Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Retribution”, “Taken”, “No Country For Old Men”
Johnnies Hallyday and To combine as French rockstar meet HK art film auteur, with mixed results. It's a revenge story (to risk overstating the obvious) washed in Western themes, about a French ex-hitman arriving in Macau to avenge his daughter. Milkyway's favourite cast Simon Yam, Lam Suet, Lam Ka Tung and Maggie Siu are all also here but like all of To's flicks, they only need to be, never mind act. That goes for Monsieur Rockstar as well, who apparently landed the role after producers Michèle and Laurent Petin failed to sign the even more iconic Alain Delon. Although this writer has only seen him in "L'Homme Du Train" (The Man On The Train), he does cut a great figure to simply sit down and watch, especially in noirs. He looks like a demonic, unnaturally blue-eyed beast, really. Maybe "New Moon" could use him!
The loudest complaint in this Palme D'Or contender is that it's a lot of glossy gunfire but very skint on some meaningful cinematic glute, just like that other 3-in-1 To flick "Triangle". There's even that umbrella motif again that To already referenced in "Sparrow", in tribute to the '64 "Les Parapluies De Cherbourg" (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg). The Guy Pearce-"Memento" bit doesn't look necessary either, especially when the academic discussion on a revenge-seeker's 'forget v remember' dilemma is brief.
However, once more the perennial scene-stealer Anthony Wong is at hand to make any movie watchable, let alone the already decent ones. Here he's the leader of the assassins that befriend Hallyday's dogged character. You can read that life does imitate art because Hallyday told in interviews that good ol' Tony's the only guy who spoke English so they both naturally talked more on set and they felt comfortable with each other throughout the shoot.
Johnnie To gets this writer's four stars and remains the international choice for a HK director to watch, despite every other movie from him seeming like a plaything. It's captivating cinema you can't dismiss as hollow. That Lo Ta Yu music (who scored To's "Election" and "All About Ah Long" as well) didn't hurt one bit either and looks like they flew in the Frenchman to town for a good reason after all.
Watch out for the outdoor stairway chase. That's criminal organisation for you, in the crudest, but most cinematic terms.Cinema Online, 25 August 2009