Intruder is one of those Milky Way films that leaves you feeling icky inside after it’s over. There are no characters to root for; everyone’s just trying to survive in a world that’s getting grimmer by the minute. The Hong Kong in the film is one that’s cramp, filthy and often drenched in rain. Sifting through the debris for an identity she can call her own is Wu Chien Lien’s character. She’s a fugitive from mainland China looking to start a new life with her husband (Moses Chan) in Hong Kong. She’s determined to make it out, even if it means she has to leave a trail of dead bodies behind.
The film opens with Wu Chien Lien strangling a prostitute in order to steal her identity. Director Sammy Tsang Kan-cheung injects a tough visceral feel to the film by not shying away from the brutality. The scene unfolds in a series of long lingering shots that’s meant to convey how murder is never quick and easy. With new passport in hand, she makes her way to Hong Kong and poses as a prostitute to lure Wayne Lai’s downtrodden taxi driver. You see, her husband is on his way to Hong Kong and she needs to secure him a new identity, ones that’s little bit more permanent. She ends up taking Lai hostage, and from there it’s really all downhill for everyone involved.
Wu Chien Lien does her best to shed her good girl image by instilling her character with an icy calm that’s absolutely frightening. Even though she says very little and commits the most heinous acts, you come to see her plight and understand her motivation. Lai who’s always reliable, though not given much to do here is able to bring a certain humanity to his unlucky character.
Intruder is a tightly paced thriller that offers an unflinching look at the uneasiness of the looming handover. It’s not surprising that this film received a cold reception when it was released in 1997. You don’t have to strain to see that the murderous mainland couple in the film are meant to represent the xenophobic notion of dangerous Others trying to assimilate. The film takes a hard look at the paranoia brought on by the inevitable handover and tells its audience that they damn right should be scared for what’s next to come.