29 June 2002 | gdrg2
Excellent and a pity not more distributed
I hired this on video in the UK, and was so suprised to find what an excellent film this is, especially as I and everyone else seems never to have heard of it.
I have never seen the original Manga anime, nor am a big fan of the anime genre. However, I am very interest in oriental culture, and so probably more tolerant and open minded to such things than most people.
This film is awesomely slick, clear and crisp. To view it as only a film with violence is to watch it blindfolded. In fact the more I watch this film, the more I realize that there is not that much action, just that each sequence has a huge impact. Between the cool, elegant and well balanced cinematography and Gans's uncluttered and simple direction, the film draws the viewer through a beautiful, dark and rich world of a sino-japanese underworld. The film revolves around the traditional and formal world of the Japanese yakusa, and the dark and dedicated world of the chinese Triads, both playing for power. Without any understanding of either japanese or chinese culture this film might well be too remote for the casual viewer.
Strongest point of this film, is without doubt the cinematography. Superb composition, especially in the slow motion shots, the steralized mono-chrome of the yakusa/triads and the fantastic colours of the wonderful tattoos all contribute to a visually deep and absorbing experience.
I find many modern action films overly converluted and complicated little reason for being so other than they think they should. It was very refreshing seeing a plot that was simple and clean. The characters are well construed, if under-developed for many critics. But this has never been a problem for me, as I think a lot of films tell a story of events and the prying voyeurism of characterisation isnt needed. One of the nicest aspects, was the obvious nature of the 'crying' freeman. An assassin that is emotionally sympathetic to his victims, but who doesnt really understand it and partially sees it as a curse. This allows the main character to be softer and more human, without having to pile into the emotional struggles.
This was the first Marc Dacascos film I had seen, and was immensly impressed by him. His body movement is exceptionally elegant and he isnt challenged by the very dry exterior of the hitman. Sadly, I dont think he has been in anything nearly as good since.
All in all, Christophe Gans crafted an excellent and entertaining film. He brings us neo-zen, clinical beauty in magnificent depth. The slick style and soft characters beat anything that Jon Woo has done.
(P.S. Am a big john woo fan, so hate to dis him. But must be said that gans hasnt produced anything of similar quality since again... but here's hoping for a sequel sometime)