Set in a Macau, China, that resembles more a Mexican town than anything Chinese, this film by the acclaimed director Johnnie To starts as four mysterious outlaws descend on the house of a fellow criminal Wo, who is living a quiet life with his wife and baby. Two of the hoods, Blaze and Fat, have come to kill Wo, on the orders of their Boss, while the other two, Tai and Cat, have come to save him. Both sides know each other well, having grown up together, and soon the group decides to save Wo’s life, and run from the Boss’ hired guns.
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
Johnnie To belongs to the same class as Melville, Leone, and Woo. The worlds he creates seem to exist for the sole purpose of men in suits posing and firing off guns, lots of guns. Exiled is certainly a gorgeous looking film that has everything one expects from a Hong Kong action flick; plenty of shoot-outs, double crosses, beautiful women, slapstick comedy, and a great soundtrack. But it's also a beautiful film, it's about friendship and brotherhood, betrayal and forgiveness, all the great themes of life. To is a master of his craft.
I feel like one of the lone film buffs who still prefers "The Mission" to "Exiled" but rewatching the movies, this time nearly back-to-back, was an interesting experience. "Exiled" clearly displays how much Johnnie To developed as an artist and filmmaker between 1999 and 2006. As others have stated, the film is a brilliant fusion of the traditional Hong Kong gangster picture with the romantic stylization of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western. The final shootout is barely over a minute long but it's one of the most memorable and well-staged action sequences of the 00's.
A barefaced fusion of spaghetti western and Hong Kong actioner, fittingly set in the intermediary of Macau – a place itself caught between the European and Asiatic amidst its colonial handover – and… read review