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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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

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

柔道龙虎榜 | Throw Down

Throw Down

Hong Kong director Johnnie To pays tribute to the films of Kurosawa Akira with Throw Down, an uplifting comedy-drama about three troubled souls who find hope when they find each other. Taking place in a surreal alternate reality where all conflicts can be solved with a good judo match, Throw Down is about the importance of finding joy and honor in doing what you love. Johnnie To, who still calls Throw Down his favorite film in his filmography, uses every single directing trick up his sleeves to create exhilarating set pieces that prove he’s one of Hong Kong cinema’s greatest stylists.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Louis Koo, Aaron Kwok, Cherrie Ying, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Siu-Fai Cheung | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival