Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Twist and Turn Until It Implodes
Who Killed Cock Robin? is a Taiwanese psychological thriller that unfortunately isn’t about male genitalia, birds, or the death of a feathered creature’s snickerdoodle. The title comes from a nursery rhyme, which is far less entertaining. Chi (Kaiser Chuang) is a reporter who has moved up the ranks fast at his young age, but his position is sacrificed when he breaks a story that turns out to be false. Now a victim of, “downsizing,” Chi notices that some pictures on his camera are missing from a hit-and-run he witnessed nine years ago. He makes the decision to dive down the rabbit hole and attempts to solve a mystery that has lain dormant for nearly a decade. The surviving victim of the incident named Hsu Ai-Ting (Ko Chia-yen) suddenly disappears and Chi is forced to unearth hidden truths. He now finds himself entangled in a spider’s web constructed with nothing but lies and cover-ups.
Directed by Cheng Wei-Hao, Who Killed Cock Robin? succumbs to far too many people pulling the film in different directions. With six writers credited as contributing to the story and/or screenplay, Who Killed Cock Robin? offers twist after twist to the point of being a mundane gimmick rather than a story element meant to shock and surprise. The film does eloquently connect every character that’s introduced into the story and nobody feels wasted. It feels like every individual that is given screen time is woven into the general scheme that the film is attempting to portray, which is something you rarely see in Hollywood films; especially crime thrillers that are borderline horror films.
You witness the same hit-and-run over and over again throughout Who Killed Cock Robin? with different characters as the driver, passenger, and victims. You become numb to the outcome and the players involved around the second or third time this occurs. The story rides on deception and backstabbing and you learn early on that everyone is only out to better themselves. You can’t take anyone at their word or trust what anyone says, so you fail to connect with the characters and are lethargic to whatever the reveal may be.
It seems as though Who Killed Cock Robin? is actually a 2017 film that is just now seeing a release to digital and a proper brief theatrical run stateside. The press release boasts about the film’s, “dazzling gore,” but there may only be a drop or two of blood until the final five-minute sequence which then splatters the walls with as much blood as possible. The slow burn atmosphere of the film is intended to be this methodical and almost noir-like unraveling of a mystery the audience is supposed to be invested in. The film has a reputation of being one of the top Asian thrillers of all time, but it didn’t seem to live up to any of that. Maybe it was due to the fact that the screener that is being sent to press has, “SAMPLE,” plastered all over the screen and the dark visuals of the film were often difficult to make out because of it, but Who Killed Cock Robin? is a fairly dull way to spend two hours with very little pay off.
The trailer shows a lot of potential and psychological thrillers that go out of their way to throw their audiences for a loop are usually personal favorites, but the storyline for Who Killed Cock Robin? is convoluted and cloudy at best and the fact that the biggest reveals of the film are done during the final moments while someone tells a joke/ghost story at a press conference feels like a cheap conclusion to something that was built up for far too long. The auto-adapting formula for Who Killed Cock Robin? is incredibly similar to the 2003 film Basic starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, which also suffered from far too many plot twists. All of the violence being in the last sequence of the film also feels like a direct reference to Takashi Miike’s Audition, as well. Who Killed Cock Robin? collapses on itself and attempts to wow its audience with a puzzling story structure, perplexing direction, and a formula that seems to constantly be writing, deleting, and editing itself over and over again for 120 minutes.
© 2019 Chris Sawin
Calvin Scanlan from Glasgow on February 03, 2019:
Nice Review. Keep up the good work!