复仇 | Vengeance

Vengeance

What is vengeance if you can’t remember who it is you’re avenging? Isn’t memory what vengeance is all about? Vengeance is always personal, and usually results in at least a few more deaths than originally intended, many of them more than a little mordantly ironic. That’s part of what makes a revenge thriller thrilling, and Johnnie To’s terrific, slow-burn triad actioner Vengeance, adds a memory glitch to those thrills. Vengeance is a rich, fragrant reduction of To’s favorite themes (male bonding and codes of loyalty, the triad underworld, vengeance) trademarks (slow-motion clouds of blood, unforgettable set-pieces, impossibly sleek cinematography, brooding men, black humor) and actors. One splendid difference: Vengeance stars French actor and singer Johnny Hallyday (adding a nice tip of the chapeau to the French noirs of the ‘60s, when Hallyday had his rock and roll heyday). Hallyday plays François Costello, a Parisian restaurant owner who is in Macau at the request of his daughter—to avenge a savage attack on her family. Costello crosses paths with a crack team of triad hit men, whom he then hires to carry out his own revenge plan—a plan growing increasingly hazy due to his deteriorating memory. The craggy, lived-in face of Hallyday is as riveting as To’s mad scenes of mayhem, which include a fierce nighttime shootout as clouds pass over the full moon and—shootouts being To’s stock in trade—an epic battle in a junkyard that has to be seen to be believed. Vengeance, indeed, is a dish best served by Johnnie To.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Ka Tung Lam, Simon Yam, Suet Lam | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival

放逐 | Exiled

Exiled

Set in a Macau, China, that resembles more a Mexican town than anything Chinese, this film by the acclaimed director Johnnie To starts as four mysterious outlaws descend on the house of a fellow criminal Wo, who is living a quiet life with his wife and baby. Two of the hoods, Blaze and Fat, have come to kill Wo, on the orders of their Boss, while the other two, Tai and Cat, have come to save him. Both sides know each other well, having grown up together, and soon the group decides to save Wo’s life, and run from the Boss’ hired guns.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Francis Ng, Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Richie Ren | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, La Rochelle Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, New Zealand Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival

黑社会 | Election

Election

Every two years senior members of Hong Kong’s oldest Triad, The Wo Shing Society, elect a new chairman. Fierce rivalries emerge between the two eligible candidates. Lok, respected by the Uncles is the favorite to win. His rival Big D will stop at nothing to change this by going against hundreds of years of Triad tradition – influencing the vote with money and violence. When Wo Shing’s ancient symbol of leadership, the Dragon’s Head Baton, goes missing, a ruthless struggle for power erupts and the race to retrieve the Baton threatens to tear Wo Shing in two. Can Wo Shing balance their traditional brotherhood ways with the cut-throat modern world of 21st century business?

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Ka Tung Lam | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, La Rochelle Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival

旺角卡门 | As Tears Go By

As Tears Go By

A stylish triumph for genre fans and film fans alike, As Tears Go By more than lives up to its billing as the first film from celebrated director Wong Kar Wai. Andy Lau is Ha Tau, a small-time triad leader whose responsibility for the pathological Fly threatens to be his downfall. While Ha Tau struggles with his troubles on the streets, he finds solace in a surprising intimacy to his cousin, Ah Ngor. Their tender interludes give Ha Tau a welcome respite from his violent life, but not for long. Fly grows more and more self-destructive, and soon Ha Tau can no longer avoid the brutal calling of the triad underworld. Mixing stylish MTV-style filmmaking with potent triad melodrama, As Tears Go By is an exemplary genre film, and an intriguing beginning to Wong Kar-Wai’s celebrated filmography

Directed by Kar Wai Wong | Starring : Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Alex Man, Ronald Wong | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival