Another rather convincing slice of the Hong Kong triad gang world from Election director Johnnie To – with an ensemble cast to die for!…
Set in the beautiful, Portuguese influenced architecture of Macau, just as China was re-imposing it’s rule over the Hong Kong territories, Wo (Nick Cheung, Election, Breaking News) returns to find an old friend, Blaze (Anthony Wong, Infernal Affairs, Beast Cops, The Untold Story), has been given the unenviable task of settling his bosses score. Reuniting their old gang, they are split between those who support their bosses wish, Blaze and Fat (Lam Suet, Election, Kung Fu Hustle, Running Out Of Time), and those prepared to go against his wish, Tai (Francis Ng, Infernal Affairs 2, The Bride With White Hair, 2000AD) and Cat (Roy Cheung, Infernal Affairs 2, Wild Search), they decide to pull one last job together for old times sake.
Buy Online Leaving his wife Jin (Josie Ho, Forever and Ever, So Close) and newborn child behind, Wo resigns himself to the fact he may never see them again. But then, having chosen to go against their boss Fay (Simon Yam, Bullet In The Head, Election), the same is true for all of them – and it’s going to be a long couple of days and nights.
Just as with Election, director Johnnie To’s latest, Exiled, might not necessarily bring anything new to the gangster genre, it’s really more a case of how well he does it. Some scenes – like where Tai and Blaze empty their gun cartridges as Wo loads his, just to have the same amount of bullets, the drawn-out tense confrontation in the resturant, or the blood stained Red Bull ‘sponsored’ finale that will definitely give you wings, where the final shoot out takes place while a can is spinning in the air – are so drenched in the heritage of Heroic Bloodshed films as to be instantly iconic. Indeed, you wonder it’ll take for America to rip them off, if not the whole movie itself.
What makes Exiled stand head and shoulders above the competition, even Election itself, is the incredible ensemble cast To has brought together. Wong, Ng, Suet, Yam, in fact every performance in the film is top notch. Johnnie To deliberately uses their familiarity to help fill out the background of their characters without out necessity to make much reference to it. They even look as they did in their best-known films down to the haircut they sported back in 1998.
Beautifully shot, To plays on the Portuguese architecture of Macau to bring a deliberately Mediterranean flavour to the film, paying homage the Italian American films of directors like Martin Scorsese that have so dominated the gangster genre. (In fact, the characters even jokingly adopt Italian accents and gestures at one point.)
And just as with Election, To tries to get under the skins of his gangsters, and more their families. There’s a pragmatic acceptance to their ‘profession’, but also wish to break free. The implication is that they are all ‘exiled’ from ever living a normal life.
When it comes, the action is well choreographed – though fans may wish the afore-mentioned ‘Red Bull’ scene went on a little longer. They are as frenetic and energized as you might expect in a Hong Kong film. Yet throughout Johnnie To uses a confident, unhurried pace, limiting the time period to two days and nights, not unlike some of previous films, like Macau set The Longest Nite, which he produced, or the more recent films of his peers, like Derek Yee’s One Night In Mongkok.
Perhaps this isn’t the most original take on triads – there’s no devious twists or revelations – but overall, this is a fine, enjoyable movie, and thankfully kept to a digestible length (i.e. less than 2 hours!) I even preferred it to Election!
Exiled is released on DVD in the UK on 22 October by Optimum Releasing.
Distributor: Optimum Asia (UK)
Sadly, this release adds nothing to the original Hong Kong DVD, which at least boasted an additional 'behind the scenes' featurette in additon to the 'making of' featured here. The transfer, though good, doesn't quite have the crystal clear quality you might expect from a brand new film, suggesting a bit more time could have been spent mastering it for UK reelase.
However, i f you missed this film on it's theatrical release eariler in the year, then I urge you to catch-up on cold hard proof that Hong Kong can still teach the world a thing or two about action filmmaking!