In this action thriller from Hong Kong, Jack (Leon Lai) and Martin (Lau Ching-wan) are gunmen who work for two rival kingpins, Yam (Yam Sai-koon) and Fong (Fong Ping). Jack and Martin have been warring on their bosses’ behalf for close to a year, but when the two factions declare a truce, the trigger men, who have both taken a physical and emotional beating, find they’re now expendable and are cut loose. After a period of bitter poverty, the two men decide to join forces and take on the gangsters who used them and threw them away. —All Movie Guide
Following his directorial debut with the 1980 period martial arts fantasy The Enigmatic Case, To’s career came to something of an apex in the late 1980s thanks to such memorable action films as The Big Heat and tender, personal dramas like All About Ah-Long (the latter of which landed star Chow Yun-Fat a Best Actor award at the 1990 Hong Kong Film Awards). After taking the helm for such memorable action films as The Heroic Trio and directing Stephen Chow in such films as Justice, My Foot and Mad Monk in the early ‘90s, To moved into producing with the creation of independent film company Milky Way Films, a company which yielded such popular Hong Kong action efforts as Nai-hoi Yau’s The Longest Nite and Expect the Unexpected. Though To’s production company was indeed a success, his career behind the camera was in need of some rejuvenation, an issue which he readily addressed with the release of his highly praised 1999 crime drama The Mission.
Utilizing convention as a springboard… read more
Pure mood. To effaces the basic tenants of Hong Kong action cinema and its pet theme of dualistic characters to a pure nub of emotion and color. "how should a person be in this world?" Yes. Yes that's it. "I look up when I walk / Counting the stars with tearful eyes / Remembering those summer days / But I am all alone tonight / Happiness lies beyond the clouds / Happiness lies above the sky"
Positively bursting with pure visual storytelling and some of To's most expressive imagery; the final half-hour is astonishingly seamless, basically one long montage. A rumination on vengeance as theatre, honor as identity, wounds, sacrificial love-- a hero. How AMG got "action thriller" out of this gorgeous tone poem speaks volumes about how To has been (under)sold here in the west. Masterpiece.
to does this odd thing where he shifts from what seems to be a standard genre set up, and then shifts it through several layers of loss and memory, until you end up somewhere unrecognizable. in practical terms its a shift from conflict and incident to practical metaphysics, the question always being, how should a person be in this world? and it's funny, with one to's best ever heroic bloodshed scenes at the end.