Snakehead Film Review

Snakehead (2021), directed by Evan Jackson Leong | FEATURE FILM REVIEW

Join us down the rabbit hole with director and writer Evan Jackson Leong on a trip through the seedy underbelly of human smuggling in the USA with his latest movie Snakehead (2021).

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What is Snakehead?

Waves crash. A small boat offloads its cargo off the coast of the USA.

This is not the usual drugs story we often get when we think of smuggling things into the country.

Here the product is people, and we focus on the plight of one young girl, Sister Tse, played beautifully by Shuya Chang, as she travels through a living nightmare.

Sister Tse is not the usual refugee one would expect. Instead of seeking wealth in a new world, she is in a desperate bid to be reunited with her daughter.

Sister Tse’s journey

As she climbs up the ladder of the crime syndicate, in a desperate attempt to clear her debt of the passage from Taiwan to the USA, we encounter many sordid characters along the way.

Most notable of these is Dai Mah (Jade Wu) who gives a delicate performance which at times is maternal but always sinister.

Does this film have anything new to offer?

What we have here is a rough, gritty, well told crime drama. Whilst it has a few familiar traits, the relatively unknown cast help to bring freshness to the story. Shuya Chang is especially strong and carries much of the weight of the movie on her shoulders.

Most of the action takes place in and around Chinatown and it is a while since this area has had so much exposure on screen, especially in this amount of detail. The locations certainly add a richness to the storytelling.

Snakehead (2021) Actor Shuya Chang
Shuya Chang as Sister Tse in the crime/thriller film, SNAKEHEAD, a Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions release. Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions.

The real magic

Most of the credit is due behind the scenes. Evan Jackson Leong delivers a blistering script and keeps the pacing taut in his double role as both writer and director.

It is hard to believe that this is his debut as it displays a sureness of touch which one would expect from a director with a greater amount of experience.

Along with the strong story and pacing, you also have a beautifully shot film and credit must go to Ray Huang for this. The composition and style really add to the overall feel of the film, giving it the look and feel of a big budget movie (something it most definitely is not).

Sung Kang Snakehead Actor

A visually impressive crime drama

This movie is a captivating crime drama, which whilst hard to watch is always interesting and visually impressive.

At times there are moments which feel overly familiar but with the number of movies I have sat through, this can be thrown at the vast majority of films.

This may be a debut feature, but what a debut it is. The acting, writing and direction are all strong, creating a captivating moment of cinema. This is only heightened by superb visuals which really make this feel like a major motion picture.

Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams
Images courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

4 out of 5 stars