kwok gets to play tortured, Wu gets to play homicidal maniac, so basically they are both doing what they do best. Ekin Cheng, though, is terribly miscast as To. I would have gone for an older, Anthony Wong type actor. Definitely someone who could convey the quiet menacing quality of the calculating lawyer. Cheng's solution - he simply doesn't act - leaves a hole that the film never really recovers from.
"Divergence" is a moody and gorgeous looking film, and definitely more classy than your average HK movie, but there's no denying that most people will probably find themselves bored several times during the film. So the question is, can you live with that? Can you live with some tame and uninspired scenes, if you know there's good stuff waiting? If not, don't bother.