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Posts Tagged ‘Johnnie To’

Motorway

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Cheang Pou-soi has been directing movies since 1999, but I never knew about him until 2015 when I was blown away by KILL ZONE 2 (SPL II). MOTORWAY is from 2012, and it’s a much simpler film – shorter, less complicated, less thematically heavy, and it works really well that way. Maybe some of this simplicity comes out of the type of action. Martial arts scenes like KILL ZONE 2’s require increasing complexity – for example the knockout prison riot scene – but this is a car chase movie. At its heart it’s about two drivers. One guy in a car driving very fast after another guy in a car. Literally straight forward.

It’s a serious movie, but it’s got a nice tinge of absurdity to it. Its law enforcement protagonists are not cool homicide detectives or badass SWAT dudes, they’re part of an elite squad of, uh, traffic cops. I guess they’re there for their high level driving skills, but their regular job is camping out with the speed gun, pulling people over, wearing dorky windbreakers and reflective vests, the kind of thing most action movie cops only have to do in a funny montage after they get in trouble. Cheung (Shawn Yue, LEGEND OF THE FIST, THE GUILLOTINES) takes the job seriously and is annoyed that his older partner Lo (Anthony Wong, HARD BOILED, GEN-X COPS 2, EXILED, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, IP MAN: FINAL FIGHT) seems to not give a fuck. (Having him browse literature about an upcoming retirement seminar is a good spin on the ol’ two-weeks-from-retirement cliche). (read the rest of this shit…)

Too Many Ways To Be No. 1

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 is a crazy, aggressively stylish 1997 Hong Kong crime movie that I watched because it was recommended to me by Adam in a comment on my LADY OF STEEL review. He said it was recommended to him by a guy at Vulcan Video in Austin, Texas. And now I’m recommending it to you. The circle of life.

This one’s produced by Johnnie To, but directed by Wai Ka-Fai (FULLTIME KILLER, RUNNING ON KARMA, MAD DETECTIVE), his second movie as a director, following PEACE HOTEL.

It’s about this guy named Kau (Lau Ching-wan, POLICE STORY 2) who gets talked into joining some kind of criminal gang. I felt great empathy for him because of this scene where they go have a big meal together, like the gang in RESERVOIR DOGS, but then they walk out without paying. He stands there and looks at the check. Jesus christ, you don’t walk out on a check. Also you don’t leave a huge check for just one person who didn’t offer to pay it to pay. Especially the new guy who doesn’t have that kind of money. (read the rest of this shit…)

Drug War

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

tn_drugwarbtislJohnnie To’s DRUG WAR is a hell of a procedural, a fast-moving, heavily detailed look at a batallion of Chinese narcotics cops flipping a big time meth manufacturer and trying to use him to take out a guy that’s above him. We watch them step-by-step, finding the guy, making him give in, making a plan on the fly, changing things up as the facts on the ground evolve. They gotta worry if they can trust him, is he gonna blow the whole operation, are they gonna get him killed. They’re like high stakes gamblers almost. Seems like stressful work in my opinion.

In the opening scene the squad catches a bus full of drug mules on a toll bridge. They bring them to the hospital and proceed with the unglamorous work of making them shit out the “drug pods” into bowls before they burst inside them and kill them horribly. I’m looking for a HOLY MOUNTAIN Alchemist/shitting in a bowl joke here, but maybe I’ll just let the moment pass. I am nothing if not classy as all fuck. (read the rest of this shit…)

Exiled

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

tn_exiledAfter VENGEANCE heroically bloodshedded me in the face it was obviously time to check out some of these Johnnie To movies that I’ve been ignoring even though everybody and their blood brother has been recommending them to me over the years. It’s nice to see that while Hong Kong action cinema has lost the worldwide attention it had in the ’90s there’s still been some people keeping it alive. Mr. To definitely has a modern take on the types of emotions and style we love from that era. So here’s another one of his more recent ones, 2006’s EXILED.
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Vengeance

Monday, February 7th, 2011

tn_vengeanceIf a revenge movie is just called VENGEANCE, somebody might assume it’s gonna be obvious and unimaginative. In the case of Johnnie To’s VENGEANCE they’d be wrong – it’s elegant and poetically simple is what it is. Like a haiku with exit wounds. At this time I would like to ask that hypothetical somebody to admit that they would’ve been wrong.

In the opening scene a family is gunned down by three hitmen. Only the mother survives, and just barely. Her father, just known as Costello (Johnny Hallyday), comes to the hospital, vows to avenge her and gets minor details about the attackers by having her point at words in a newspaper. (read the rest of this shit…)