7 November 2009 | samuelding85
Take the Revenge
It is not very often nowadays that you will get to see Johnnie To's new production frequently in the cinema, compared to his heydays with his working partner, Wai Kar Fai. Both had churned out several box office hit and flops during the early decade of the 21st century, and it is believe that good things are worth the wait. Vengeance is the answer to To's long awaited latest action thriller, after directing two previous productions beyond his normal scope of story line.
With his usual suspects (Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Lam Kar Tung and Lam Suet), To recruits French rock star Johnny Hallyday to be the leading actor in the Hong Kong – France production. Nominated for Palm D'Ors in Cannes Film Festival 2009, Singapore has the opportunity to get the release of Vengeance in its original Cantonese-English version, since Hong Kong productions are barred from releasing in Cantonese version due to Singapore censorship regulation. This gives Singaporeans a true blue experience of the idea and message To wants to bring to his audience. And yes, it is a must to catch it in cinemas.
Vengeance begins with Costello (Hallyday) seeking revenge for the massacre of his daughter's family. He recruited three professional assassins, namely Kwai (Wong), Chu (Lam Kar Tung) and Lok (Lam Suet). While Kwai, Chu and Lok helps Costello in hunting down the killers responsible for the massacre, the investigation leads them to the mafia boss and employer, George Fung (Yam), who is behind the massacre.
Vengeance marks the last chapter of To's gunman trilogy (The Mission, 2001; Exiled, 2006), where the trilogy shares the same trademark of a mass gunfight, and stories revolving professional killers force to stand on the side they believed in, or made to believe in. While a mass crossfire between both conflicting sides is inevitable in To's trilogy, he never fails to surprise the audience in presenting the gunfight. Just like the mass shootout at the hotel in Exiled, Vengeance shows us with the crossfire at the garbage recycle center, where large cubes of compressed old newspaper becomes the shield for the gunmen.
Also, expect several scenes without any dialog, as To wants the audience to watch the body language, so as to do the interpretation themselves. The movie lives to the genre of an 'action flick', where body language is an action to tell the story.
Hallyday takes the leading role of Castello, which is something fresh that an audience can look forward to. Here, he is a chef with a past, where being a former professional killer, he had a short lived memory as a bullet was left in his brain. This creates a Memento like scenario, where he tracks down the people looking for using Polaroid pictures. He has the support of the three killers, who assist him in tracking down the killers behind the massacre. While there seems to be some kind of mirror reflection from Exiled, we do not see the fun elements that exist in Exiled. A sense of sorrow replaced the fun in Vengeance, where the killers do not kill for brotherhood (which explains why the fun elements steps in at Exiled), but for the sense of obligation, which slowly developed to personal revenge.
While Wong and Lam Suet were portraying similar roles in Exiled, Lam Kar Tung was given more opportunity to explore the role of the killer, compared to his minor role as a gang leader in Exiled. Similarly, Simon Yam was reprising the same role he had in Exiled, which makes no differences in both movies. Michelle Ye and Maggie Shiu, as the two leading actress, ends up being a sidekick in Vengeance, where Ye plays a pregnant woman taking care of Costello, while Shiu as the police inspector handling the massacre. This can be deduced that Vengeance is more of a masculine thriller.
In overall, Vengeance is one of the few thrillers in 2009 that must not be missed. If you love an action thriller, don't miss it. If you think that all Hong Kong thrillers are the same, Vengeance is something new that you can look at.