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

Advertisements

文雀 | Sparrow

Sparrow

From the acclaimed director of The Mission, Election, and Exiled, Johnnie To. “Sparrow’ is a common word used in Hong Kong street slang for pickpocket. The term refers to the special dexterity needed to pluck people’s wallets from their pockets… and possibly also to the necessity of having to flutter away quickly should one be discovered. Kei is one such ‘sparrow’ – and a very professional one at that. He and his three partners earn a good living from digging deep into the pockets of oblivious passers-by moving along the crowded urban canyons of Hong Kong. As far as Kei’s concerned, it’s all he needs to live a carefree life. Whenever he is not going about his business he loves to ride about the city on his bicycle photographing street scenes with his Rolleiflex camera. One day the gorgeous Chun Lei comes into his sights. Kei is fascinated. But behind Chun Lei’s good looks lurks a mysterious past. Kei falls in love with her – and he is not the only one. After having managed to turn the heads of his three colleagues, she reveals her true intentions: the sparrows must steal something of great importance to her.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Ka Tung Lam, Hoi-Pang Lo, Suet Lam | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival

神探 | Mad Detective

Mad Detective

2007’s largest grossing film at the Hong Kong box office – Mad Detective – is one of the freshest and most satisfying films from that country in a decade. The traditional Hong Kong police film is turned on its head: the imaginative twist being our hero – Detective Bun – who has the ability to ‘see’ people’s inner personalities or “hidden ghosts”. Breaking new ground and establishing new cinematic rules, Johnnie To’s latest giddily entertaining collaboration with Wai Ka Fai radically raises the level of storytelling in modern film. Detective Bun was recognised as a talented criminal profiler until he sliced off his right ear to offer as a gift at his chief’s farewell party. Branded as ‘mad’ and discharged from the force, he has lived in seclusion with his beloved wife May ever since. Strangely, Bun has the ability to ‘see’ a person’s inner personality, their subconscious desires, emotions, and mental state. When a missing police gun is linked to several heists and murders, hotshot Inspector Ho calls on the valuable skills of his former mentor Bun to help unlock the killer’s identity. However, Bun’s unorthodox methods point to a fellow detective and take a schizophrenic turn for the worse…

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Ching Wan Lau, Andy On, Ka Tung Lam, Kelly Lin, Kwok-Lun Lee | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, Maine Film Festival