An earnest policeman discovers nothing is quite as he thought it to be in Chan Chun-Hao’s adaptation of the novel by Feng Shi, You Have to Kill Me (我是自願讓他殺了我, wǒ shì zìyuàn ràng tāshā le wǒ). Drawn into a dark web of intrigue which eventually points to abuse of power and a low regard for human life, he is forced into a realisation that even as a law enforcement officer he can never be certain of what is real and what is not while caught in the middle in a battle of between parents each trying desperately to protect their sons.
About to propose to his live-in girlfriend Kai (Janel Tsai), Shing’s (Cheng Jen-shuo) world comes crashing down when he and his partner Ye-ze (Xue Shi Ling) are dispatched to the mountains and discover that she is the victim of the homicide they’ve been sent to investigate. Shing apprehends the apparent killer, Li Zi-jian (Snoopy Yu), running away from the scene, but the situation is complicated when it turns out that Zi-jian is the son of a local politician, Chairman Li (Yin Chao-Te), and while he admits to the killing claims that he did it at the instigation of Kai who was suffering from terminal cancer and wanted him to help her escape her suffering. A look at Kai’s medical records bears out his story, but on closer examination Shing realises the documents don’t add up. His suspicions are confirmed when Kai’s parents, whom he had seemingly never met, arrive and fail to identify the body claiming instead that it is another woman who had been harassing their daughter, Lin Jing.
Shing is forced to accept that he might not have known the woman he wanted to marry and that their relationship was founded on a lie, uncertain how much of any of it might have been real. Meanwhile he runs into a series of bureaucratic roadblocks as the chairman continues to disrupt the investigation in order to protect his son, eventually having Shing taken off the case leading him to investigate all alone discovering even more uncomfortable truths that cause him to question his reality. Leaving aside the minor plot hole that it seems unusually easy to live under an assumed name in contemporary Taiwan even if you’re involved in activities which would generally require an extensive background check, Shing has good reason to be confused as he dives ever deeper into an amoral morass in which those with power are prepared to manipulate it for their own ends without much thought for the lives of others. “That’s how much a person is worth” the chairman baldly states signing a settlement agreement over something else his son may or may not have done, later claiming that it doesn’t matter if he caused someone’s death “accidentally” and he’d do it all again to save his son.
Even so, the chairman may have limits in that his attempts to manipulate the system are bureaucratic in nature and seemingly unnecessary at least it seems as if there would be easier ways to achieve his aims without directly harming others even if they would risk lives indirectly. Meanwhile his accomplice is also seemingly involved in order to protect their family, willing to compromise themselves morally to protect their elderly relatives while believing nothing that bad would come of their actions. Then again, Shing finds himself on the receiving end of further recriminations accused of having failed to protect the woman he knew as Kai from herself leaving her with only a dark path to ensure that justice would be done and corruption exposed.
While Zi-jian feared he was a burden to his father feeling himself unloved even as he went to such drastic lengths to protect him, Kai/Jing was also afraid to fully trust Shing fearing she’d one day disappoint him unable to move on from her traumatic past without putting it to rest. Taking aim firmly at the societal corruption that allows the rich and powerful to misuse their position for their own gain while ordinary people suffer Chan’s noirish drama situates itself in a murky world of constant uncertainty in which even an earnest policeman can be largely oblivious of the lives of those around him while the purest of motivations can lead to only darkness and misery.
You Have To Kill Me streams in the US April 4 – 10 as part of the 14th season of Asian Pop-Up Cinema.
Original trailer (English subtitles)