Vengeance / 復仇 [Blu Ray]: a French chef travels to Hong Kong to avenge a brutal attack on his daughter and her family. Having a mish-mash of French, English and Cantonese dialogue this clearly has international aspirations. As you’d expect from Johnnie To it’s a very well-directed film; in particular he gets the most out of his cast, even from the lead character – aging rocker (now botox-faced) Johnny Hallyday (!WTF!) – although Anthony Wong’s the real star as usual. To also wrings a lot of tension from many of the buildup and action scenes – although there is one nighttime shootout that’s a total mess, and several times when it changes from night to day (and vice versa) in 2 seconds flat. So it’s all good, until the film starts dragging on a bit, throwing up some strange plot twists (Memento anyone?) and generally falling into the ‘Asian Gangster’ pitfalls – many stylishly dressed gangster factions are all entangled with one another and disputes can only be settled through gun-centric confrontations – the only difference is the European actors, who seem a bit crowbarred in for international effect. As a Blu Ray, the picture’s OK and the sound is impressive enough (thunderous gunshots). Despite the big names and big story, for a person that’s seen scores of Asian gang movies, this has already faded in to the big pot of genre films.
Fulltime Killer: A couple of hitmen, ‘O’ and ‘Tok’, become intertwined in a battle to prove who is the best in Asia. Turns in to a bit of a ‘two hitmen and a cleaner’ story, and while the lady was central to the story, the film would have been much more exciting and faster-paced without all of the terrible characterisation scenes she facilitated. The narrator changes between the 2 killers for the most part, then a random crazy policeman towards the end – bizarre. There’s some very cool action & shootouts and it’s visually sumptuous in parts, although nothing’s really that memorable. Andy Lau’s the standout as the cocksure shoot-form-the-hip dangerman. While this film’s decent enough it never really takes off of goes into top gear, even with its Metal Slug inspired ending. For those that enjoy style over substance, this one’s ideal.
Shinjuku Incident: Tells the story of illegal Chinese immigrants doing some of the worst jobs imaginable and struggling to find identity in Tokyo. Jackie Chan flexes his dramatic muscles, pulling off one of his more humble, proud and down-and-out roles with ease. The film starts off quite realistic and believable, but gets progressively ridiculous as it rushes forward, to the point where characters and scenes become laughable (a few hand scenes and the main cyberpunk/tranny/weirdo transformation being the standouts) This flick makes the most of the ancient Chinese / Japanese rivalry, with some memorable turf wars between the Yakuza and immigrant Triads. Annoyingly, there’s no real sense of time – this could al be over a year or ten years, you just can’t tell. The biggest weakness is that the story is so huge: complete rags to riches cycles, with characters going full circle, or off the map and so many other, more minor plot points & events – It just feels like it’s all been bulldozed through. Quite a memorable little number, but all over the place story-wise. Mongkok was better
Breaking News: takes a hostage situation and shows how the media no longer monopolise the coverage – the criminals use the internet to get their story across to the masses. The opening shot is an unbelievable single take that ends up filming a Heat-esque shoot out – at over 6 minutes long it’s absolutely jaw dropping, phenomenal crane work – planning must have taken weeks. The rest of the film has a late 80s / early 90s vibe… not 2004!!! (Totally corny soundtrack, acting and themes) It’s always nice seeing bad-ass villains bond over cooking too (Fail). After such an awesome opening the film struggles to match it for the rest of the duration, and the pacing is questionable for the most part. Has some interesting stuff to say about the police and 24/7, always-on-location, news but is hardly the most convincing argument. Would be good for people studying the media, otherwise you’ll find this filed under mediocre Asian cop flick. Other than a few memorable action scenes this is instantly forgettable, and disappointing coming from Jonnie To!