“Divergence” – A.J. Hakari

I have an affinity for movies featuring multiple storylines and multiple characters who all end up intersecting with one another, but the Asia-borne Divergence fails to live up to its opening promise and give viewers any good reason to stick with it through the entire running time.

This actioner centers around three primary players: Suen (Aaron Kwok), a cop escorting the key witness to a big trial against a businessman; To (Ekin Cheng), the lawyer for the defense in said trial; and Coke (Daniel Wu), the assassin hired to take out the witness. All three men’s lives converge when Coke carries out his hit, leaving the authorities scrambling to provide evidence for the prosecution’s case. Suen decides to keep a tight eye on To’s activities, only to discover that his wife is a dead ringer for Suen’s girlfriend — who disappeared ten years ago. To, on the other hand, can only sit back and see his boss sink further into a personal funk after his pop singer son mysteriously goes missing. Coke chooses to stick around town instead of fleeing the scene, only to become embroiled in a new killer’s string of deaths that Suen quickly picks up on.

Who is this mystery killer strangling people all across the city? What happened to the missing pop star? Is To’s wife truly Suen’s long-lost love? Divergence poses a number of questions, but by the time the ending credits rolled, I had one of my own: why should I care? Divergence comes across as an inconsequential mess of a movie that wrangles its characters together under the most thin of circumstances. The story is so muddled that it’s hard to discern what all of the characters have to do with one another — and it doesn’t help that the movie itself seems as confused as we are. Following a rousing opening scene in which Coke attacks the caravan of cops protecting Suen’s witness, Divergence splits off in a dozen different directions, only one of which, Suen’s growing obsession with To’s wife, feels the slightest bit fleshed-out. All of the other subplots remain murky and underdeveloped.

Why does Coke decide to stay in town? What’s the motive behind the mystery killer’s spree? Did To’s boss actually order the hit on the witness or not? Divergence seems more concerned with making sure stuff is happening than with making sense. Any attempts to tie the characters together prove useless, and the final scenes serve up one confounding bummer of a subplot resolution after another. The performances here are mediocre (mostly because the characters are seriously underwritten), and although director Benny Chan throws in the occasional action sequence, these bits seem almost arbitrary, as if Chan’s apologizing for not having anything else better to do at that moment in the movie. The film does, however, maintain a crisp style of cinematography.

A brief trek to the dictionary reveals that “divergence” means “the act of moving away in different directions from a common point” — an apt description for this movie. Once Divergence draws viewers in with its potential, it spends the rest of the time doing whatever it can to drive them away.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

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