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The Films of Johnnie To

Happy Ghost III

Seven Years Itch

The Eighth Happiness

All About Ah-Long

The Fun, the Luck & the Tycoon

The Story of My Son

Casino Raiders II

Tek dou bou

Justice, My Foot!

The Heroic Trio (November 26/17)

Shockingly incoherent from start to finish, The Heroic Trio follows the title figures (Maggie Cheung's Chat, Michelle Yeoh's Ching, and Anita Mui's Tung) as they separately (and together) attempt to stop a mysterious figure from abducting male babies. It seems entirely likely that The Heroic Trio might've fared well enough had that been the extent of the movie's premise, but director Johnnie To and scripter Sandy Shaw slowly-but-surely bog the proceedings down with one frustratingly baffling plot development after another - with the filmmakers seemingly going out of their way to cultivate an atmosphere of complete and total bewilderment. (The movie ultimately feels as though it started out as an epic eight-hour fantasy miniseries that was somehow and clumsily chopped down to 88 minutes.) To attempts to compensate for the aggressively nonsensical vibe by delivering exceedingly (and often excessively) flamboyant visuals, and yet the movie, saddled with a uniform selection of wafer-thin characters, suffers from an almost total dearth of compelling or even interesting sequences. (The one exception to this is an admittedly stirring action interlude involving a runaway train.) It's ultimately difficult to a envision or recall more perplexing and wholly misbegotten endeavor than The Heroic Trio, and it truly is a wonder that To's career didn't stop dead after the release of this hopeless trainwreck of a picture.

out of

Loving You

A Moment of Romance III


A Hero Never Dies

Where a Good Man Goes

Running Out of Time

The Mission (October 27/17)

An almost impressively empty misfire, The Mission follows a crew of bodyguards as they attempt to keep their boss safe from various would-be assassins - with their efforts ultimately complicated by progressively deadly instances of in-fighting and strife. It’s a thin premise that’s used to often interminable effect by filmmaker Johnny To, as The Mission suffers from a total lack of momentum that’s compounded by an unabashedly episodic narrative - with the movie essentially lurching from one less-than-engrossing action sequence to the next. Much of the picture is devoted to poorly executed and staged gun battles in a wide variety of bland locations (eg a back alley, an after-hours shopping center, an empty restaurant, etc etc), and it’s clear, too, that the film’s hands-off atmosphere is due in no small part to the utter lack of interesting, three-dimensional characters (ie the revelation that one such character is sleeping with the boss’ wife is diminished substantially by the protagonists’ interchangeable nature). It goes without saying, naturally, that The Mission never feels as though it’s building towards anything interesting or significant, and indeed the movie’s final stretch is just about as anticlimactic as one might’ve anticipated and feared - which confirms the picture’s place as a terminally half-baked endeavor that’s best forgotten. (It’s ultimately not surprising to learn that much of the movie was improvised, to be sure.)

out of

PTU (July 1/04)

Set entirely over the course of one night, PTU follows a bumbling cop as he attempts to retrieve the gun he lost after slipping on a banana peel. Said cop, named Sgt. Lo (Suet Lam), enlists the help of the head of the Police Tactical Unit, Sgt. Mike Ho (Simon Yam), in recovering the weapon. Meanwhile, two rival gangs are preparing for a bloody confrontation - spurred on by the murder of Ponytail, the son of a high-ranking criminal. PTU opens with a fantastic scene set inside a restaurant, where three characters - Ponytail, Sgt. Lo, and Ponytail's assassin - compete over seating arrangements in a game of one-upmanship that continues to escalate until Ponytail receives a knife to the back. To does a fantastic job of filming this sequence, effectively using the widescreen frame to keep all three characters in view - while offsetting the tension with palpable moments of comedy. Unfortunately, though, the film goes quickly downhill from there. The entire midsection of PTU is almost exclusively devoted to Sgt. Lo's search for his missing gun, with Sgt. Ho's similar efforts also documented. Like another recent film about a cop that loses a firearm, the appropriately titled The Missing Gun, the concept alone isn't enough to keep things interesting throughout. To's stylish direction prevents the movie from becoming an all-out bore, and the fact that the film takes place entirely at night is certainly an intriguing narrative choice. Yet all the moody cinematography in the world can't disguise the inherently dull screenplay, which is inordinately preoccupied with having its characters walk (a lot). Not since Gerry has there been a film with so much walking, and though Gerry didn't have a shred of plot going for it, it was ultimately a much more entertaining and rewarding experience. The movie picks up right towards the end with a fantastic shoot-out done entirely in slow motion that's undeniably impressive, but not enough to make the viewer forget everything that came before it.

out of

Breaking News

Throw Down

Yesterday Once More


Election 2


Click here for review.




Click here for review.

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

Life Without Principle

Romancing in Thin Air

Drug War (July 12/13)

An almost incongruously exciting effort from Johnnie To, Drug War follows gritty, dedicated cop Zhang (Sun Honglei) as he captures a notorious drug lord (Louis Koo's Tommy Choi) and subsequently uses him to get closer to several top-level criminals. There's little doubt that Drug War establishes itself as a better-than-expected police procedural right from the get-go, as the movie's opening half hour has been suffused with a number of impressively thrilling action sequences - including an over-the-top car chase and a gripping pursuit through a busy hospital. One's assumption that To won't be able to sustain the blistering pace is proved correct as Drug War moves into its plot-heavy and lamentably talky midsection, with the proliferation of underdeveloped characters exacerbating the convoluted bent of Ryker Chan, Ka-Fai Wai, Nai-Hoi Yau, and Xi Yu's screenplay. It does, as a result, become awfully difficult to care about Zhang and Tommy's ongoing exploits, as the viewer, with little invested in their respective fates, is left with nothing to latch onto as the movie sinks deeper and deeper into its impenetrable narrative. (This is despite the inclusion of a few admittedly striking action sequences, including a raid on a meth-making factory.) Just as one is ready to completely write it off, however, Drug War bounces back with a tremendously involving and exciting climax that culminates in an epic shootout in front of a school - with the effectiveness of this stretch, which is just about the best of its kind to come around in quite some time, ultimately compensating for the so-so nature of everything preceding it and confirming the film's place as a better-than-average cops-and-robbers thriller.

out of

Blind Detective

Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2



© David Nusair