What is vengeance if you can’t remember who it is you’re avenging? Isn’t memory what vengeance is all about? Vengeance is always personal, and usually results in at least a few more deaths than originally intended, many of them more than a little mordantly ironic. That’s part of what makes a revenge thriller thrilling, and Johnnie To’s terrific, slow-burn triad actioner Vengeance, adds a memory glitch to those thrills. Vengeance is a rich, fragrant reduction of To’s favorite themes (male bonding and codes of loyalty, the triad underworld, vengeance) trademarks (slow-motion clouds of blood, unforgettable set-pieces, impossibly sleek cinematography, brooding men, black humor) and actors (Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Lam Suet). One splendid difference: Vengeance stars French actor and singer Johnny Hallyday (adding a nice tip of the chapeau to the French noirs of the ‘60s, when Hallyday had his rock and roll heyday). Hallyday plays François Costello, a Parisian restaurant owner who is in Macau at the request of his daughter—to avenge a savage attack on her family. Costello crosses paths with a crack team of triad hit men, whom he then hires to carry out his own revenge plan—a plan growing increasingly hazy due to his deteriorating memory. The craggy, lived-in face of Hallyday is as riveting as To’s mad scenes of mayhem, which include a fierce nighttime shootout as clouds pass over the full moon and—shootouts being To’s stock in trade—an epic battle in a junkyard that has to be seen to be believed. Vengeance, indeed, is a dish best served by Johnnie To. —Tod Booth
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
"What does revenge mean when you've forgotten everything?" The answer, of course, is nothing, but by the point anyone realizes that, vengeance has become such a ravenous parasite that it transfers hosts to continue to live. Motion is a key aspect of all of To's films, but here it seems to embody the termitic jumps of the drive for revenge among characters both villainous and heroic (for want of a better phrase).
To's vengeance is not a real catharsis for our hero, he deprives him of the basis for this halfway through the film and lets the memories of all this thirst for blood melt away in the rain. The end of the film is then for example no longer really a search for an actual puppeteer but a search for visual clues which identify him as such. All thats left are traces of his evil deeds in the faces of other people.
"Returning to movie screens a full generation after its initial 1985 theatrical run, Claude Lanzmann's Shoah has in many ways become obscured
An interview with Milkway mastermind and Johnnie To collaborating producer, writer and director Wai Ka-Fai.
Like Bresson, Melville, or Boetticher, Johnnie To makes movies about men surveying their possibilities to do a job, then doing it as neatly
Chanteur Johnny Hallyday lends a one-of-a-kind star power to To’s film, cutting a gruff, haggard figure, here one in a foreign land. It’s just as well he’s as withered and hardened as Bogie or Lemmy… read review
AKA : Revenge || Gunfight
Year : 2009 Reviewer : Phil Gillon
Heeere’s Johnnie and Johnny! Yes, the man who put style into action and came up with action-style, Johnnie To… read review
Vengeance (Fuk sau)
Directed by: Johnnie To
Starring: Johnny Hallyday
Screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival 2010
A purported French chef named… read review