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.
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I've always considered this to be Johnnie To's most accessible film, so if anyone is looking for a place to start with his filmography - it's right here. One of the last great Hong Kong 'action' pictures, "The Mission" is as existential as it is cool. The controlled, precise movements of both To's camera and his cast mean this film has more in common with the work of Jean-Pierre Melville than it does with John Woo.
The most flamboyantly gay heroic bloodshed film EVER. Loved it. Lesser than Exiled and A Hero Never Dies, and not really eligible for relevant comparison to the stylistically worlds apart Election series, but still fun as hell. Lam Suet, quiet as ever, rules the day with his quirky characterization of James.