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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一个好爸爸 | Run Papa Run

Run Papa Run1

Run Papa Run is a bit of a different take on the usual Hong Kong gangster movie shenanigans. In the film, Louis Koo plays Lee, a young man who finds father figures in the Triads his mother takes care of in her underground clinic. Despite his mother’s objections, Lee joins the local gang, and soon becomes one of the most powerful gangsters in Hong Kong. However, things are turned upside down for Lee soon after her meets a pretty lawyer named Mabel. After getting Mabel pregnant and marrying her in a shotgun wedding, Lee finds himself wanting to be a “good” Triad for the sake of his daughter, Heiyi. Of course, it isn’t so easy for a hardened gangster to be a nice guy, and Lee must try to balance the needs of both of his “families”.

Directed by Sylvia Chang | Starring : Louis Koo, Rene Liu, Nora Miao, Siu Chung Mok, Suet Lam | Presented at Hong Kong Film Festival

色,戒 | Lust, Caution

Lust Caution

Shanghai, 1942. The World War II Japanese occupation of this Chinese city continues in force. Mrs. Mak, a woman of sophistication and means, walks into a café, places a call, and then sits and waits. She remembers how her story began several years earlier, in 1938 China. She is not in fact Mrs. Mak, but shy Wong Chia Chi. With WWII underway, Wong has been left behind by her father, who has escaped to England. As a freshman at university, she meets fellow student Kuang Yu Min. Kuang has started a drama society to shore up patriotism. As the theater troupe’s new leading lady, Wong realizes that she has found her calling, able to move and inspire audiences and Kuang. He convenes a core group of students to carry out a radical and ambitious plan to assassinate a top Japanese collaborator, Mr. Yee. Each student has a part to play; Wong will be Mrs. Mak, who will gain Yees’ trust by befriending his wife and then draw the man into an affair. Wong transforms herself utterly inside and out, and the scenario proceeds as scripted until an unexpectedly fatal twist spurs her to flee. Shanghai, 1941. With no end in sight for the occupation, Wong having emigrated from Hong Kong goes through the motions of her existence. Much to her surprise, Kuang re-enters her life. Now part of the organized resistance, he enlists her to again become Mrs. Mak in a revival of the plot to kill Yee, who as head of the collaborationist secret service has become even more a key part of the puppet government. As Wong reprises her earlier role, and is drawn ever closer to her dangerous prey, she finds her very identity being pushed to the limit…

Directed by Ang Lee | Starring : Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Wei Tang, Joan Chen, Leehom Wang, Chung-Hua Tou | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Calgary Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Edmonton Film Festival, London Film Festival, Vienna Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival, Valladolid Film Festival, Oslo Film Festival, Göteborg Film Festival

明明 | Ming Ming

Ming Ming

Ming Ming is a 21st Century martial arts princess and lady Robin Hood who steals for love. Her Prince Charming is D, a maverick fighter and irresistible rogue who posted this challenge to his swarms of female admirers – give him 5 million dollars and he’ll run away with his benefactress to Harbin. Ming Ming meets D’s another girlfriend Nana, who is a virtual look-alike of Ming Ming. Meanwhile, disappears from Shanghai without a trace. The only clue he leaves behind is a cryptic phone message.

Directed by Susie Au | Starring : Xun Zhou, Daniel Wu, Tony Yang, Kristy Yang, Bo-yuan Chan | Presented at Pusan Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival