Like writer-director Olivier Assayas' polarizing DEMONLOVER (2002), this self-conscious thriller unfolds in the ruthless, amoral world of international corporate business, where greed and reflexive betrayal are the order of the day.
Former prostitute Sandra (Asia Argento) and married American money-launderer Miles (Michael Madsen) were once lovers, locked in a drug-fueled, sado-masochistic affair; she also slept with his business associates and rivals, gathering industrial secrets between the sheets (shades of Abel Ferrara's NEW ROSE HOTEL). They ended the relationship months earlier, but some perverse attraction remains. Miles is in the process of divorcing his wife and selling his company to a Singapore-based firm with a murky reputation. Sandra is working for an import-export firm run by chic married couple Lester (Carl Ng) and Sue (Kelly Lin) – in fact, Miles introduced them to Sandra – and having an affair with Lester. She's also surreptitiously using their shipments to transport drugs; she's trying to put together the capitol to move to Beijing and invest in a nightclub. Lester inevitably finds out and uses the information as leverage: He needs Sandra to murder Miles and assures Sandra that after the job he'll get her to Hong Kong, where she can assume a new identity. Suffice it to say that Sandra's every move precipitates a new revelation, followed by manipulative treachery and sleazy complications.
Inspired by news reports about the rough-sex murder of French financier Eduard Stern, which seemed to him something straight out of DEMONLOVER, Assayas tossed together this paranoid vision of an anonymous, heartless, deracinated world made of glass, concrete and steel, too icily blue and grey for so much as the hope of warmth. Seriously flawed and not for every taste, the film was shot quickly and on the cheap, and is driven by Argento's slurred, scratchy voice and Bette David eyes: Her feral energy transcends genre clichés, self-consciously fragmented storytelling, Euro-disco and Assayas' increasingly louche preoccupation with flesh and fantasy. (In English and subtitled French and Cantonese) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh