Lackluster in comparison to some of To's other early crime thrillers, but on its own merits makes for an enjoyable tale of gritty cops n' robbers drama.
Personally when it comes to Johnnie To's early crime movies I find Ching Wan Lau character in "The Longest Nite" and "Running Out of Time" much more artfully crafted and intriguing. Similarly I favor Simon Yam in To's "The Mission" and "Fulltime Killer". I didn't fully accept the chemistry between Yam and Lau in this feature, which granted it is sufficient to deliver the plot, but in my opinion it just never reached the competitive potential it could have been. Regardless of where this movie ranks on To's overall filmography, it is still worth a watch as the tension is fierce and keeps the audience interested from start to finish.
It's a heist movie, and with a title like "Expect the Unexpected" it's going to have some twists. Good news, the twists do deliver. I won't mention any details about the plot because the synopsis is unbelievably simple as are the synopses for most of To's films, but the director's execution and his ability to gain strong feedback from the actors makes the viewing experience worthwhile. It does have some serious flaws though, my biggest complaint besides the chemistry between the two male leads are the amount of tonal shifts present. A romance subplot is thrown in, and the action scenes meshed with the romantic scenes don't blend very well. The movie takes the viewer through an unnecessary emotional roller coaster due to this romance subplot, and I feel it could have been handled in a more subtle manner, but that's always easier to say looking back in hindsight. -6/10
Johnnie To once again does an excellent job delivering a solid crime thriller which is still enjoyable to watch 15 years later. Didn't care for the premise but other fans might. Once again also from 1998 and by Johnnie To, I prefer "The Longest Nite" with Tony Leung and Ching Wan Lau, as I find this thriller haunting and much more effective with its twists. If you enjoy Expect the Unexpected definitely give the other a watch as they go hand in hand, and may To continue to do what he does best in the coming years. Thanks for reading.
Better than most HK crime flicks from the era, but still lacking individuality which fails to give a memorable experience.
Fortunately we have an all-star cast of Hong Kong legends working their magic here, (Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Jacky Cheung, Ka-Yan Leung) along with director Woo-ping Yuen helming this action extravaganza. The story is nothing special, straightforward with a few twists thrown in to keep the audience interested. Drug smuggling ring, betrayals, corrupt cops, and all the other usual elements of a late 80's HK crime flick. Dull in this regard however the movie wasn't intended to showcase script writing, rather we get some nice displays of martial arts fighting.
The fight choreography and shootouts are the highlights of the film, although the plot wedged in-between sequences feels painfully like filler to meet the minimum run time. In typical fashion bizarre Chinese humor is used as a device to provide character development, and as usual it feels misplaced in a serious crime movie such as this. Despite the small amount of character development it's sufficient to provoke a reaction when the protagonists end up in peril. Donnie Yen only is given a few minutes of screen time, but during his few minutes he really steals the show. The action is entertaining but not enough to deem a second watch. I would only recommend to those wanting to see Donnie Yen's early work. -6/10
Unforgiving and furious, a bizarre revenge tale about a plague of trafficking rings that provoke one man to fight back.
Asian crime dramas about the devastation of heroin distribution seem to be all the rage now, however I applaud this film as this is only one facet to a larger story. What we have in The Man From Nowhere is essentially three types of crime movies rolled into one. Where the film succeeds is that it does not borrow too heavily from predecessors in the Korean revenge circuit, and proceeds to craft an interesting story with elements that are both unique and welcome to the genre.
The plot revolves around an isolated man's friendship with a little girl, that reminds him of a life he used to enjoy before it was taken away. Well the little girl ends up being taken away, and a cat & mouse game ensues to get her back. He will stop at nothing to redeem himself for the life he once lost, and cannot bear losing it a second time. This story has been done many times, however there are further developments in the plot that completely changes the structure of the movie making it another beast altogether. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, with Seoul being presented in many perspectives which you can feel like modern, corrupt, beautiful, destructive, etc. The acting is all top- notch, and not for one moment did any performance or dialogue take me out of the atmosphere of the movie. The only issue that bothered me was the way certain characters were introduced and how they were connected to others. It becomes hard to decipher the ties between the many baddies that appear in this film, and while this may be intentional to keep the audience in the dark, revealing the characters to the audience later on still came across as convoluted. There are multiple bad guys which do multiple functions for multiple organizations which becomes a mess for the audience to figure out. A minor complaint but less screen time should have been spent for certain disposable baddies.
Now the action is presented in explosive bursts. It is genuinely gritty and intense which is seen in few action movies today. The film is not an action movie by any stretch, however the few sequences that are in here are worth the price of admission alone. They are built up and they do deliver. The drama is exaggerated but reasonable for the subject matter, although one or two "evil acts" the bad guys do are just stupid and darkly comical. Regardless The Man From Nowhere is a very entertaining revenge film, and I wholeheartedly recommend to those seeking a fresh twist on bare- knuckle bloodshed. -8/10
Imbalanced between telling the story and presenting the action, although by the conclusion manages to deliver an experience both thought-provoking and wildly entertaining.
Most critics dismissed this movie as another quick popcorn-action flick, however the story is deeper and more stylized than just the standard martial arts frenzy. So let's start with the bad. The issue with Flash Point is the tone of the film. The cinematography fluctuates from shooting drama and shooting action, which doesn't transition smoothly instead giving a feel of recklessness within the plot. Marketed as a spiritual successor to the great 2005 crime movie "SPL", once again Flash Point succeeds at presenting the dilemma between moral choice and consequence by an officer of the law. This time around we have less characters and acting talent alongside our lead Donnie Yen, in which gives explanation to why the emotion doesn't come across as impacting as it should. During dramatic scenes the cinematography isn't as engaging as SPL, most likely due to the lesser budget thus less screen time for establishing shots. The drama just seems to mash into the action rather than accompany it, which I believe is the biggest criticism towards the film. Now its time for the good..
Moving past the brief moments of ineffectual emotional engagement, the plot is still very well put together by director Wilson Yip. Another iconic detectives vs. gangster outing made unique with it's beautiful and gritty cinematography and exceptional display of martial arts. The flow of the events that occur are reasonable and progressively build-up the tension. Donnie Yen and Collin Chou are excellent in both acting and performing martial arts. I found the movie to be extremely entertaining and worth multiple viewings just like its parent film SPL. The drama is sufficient and not overdone like SPL though, which is one area where Flash Point is superior. There is not one moment of exhaustion related to the thick overuse of drama seen in most HK action movies. While SPL is a better written and acted film, Flash Point is more compact in structure and tells a similar story through a faster approach, which I believe works just as well. Personally I find the ending to Flash Point more satisfying and effective of it's overall message too. Final summation, if your interested in modern Hong Kong action or are a fan of Donnie Yen, then Flash Point is a must watch. -8/10
Strong performances with mind-blowing choreography, yet the melodrama is caked on too thick in which escalates to a point of exhaustion.
A variety of Hong Kong's top-tier male actors come to the forefront in this modern gangster tale of iconic issues: moral consequences & power struggles. The cinematography is gritty and stylized to the point where you can breathe in the tension on-screen, which properly sets the tone and makes this one of the biggest positive attributes for the movie. The HK film legend Sammo Hung plays arguably his darkest role as a crime lord who takes pity on no one and crushes everything outside his personal interests. Another HK film veteran Simon Yam, is the leader of a group of detectives who will do anything to bring Sammo down regardless of police protocols.
The plot is fairly simple as a cat & mouse chase ensues throughout the nighttime ambiance of downtown Hong Kong sparking a blood-feud between detectives and gangsters. The film excels in creating emotional drama between characters and impressing the audience with snowballing suspense that explodes in the third act. An incredible martial arts display happens here, thanks to action masters Donnie Yen, Wu Jing, and Sammo Hung. Unfortunately the melodrama is exaggerated to the brink of absurdity, even within the bounds of other HK crime films, and you'll become tired of seeing extended shots of concluding moral quandaries. Even so you'll glance over the flaws thanks to the charisma and superb fight choreography of the lead actors. The story, albeit unoriginal, is genuinely interesting. You'll be sucked in the drama meanwhile becoming emotionally invested in the detective squad. A fresh entry in the long-running crime genre from HK. -8/10
A smart and stylish crime thriller that is also self-aware of its genre. Adds a gratifying spin on the typical revenge tale.
One element to City of Violence in which I'm not hearing many other reviewers talk about is the self-aware sense of humor the movie has towards the typical Asian crime and revenge flicks. There is a comedic undertone present in which both pays tribute and pokes fun at these two staple genres in Asian action cinema. This tongue-in-cheek attitude is expressed appropriately and is shown exclusively in action sequences. If such scenes of comic relief were not shown during the action sequences than the stunts would come across as just being ridiculous. Thankfully the subtle comedy allows the viewer to play along with the two male leads who are highly charismatic and easily capture interest. The other portions of the movie outside the action are taken very seriously and the drama is used well to both set the tone and advance the plot. My point is I believe many viewers are missing the dynamic of the comedy working alongside the drama here, as it is balanced to create the unique style of the film.
The plot is solid as well. Many questions arise within the first act which all resolve by the conclusion. The story is simple but there further elements to be discovered along the plot. Best friends, broken bonds, betrayal, and all the usual elements of an Asian revenge movie however the cinematography and direction by Seung-wan Ryoo gives everything it's own special flavor. I find City of Violence massively entertaining and am satisfied by it's strong martial arts presentation and interesting dynamic of the story-line. Definitely give it a watch. -8/10
A strong exhibition for Michelle Yeoh's charisma and martial arts skills, even if her character is weighed down by a scattered plot.
Within this HK genre of hard-hitting crime thrillers, "In The Line Of Duty" stands out for its gritty storytelling and brutal presentation of martial arts. A group of psychotic war veterans carry out a terrorist attempt which ends up being foiled by policewoman Michelle Yeoh. After their failed attempt the few remaining terrorists target Yeoh and her comrades in order to enact revenge for the death of their fellow war- hardened brothers. In a messy blood feud Michelle Yeoh struggles to stay alive while simultaneously trying to capture her terrorist foe. Things get out of hand quickly as the stakes are raised and the death toll manages to roll even higher. The side plot involving Yeoh begins to wander but luckily it's not long before you are quickly revived by another action sequence. One apparent detractor is that unlike the sequel cutesy moments don't fit within the story being told, and the comic relief serves as a distraction rather than an aid. The fast-paced flick that In The Line Of Duty tries to be is weighed down by just a bit too much filler. Regardless of this flaw the terrorist plans while ridiculous keep you genuinely interested, and you'll be curious to see where the plot goes. An action packed finale is the highlight of the movie, as the tension remains strong and the Kung-Fu is fierce. Personally this is my favorite out of the series. The entertainment value is very high if nothing else, and Yeoh fans will surely be pleased. -7/10
Another fun Jackie Chan vehicle, but in the end too ridiculous and unfocused.
The movie fluctuates its tone repeatedly, going from a gritty cop redemption tale and shifting gears into a mismatched buddy cop movie. The antagonists of New Police Story are a team of teenagers who at some points are presented like ingenious super-villains, then at other points like just stupid meandering kids. The problem is there are some incredibly unbelievable moments sprinkled-in which dissolve the impact of realistic and emotionally heavy scenes. To clear my perspective up, I do mean unrealistic within the realm Hong Kong standards. The original trilogy of Police Story movies felt balanced with the inclusion of comic relief, although for New Police Story the material at hand may be set-up too serious for such classic Jackie Chan antics. The whole warehouse scene for example was handled in the style of a cartoon. Considering how tragic the events that unfolded there were, I felt it very bizarre the antagonists were treated like comical super-villains. There is atrocious product placement in here as well, the worst offender being Lego which shows up abruptly, misplaced, and for too long. In all honesty I am nitpicking though, the movie is an extremely fun ride it's just too reminiscent of a careless Hollywood blockbuster than akin to a Hong Kong feature of this genre. The stunt work is absolutely top-notch, with many eye-popping moments that Jackie and his team are known for. The action sequences are especially well done and authentic to the original Police story Series, a must watch if only to see Mr. Chan do what he does best. Once again although New Police Story is a very fun ride, there are many elements which feel as if they either don't fit or don't belong. -6/10
An average Wong Kar-Wai script that is watered-down by hammy acting, poor voice-work, and choppy editing. The action's all that's left to save this one.
All the talent surrounding this film yet it still manages to fall short of being a memorable Heroic Bloodshed flick. Return Engagement could have been up there among the ranks of great 1990's HK actioners on-par with that of John Woo or Johnnie To, however there are many scenes which are laughably bad at either an acting or technical level. First off the inclusion of white people in any Hong Kong film pre-21st century is generally a negative element, as their characters are disrespectful plus voice-overs are mismatched and over-acted. In this film the Italian mob embodies "silly" and "rude" to the extreme and the Vancouver segment should have been cut out altogether to avoid this obvious detractor. The movie wishes to be a serious action-drama about the prolonged efforts of one fallen gangster reuniting with his daughter, although there are silly moments which dissolve tension and weaken the impact of actual hard-hitting scenes later on in the movie. Next the transitions between some scenes are choppily edited, with rough cuts that leave you in haze of what's unfolding in the current scene. Wong Kar-Wai's script has some genuinely emotional moments however still is flawed with mysteries like Andy Lau's pointless character and two underdeveloped love interests. Mainly the pacing is off as there are intense shootouts followed by slow moving dialogue and filler scenes which don't progress the plot. The pros of this movie are Simon Yam's performance which is delightfully evil and the completely over-the-top shootout which happens in the final act of the film. This massive climatic gunfight alone earns this movie a 7 as it is one of the most impressive shootouts in the entirety of HK action cinema. If your interested in seeing a final shootout that rivals the work of John Woo, definitely see the movie just for the climax as it's similar to A Better Tomorrow Pt. II in terms of choreography and intense nonstop action. -6/10
Builds upon the flaws that plagued the original. Twice as ridiculous, but only half as entertaining.
God of Gamblers Returns is a drunken repeat of first movie, and stumbles down to the ground in comparison. The story is just as simple where Chow needs to take revenge for his loved ones the only way he knows how through shooting, smiling, and gambling. The biggest flaw of the original God of Gamblers was the breakaway subplot of Chow Yun Fat losing his memory and thinking he was toddler for an hour. In this movie, Chow Yun Fat actually has to take care of a toddler, and this time the cheesy subplot lasts much longer than an hour which gets progressively more slapstick oriented. Like in the first movie, the introduction is both fast-paced and interesting then after 15 minutes immediately dives off into the subplot which has no relief until the villain makes a confrontation in the third act. In a similar structure CYF gains a few comic relief oddball-pals, except this round he gains two more which brings the count to four comic relief characters which surround him constantly. Despite the movie trying to present a facade of a fun group, they're plain annoying and obnoxious, overall detracting screen time and charisma away from Chow and the serious characters. The return of the God of Gamblers is disappointing as his return is weakened by flat side characters who treat him as a stooge. Wong Jing didn't learn from his previous mistakes, as still the only truly interesting portions of the sequel are where there's gambling and gunfights. Thus the beginning and end are great but the middle act will frustrate even the most patient HK fans. It has its moments but the stuff in between will wear you down. -5/10
A first-rate drama about the terrors of heroin and undercover isolation. Great performances are the best aspect.
The material isn't anything new, however the plot combines two age-old Hollywood stories to create a hybrid drama which gives it the fresh feel. On one end of the plot we have our central protagonist Daniel Wu dealing with the isolation of being an undercover cop and his past trauma with drug abuse. On the other end of the plot is his infiltration into Andy Lau's heroin ring, and his attempts to become the successor to the operation in order to solidify his case. Unfortunately the story on its own is fairly stale, although what polishes the movie greatly is the excellent cinematography and standout performances from Wu and Lau. There are some fantastic visuals which capture the mood of the characters and run down environments around them. In addition the audience can tell Wu and Lau are really passionate about their roles and they react to their dialogue and environments genuinely to where you understand what each is thinking without a word needing to be said. The execution of the crime-drama material here is superb and feels on par with that of Johnnie To. The various DVD covers of this movie are deceptive however, and in no way is this an action feature. This is a slowly paced drama about one cop's different confrontations with heroin and it's many users. In that sense the film is flawless, and does what a good drama should, but at the same time the conclusion doesn't offer any surprises. -8/10
An above average gambling-gangster epic, but unfortunately too much of a sensory overload on Chow Yun-Fat.
First off, most likely the reason your interested in this film to begin with is because of Chow Yun-Fat. Well in that case this movie is the absolute "Chow-iest of the Chow". Interpretation is up to the viewer and this is why: Traditionally CYF divides the charisma of his typecast roles into three genres: Light-hearted comedies, witty romance-dramas, or violent crime-dramas. Sometimes he may blend 1 or 2 of these genre- based roles together in one feature, however in God of Gamblers we have a blend of all three. Unfortunately the writing doesn't make this a positive attribute, as the movie feels like a disjointed combination of two main separate roles for CYF. For instance here, gangster and toddler. Yes, Chow plays both a gangster and a toddler. The film IS as strange as that sounds. If you have an affinity for the actor and are prepared to suspend your disbelief however, this is a very fun movie with silliness and violence slapped across the entire run time. Chow plays Ko Chun, "The God of Gamblers" who becomes a magical legend of every casino he enters. A problem arises where one day he loses his memory due to an unexpected incident, and becomes a silly wandering man-child. By coincidence he meets Andy Lau a low level street thug, and after some misadventures together Chow is able to slowly remember the legend that he was, and then will continue to enforce. Despite a horribly bizarre portion of the film being dedicated to an infantile CYF, overall God of Gamblers is a fun ride with an epic ending which will leave you highly entertained plus eager to go out and gamble. In conclusion, the TVB CYF and John Woo CYF don't mix well, but a bipolar CYF translates to ridiculous fun on-screen. -6/10
An excellent mob thriller following the dark spiraling descent of one corrupt cop.
The Longest Nite follows Tony Leung as a corrupt detective struggling to keep his head above water when he ends up caught in a crossfire between two gang rivalries. Meanwhile a mystery begins to unravel where Leung faces some serious career-ending dangers in which he must take specific actions to avoid. Lau Ching Wan plays a riddle in an enigma who hides in the shadows to conduct and puppeteer the actions of many other characters. Leung is consequently one of many mice who must compete to stay alive through what might possibly be "the longest night" of his life. This is a very strongly written thriller with moody cinematography throughout the nighttime streets of Hong Kong, an excellent film of Johnnie To's one of his best. The performances by Leung and Lau are great as well they really make great adversaries like you'd expect from the cover. Although the reason I don't rate this thriller higher are some erratic moments of absurd bloodshed which are almost comical in execution. "R-rated Looney Tunes styled death sequences". They only last but seconds, regardless they were enough to take me out of the film. Another detractor is the sense of limited closure on specific characters which I would have liked to see more development on in the conclusion. Besides a few minor complaints I still love this movie, and will enjoy watching it again. -8/10
Slows down in a few places but an engaging high-stakes gambling story with great twists you'll never see coming.
Casino Raiders is overshadowed by the similar HK franchise "God of Gamblers", although the story here really holds its own with strong performances by Andy Lau & Alan Tam along with solid writing by Jing Wong. Two of the best gamblers out of Hong Kong (Lau & Tam) are hired to work as analysts for a struggling US casino which is losing massive amounts of money to a Japanese group of poker sharks. Our duo of protagonists uncover the secret to the success of the Japanese sharks, and shatter their racket to earn any further winnings in the US. Bitter from their exposure, the Japanese sharks (which also happen to be Yakuza) vow to take revenge on Lau & Tam in which a series of incidents all boil down to one huge defining game of high-stakes Poker. The ride to the finish takes a few detours, however with some patience and character attachment to our duo, the time passes by fairly quickly and ends on a satisfying conclusion. I do believe the film could have been edited cleaner though, as there are a few scenes which just feel like filler and really weigh the rest of the movie down. Besides this one fault, Casino Raiders is an original story with no culturally specific elements like in God of Gamblers, to which Western audiences may enjoy better even with the absence of Chow Yun Fat. The tension is genuine because the stakes are set very high without being cheesy or predictable. If your looking for an out of the ordinary gambling-revenge tale, Casino Raiders is an excellent choice. -7/10
Has that classic Shaw brothers feel, except doesn't fit well in the story's modern age of guns and grit.
An emotionally charged gangster flick surrounding a traitor within one Triad mob and a couple of overzealous members who seek revenge for the betrayal. The story is simple and doesn't offer much intrigue, and the performances by the righteous Triad members (Ka-Yan Leung & Norman Chu) are mediocre as well. The one redeemable aspect of this fast-food revenge flick is the insane machete fights that get progressively more intense. The problem with the mass machete riots is that the movie makes clear guns are available to mob members however nobody ever uses a gun. Usually scenarios are set up in martial arts films where the use of guns during fight sequences are unattainable, prohibited, dishonorable, etc. In Hong Kong Godfather no attempt is made to reason why none of the mobsters on-screen don't just use a handgun to get what they want. An irritating flaw, especially in this era of widespread gun use with Triad films, but regardless the machete fights are very enjoyable and have their impressive moments. Despite the bloody fights I'd still give it a pass, as the ending's not as satisfying as most other fun Shaw Brothers ventures. -5/10
Dated, but a well thought out story of taboo romance and complex sibling rivalry.
Kar-Wai's first film is more in line with the cinematography of other late 80's Hong Kong movies rather than his renown obscure style, seen later on in films like Chungking Express or In the Mood For Love. The characters are also normal in comparison to his later films too, as they take on archetypes seen in many Triad flicks from this era. The writing is classic Wong Kar-Wai however, and what he does with the characters is more interesting then their personalities themselves. In other words their actions speak volumes louder than their dialogue. Andy Lau plays a low-level Triad thug who in hopes of climbing the underworld's ranks becomes held down by his younger brother played by Jacky Cheung. The pair work well together and you begin to like the dynamic bond between them. Trouble ensues between the pair and their gang, and many hard decisions await Andy Lau as he tries to straighten out both his reckless brother and forbidden romance on the side. The ending has a real impact and Wong Kar-Wai's direction is responsible for such a memorable story. Although it feels Kar-Wai wasn't fully at the reigns of this one with some mediocre moments, overall his efforts can be felt wholeheartedly and the passion shines through to deliver a good experience. -7/10
A pointless ride of nonstop gang brutality and stylized death sequences, however one the best presentations of martial arts thus far in cinema. Is it a fair trade-off?
My main problem with the movie is that the plot can be written entirely on a cocktail napkin. This movie is nothing more than a ride. Although make no mistake about it, The Raid Redemption is one damn good ride. The martial arts are not only of the highest standard but also fresh, like nothing you've ever seen before. If your even mildly interested in action movies then this flick will leave a mark as one of the most outrageous products to come out of Asian cinema. Except outrageous doesn't equal enjoyable to all fans. So here's the summary of the plot in one line: A SWAT team goes on an operation to invade a gang- controlled building in conquest of eliminating the leader and his conspirators which are located atop the highest floor. There you go, shut your brain off from there and watch the uncompromising display of violence. As the audience we follow Iko Uwais with his role of Rama, but as hard as the movie tries to attach us to Rama's plight by convincing us he's an honorable family man, by the end this attempt falls through because the setup to his character is only mentioned in a few lines in order to sacrifice screen time for the action. Now generally most action movies barely setup their protagonists in the beginning, but the Raid Redemption doesn't even give us enough breathing room to become accustomed to Rama along the way. In that sense the movie is only a nonstop ride of baddies getting stabbed and shot. The "twists" are some of the most clichéd possible in the genre, and the conclusion doesn't clear much up other than "F$#% yeah we're the best. Cue the slo- mo and epic music". The movie's start shoves the audience into the action then at the end abruptly takes us out once more. I felt the conclusion to be awkward and leave me numbed in hopes of further closure. Hate me for this, but I believe an intriguing story is what compliments and satisfies watching intense action. I didn't feel for Rama or his team, plus his team isn't "present enough" for me to care about them anyway. The violence sure was genuine and fit the tone, but I can't look past the flaws in the story and character development. -6/10
An intense competition between two undercover operatives. An original story executed perfectly.
Two of the best male leads from Hong Kong's acting circuit, Tony Leung and Andy Lau perform with accelerating desperation as a couple of snitches who'll do anything to protect themselves from exposure. After a series of botched jobs which seem too coincidental, a fierce witch hunt commences between the HK police forces and triad gangs to dig out their moles. The story is "The Departed" almost all across the board, however cuts out a bit of the ridiculousness from constant character transitioning and is more focused when setting up the back story of the protagonists. Mainly for these two reasons I believe this is superior to Scorsese's homage. It packs more of a serious punch while the US adaption feels comical in certain scenes which doesn't supplement the life or death scenarios. Moving on this is a great movie to introduce Westerners to modern Hong Kong Cinema, as is tied very closely with the style of Hollywood. It is absent of some past HK staples such as silly comedy, bizarre violence, or overly-dramatic romance. Luckily the movie keeps a solid pacing and concentrates on the time sensitive material at hand. Excellent screen writing and cinematography. Highly recommended for fans of crime films in general. -9/10
A fresh entry and perfect homage to the niche genre of "Heroic Bloodshed".
Crime, melodrama, and vengeance. Three elements presented here that blend in twisted harmony. A Bittersweet life is a character study of a young man that has been warped by the mob's emphasis on money/power/violence, and portrays his subsequent inner struggle to uncover a moral compass. Byung-hun Lee with an excellent performance, plays a young and cocky mobster who at the peak of his profession becomes love-struck, slowly shattering his realm of immortality, insecurity, and grim outlook towards society. Longing to feel human, he makes a decision which has the potential to not only destroy his career, but also his life. The added elements of action and martial arts are especially well done, with sound so crisp and choreography so genuine you'll jump with each confrontation. I recommend the Blu-ray version as it highlights the dreamlike state of the protagonist and hypnotizes you into this flashy yet hollow crime underworld. Director Jee-woon Kim really knows how to capture the interest of the audience, the storytelling here is top notch and suspenseful all the way through. It pulls out all the familiar stops of the Heroic Bloodshed genre and much more. The movie earns a strong R rating, however the violence supplements the material unlike many similar films today. If you enjoy the films The Killer and Infernal affairs, A Bittersweet life should come as a real treat. -10/10
Soul-searching among street thugs, while in a state of Heroin induced frenzy.
This movie is absolutely straight-up bonkers, nuts, crazy, insane. To say "the cinematographer's fueled by a combination of drugs" is an understatement. Seeing a few of Wong Kar-Wai's other features I really had high hopes for this one, however at the end I found it disappointing as it doesn't capture the same charisma or structure of his other films, for example like As Tears Go By or Chungking Express. The biggest problem in my opinion is Michelle Reis' character as the set-up girl. She isn't given enough screen time to establish a decent bond with the audience, the charm surrounding her is flat. Karen Mok's character of Blondie is unfortunately average, she comes across as annoying rather than afflicted and thus fails to capture the audience's interest too. The women in this movie just don't tote the same amount of power as in other Kar-Wai films. The females are cold and don't intend to change, which goes against the male characters and flow of the movie. Again the cinematography feels overzealous and at some moments, even pretentious which I never thought I could say about Kar-Wai. Complaints aside, Takeshi Kaneshiro steals the show with his bizarre character, and I would actually watch the movie again just to see his portion. There's a lot of great themes here, and the sense of grittiness and isolation is done extremely well. Overall I didn't enjoy Fallen Angels, but I do understand the attraction. Other Wong Kar-Wai fans may love it. -6/10
A daydreaming romance overflowing with energy and charm.
One of the strangest love stories you'll ever see, Chungking Express is a two-part adventure where oddball protagonists look for love to fill a void outside their unsatisfying day jobs. The characters are so bizarre you'll keep watching just to figure out what drives them. The camera-work is memorizing with a nice blend of warm colors and skewed angles to capture the wandering streets of Hong Kong. The soundtrack really adds to the intoxicating love-struck style of the film too, where songs become stuck in your head (most likely an intentional result). Performances are excellent across the board as each actor gives their meandering search for love an original twist. This movie feels like a flash-bang of youth, although not in a typical rebel-against-society style, rather a deeper quest in order to fulfill what one wants truly for themselves to be happy. This is a romance unlike any other, and may be arguably Wong Kar-Wai's best feature to date. Keep an open mind and you'll no doubt be pleased. -9/10
Leon Lai and Ching Wan Lau work well within their respective characters, however their actions don't seem to consistently make sense in the progression of the plot. Opposite hired guns for the mob, they fluctuate in being friends and foe after a rendezvous gone awry. At some points their resulting behavior contradicts what your led to believe, which feels unintentional and confusing. The story is painfully simple, and the visuals eventually become pretentious and overused with too many angles, filters, and slow-mo moments. Not a bad movie, but Johnnie To has directed much better gritty-melodramas and unfortunately this one fails to achieve it's blend with America's Western genre. My biggest complaint is that Ching Wan Lau's character becomes plagued with a handicap, then while much screen time is devoted to portraying his hardship and fight for retribution, his character remains weak and pushed aside in the third act of the film. Lau was built up to such a high degree only to inexplicably crumble, which doesn't feel right being the movie's centerpiece. Overall, a convoluted not-so-satisfying revenge tale. Personally I was disappointed but other Johnnie To fans may enjoy. -6/10
Very serious crime investigation. No comic relief or romantic subplot here, strictly business.
One of Johnnie To's earlier films, this tale is more akin to the hard crime thriller of Martin Scorsese rather than To's recent "tongue-in- cheek" style. What we have here is brutal storytelling of blackmail, espionage, corruption, and violence all facing one struggling Hong Kong detective. Even by today's standards the violence is both shocking and disturbing to see. Some sequences may be over the top, and while out of place they are vastly entertaining. The plot of "a washed-up cop pulled back in for one last job" had been done to death even back in 1988, however Johnnie To added in some twists plus heavy suspense to make the material fresh. In my opinion the faults are the editing and lack of charisma from Waise Lee's character. The protagonist could have been more likable to better engage the audience, and the editing is dated with some awkward cuts and sped up/slowed down moments which don't blend well with the drama. Other than that the material hit home with me, and the all-out conclusion left me in awe. Keep in mind this is filled with winding clues and bloody confrontations, not an easy watch. -7/10
Beautiful cinematography, although there's not enough substance to back it up.
The first and last 15 minutes of this movie are really engaging visually and vitalize your interest in the story. The problem lies with the middle of the movie where little is presented to keep with the pace of the action. The movie tries too hard to capture a tone of being constantly "bad-ass", and with this loss of cohesion surrounding the plot the film breaks apart in the 2nd act. I got bored amidst the slo-mo and camera effects, they were used too much in which they lost their emphasis after a while. Also it's difficult to understand the progression of the characters, not always clear what they're doing or why. It's a standard Heroic Bloodshed flick except the cinematographer is on ecstasy and the scriptwriter is on speed. There's an imbalance between the visuals and material. Regardless it's a very interesting crime film to watch, and if your a big fan of the Matrix you can check out where the Wachowski bros took some of their inspiration from. Other than that, there's not much here for moviegoers outside the incredibly specific niche of Asian crime dramas. -5/10
I'm not understanding the fellow reviews of other posters here, seems like the general negative consensus is that Brandon Lee didn't do enough martial arts or with the finesse of his father. Well this isn't a martial arts film, so if you were expecting the successor to Bruce Lee you'll be disappointed. Immediately push Bruce Lee out of your head. This is an overly melodramatic action film from Hong Kong, falls into the genre also known as "Heroic Bloodshed", and in that respect the movie's hokey but simultaneously keeps strong pacing and high entertainment value. This film is from 1986 coinciding with the release of John Woo's A Better Tomorrow, in which is set at the root of the new wave HK gangster genre. For being one of the first of its kind, it doesn't receive sufficient credit. This type of all-out gunplay in HK films doesn't appear until at least a year later. Brandon Lee plays a young waiter about to marry when a jealous/criminal friend purposely shatters his future. Brandon gets framed and sent to jail where he'll waste away for eight years. Luckily with some assistance from those on the outside who know the truth, he manages to escape where he wishes to find his fiancée and take vengeance on the friend who put him away. There are some twists in the story and the bullet-frenzied climax is very well done. The negative aspects about this movie are the shoddy soundtrack and dubbing, although once the plot takes off you forget about both. Lee is very charismatic in his character, and if you become attached to his story this should be a very fun ride. -7/10