Corporate Espionage is, in this day and age, very much a real threat. Director Amos Why, in his sophomore feature “Napping Kid”, tries to convince us that corporate kidnapping is as well. Based on a novel of the same name by Hong Kong/Canadian author Mannshin, “Napping Kid” is a timely film that shows us just how much is at stake with digital files, while offering a look at the current state of Hong Kong society.
Tong is a hard cop who believes in getting results any way he can. He is called to the company where his ex-wife Irene works as a senior executive when a highly sensitive document consisting of financial analysis for a Chinese IT company is “stolen” from their database. Shortly after, Irene’s boss receives an email from one K Kidnapper asking for a surprisingly low ransom, along with a series of tasks that he wants the company to undertake. Tong’s suspicion falls on the few people who were last to access the file, including Siu-yu, who first noticed the file to be missing, and Dylan, whose help Siu-yu initially enlisted to locate the file by playing on his obvious affection for her, as well as Irene and her boss John. In an attempt to not let them pester with the investigation or to hamper their efforts if one of them is indeed the “kidnapper”, Tong orders all his suspects to be locked up in a company apartment and seemingly cuts off their internet access, all the while trying to figure out who is responsible for the theft and ransom demand, and more importantly, why.
Amos Why’s debut feature “Dot 2 Dot” was a beautiful ode to Hong Kong. He attempts something similar with “Napping Kid”. Interspersed with the thriller storyline is a tale of Hong Kong and its inhabitants, with a lot of scenes throwing local reference that may or may not hit home with audience that are not familiar with life in Hong Kong. As a result, the thriller aspect of the film also suffers, when several scenes don’t connect well due to blatant references that don’t land as well as expected, at least for a foreign audience, leaving one slightly lost and confused.
In an attempt to guide the audience back in or to explain itself, which it needs to do a few times too many, “Napping Kid” often breaks the fourth wall, with characters talking to the audience explaining just what is going on. The technique helps have a grasp on the proceedings slightly better, and just as it threatens to overstays its welcome, it is reeled back in. It also makes a statement on just how big the generational gap is between the residents of Hong Kong. Even though Tong doesn’t want any of his suspects to go online, he allows them to use computers because they still have to clock into work while the investigation is ongoing, which leads to almost every one of the suspects easily accessing the internet, unbeknownst to Tong.
Where “Napping Kid” passes with flying colours is in the acting department. In an ensemble cast as big as this one, it is hard to get a lot of the performances right, but Why’s cast is extremely competent and likeable, right from David Siu’s Tong, Candy Cheung’s Irene to Michael Wong as John and even Eric Kot Man-fai in a cameo. But the most praise needs to be reserved for Cecilia So and Ng Siu-hin, whose wonderfully understated performances make Siu-yu and Dylan respectively, immensely likeable and convincing. Kevin Chu is equally impressive as Makino.
Another high point of the film is its cinematography. The city of Hong Kong is as important a character in itself for the film and the cinematography shows it off when capturing some of outdoor locations in the latter part of the film. The music, which consists of a few pop numbers, is hit and miss at times, but works with the overall look of the film.
In trying to be both a kidnapping thriller and a love letter to Hong Kong, the latter of which Why’s previous film “Dot 2 Dot” was a far better example of, “Napping Kid” loses out on the former, and is possibly even aware of it itself, for it bizarrely opts to list out all the steps of K Kidnapper’s plan in a chronological order mid-end credits, just in case the audience didn’t quite follow the execution of it all when it eventually reveals itself throughout the film. But the cast’s superior performances make for a fun watch. Those with an interest in Hong Kong and a familiarity with the past and present of the city will certainly get a lot more out of the film.