Chungking Express (重慶森林): follows two lovesick Hong Kong police officers as they try to get over their last relationships. You can immediately tell that the visuals are the driving force of the film – the camera movement is light and fluid, framing and camera angles are experimental, the lighting is bright and bold – it ties together to create a very unique look. Unfortunately, no other elements of this movie come close to distracting you from this: the performances are decent but the characters (and their philosophy-lite inner dialogue) feel whimsical and slight; and the plot is inconsequential – relying on artsy / cutesy / quirky moments and fanciful gestures of romance to hold it all together. The film is split into two stories that have a few similarities (talking to inanimate objects, tinned food, chef salads, Indian people, and varying opinions on tears & water) but would have worked better focusing on the second part. If you think of a big HK movie in the 1990s, this is the complete opposite; so much so that it feels like a rebellious statement – ‘screw what you know about HK directors… I’m making a tedious homage to the French New Wave, suck it up losers!’ At over 100 minutes long it doesn’t half drag, which is a shame because a handful of nice moments and ideas get swallowed up by the dominating pop-video style, excessive runtime, and hammy dialogue – see below for genuine quotes. Chungking Express appears on list after list of seminal movies, but in reality it’s a barely-worked-on, directionless, and lightly scripted pet project between other movies – and it feels like nothing more than that to me. I’m sure he’s a lovely Won Kar-Guy, but I don’t understand Won Kar-Why the ratings for this are so Won Kar-High!?!? There are better films about Hong Kong and far better films about love: this is a definitive example of style over substance.
” If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries.”
” Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires. Meat sauce expires. Even cling-film expires. Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?”
” In May’s eyes, I’m no different from a can of pineapple.”
” When people cry, they can dry their eyes with tissues. But when an apartment cries, it takes a lot to mop it up.”
American Mary: a broke-but-talented medical student accidentally stumbles across the world of extreme body modification, which helps pay the bills, and then some. This opens up with a sexy woman (yes)… in sexy lingerie (YES)… stitching up a raw chicken (oh…). The directors picked their target market (body mod goths) and just threw as much of the weirdness that comes with the territory into the movie: there’s a ton of bizarre faces and characters, leathers, latex, and awful techno metal – like a budget Matrix Soundtrack. It ends up feeling a bit like weirdness for wierdness’ sake – a bunch of ‘that would be cool/gross’ scenes stapled together: part rape revenge, part Saw, part Hostel, part Audition… The story also runs out of ground fairly quickly, after Mary’s career change it fumbles along ’til the fairly lame ending. Mary herself is a strange character: not really good or bad, just a bit ridiculous: would have been better and creepier to play it straight. Generally, it’s bad B-movie acting all round, which matches the sloppy dubbing and editing. If there’s one thing done well here, it’s the SFX, which are gut-wrenchingly slick – and provide the silver (or crimson) lining. With films like this and Dead Hooker in a Trunk the Soska Sisters seem to be doing a low-rent Tom Six thing.
Killing Them Softly: a mob ‘enforcer’ investigates the robbery of a protected card game. the style is a bizarre mix of Indie/Arthouse, and cutting-edge (often trippy) blockbuster effects and visuals. The sound mix is equally as strange, mostly through the ‘background noise’ being deliberately amplified in almost every scene. The script is very dry, boring, overly – and offensively – misogynistic, and contains characters called Frankie, Mickey, Markie – which gets hard to follow at points. Most scenes are overlong and rambly, Gandalfini in particular gets far too much time. Pitt is the best in class, everyone else coasts on mob/Australian stereotypes. Scoot McNairy – decent performance, but hands-down THE most annoying voice of the year. There’s a blatant political/economic overtone – mostly through in-picture TVs/Radios – and it’s as subtle as a brick to the face. Most frustratingly,, it plays out exactly as you know it will; with no twists, turns, surprises or originality – and you can’t root for any of the characters. Killing Them Softly is a bleak / grim / crushingly realistic mobster-procedural critique of corporate culture (where underpaid people do the dirty work, and getting a decision from the bosses is impossible – original, huh?) – unfortunately, it’s nowhere near entertainment.