After his screen debut, a horror-thriller “The Tag-Along”, the Taiwanese director Cheng Wei-hao is back with the elaborate mystery crime-thriller “Who Killed Cock Robin?” Though the international world-wide title given after an old English nursery rhyme feels inspired, the original Mandarin title “Mu ji zhe” directly translated as “The Eyewitness” would give a better clue to the viewers what the film is actually about – an accident from the past surfaced by its reportedly only witness who has to solve the puzzle from other unreliable testimonies.

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The protagonist Wang, played by sleazy-charming Kaiser Chuang, is a journalist not too dissimilar from Lou Bloom, the protagonist of Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler”, using a police radio scanner to get to the scenes of crimes and accidents. After he finds a senator and a celebrity model involved in a car crash, his life and career turns upside-down. First he gets involved in an accident on his own, crashing his newly-bought used BMW and later he gets pawn-sacrificed in an office power-game involving the senator, the paper owner Chiu (TV and screen veteran Christopher Ming-Shu Lee), the editor Chung-Wen (Tang Chih-wei) and his attractive colleague Maggie (the beautiful Hsu Wei-ning) with whom Wang is about to start an affair.

Filled with data from his mechanic friend (Cheng Chih-wei) that his car was tampered with in the past, he starts an investigation using his contacts in the traffic department and the police, and finds out that the same car was involved in a car crash nine years before for, which he served as the only witness. Since it was his first story for the newspaper and his own photos got mysteriously misplaced, he tries to get to the bottom of things and figure out if someone from his surroundings responsible for him getting fired also had something to do with the accident that left one person dead on spot and the other severely injured.

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As it plays out, the injured woman Hsu Ai-Ting (Ko Chia-yen, re-teaming with Cheng after “The Tag-Along”) who might hold the key to the mystery grabbed the first opportunity to escape from the hospital and has been off-grid ever since. Wang’s investigation would get her in harms way again, but who is responsible for the whole mess? Was it Chung-Wen who misplaced the photos not to get involved? Was it the mechanic who apparently took the blame for the crash before committing suicide? What does the whole thing have to do with Chiu who is never too far from the investigation? And what is the angle of the police officer Wei (Mason Lee, the son of the two-times Oscar-winning director Ang) who is the only one immune to Wang’s charms, apart from living near the place Hsu made her distress phone call from?

The different perspective mystery puzzles are nothing new to the cinema, starting with Kurosawa’s legendary “Rashomon”. However, “Who Killed Cock Robin?” takes its clues more from Antonioni’s “Blow Up” and a variety of Brian de Palma’s films, from his debut “Murder a la Mod” to his early 80’s thrillers. The story is completely plot-driven, clearly seen in the fact that the protagonist gets his clues in a bit too neat fashion, usually using nothing more than his sweet-talking charm, but the use of the character tropes from the noir genre, like the corrupt businessman, the jaded editor, the still-green reporter, the damsel in distress and the plotting femme fatale is effective enough to make it work. Also, a lot of sharp twists make a little sense, but they still serve the purpose for both the shock effect near the end and morality play about human corruption.

Powered by strong acting performances by all of the cast members (though Mason Lee steals the show in the second half) and sharp production design underlining the busy feel of the metropolis captured through the lens of Chen Chi-wen’s camera combining the hand-held mode with drone shots, “Who Killed Cock Robin?” is handsome and fun to watch. On the other hand, one should not expect any life-changing or genre-defining experience.

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