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

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出埃及记 | Exodus

Exodus

After the artistic breakthrough and acclaim of Isabella, maverick director Edmond Pang Ho Cheung returns to black comedy territory with his new film Exodus. From Men Suddenly in Black, Beyond Our Ken, You shoot I shoot, Pang’s films often spin gender issues into wry commentary, and he takes this “battle of the sexes” concept to the next level with Exodus. Black comedy, suspense thriller, and male mid-life crisis drama all rolled into one, Exodus throws out a seemingly ridiculous premise – women are conspiring to kill men! – and challenges both the protagonist and the audience into amused belief. A low-ranking cop often relegated to desk duty, middle-aged Tsim Kin Yip lives a stable, mundane life with his young yoga instructor wife Ann. The monotony is broken one day when he interrogates Kwan Ping Man, a nervous, profanity-spouting man caught spying in the women’s bathroom. Kwan, who seems to have more than a few screws loose, confides to Tsim a shocking secret: a ring of women conspiring to murder men. Everyday, plans are whispered in restrooms and deaths are carefully engineered, so that men die unnoticeable from “accidents” that are anything but. Tsim initially dismisses Kwan’s conspiracy theory, but then clues crop up suggesting there is something fishy at work. Both his marriage and life could be at stake as Tsim becomes increasingly obsessed with cracking the case.

Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang | Starring : Simon Yam, Annie Liu, Nick Cheung, Irene Wan, Maggie Siu | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Locarno 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