Reviews of Vengeance
Displaying all 5 reviews
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, for as Exiled represented the spaghetti western meeting Hong Kong’s triads, Vengeance emerges as film noir meeting this crime landscape, washed over with lights, shadows, as well as most obviously in Hallyday’s accoutrement of the fedora/trench coat ensemble (even starring in an old-fashioned police lineup). Eventually, even it trails back into the vestiges of To’s western foreplay though, coming to deliver heavy doses of romanticised, aestheticized violence, poetic recollections and Wild Bunch-inspired camaraderie, all still alongside H.K. crime caper buddy humour – To even also throwing in a Memento-style amnesia angle that gives the film’s Butch Cassidy-esque brotherhood all that more touching a glint. The fusion overall is a surprising one, not least for seeming to work so well here: beguiling, cogent a marriage – ham-fisted not a touch – while completely stylish and suave in delivery; the emotions too more crucially, and successfully, carried by the inspired dynamic of Hallyday with the usual suspects in Wong, Yam and the two Lams (Maggie Shiu even loosely reviving a character from Breaking News, as a brief curio). Thus both interesting and enjoyable to watch – one of To’s most fascinating, pleasurable genre experiments, for me so far, outgunning Exiled entirely. The real deal, the real ballet, is here.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
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 recruits anther Johnny; that which is hailed as the “Elvis of France” in his native country, Johnny Hallyday who is the centre piece for another ode to killers, well killing killers. So you’ve watched ‘The Mission’ and ‘Exiled’, and are wondering if ‘Vengeance’ lives up to those exceptional films? Well let’s talk story…
Johnny Hallyday plays French chef Costello who arrives in Macau after a team of hitmen (Eddie Cheung, Felix Wong, Ng Ting-Yip) shoot his daughter Irene (Sylvie Testud), her Chinese husband, and their two sons. However, Irene survives the hit and asks Costello to avenge her family. Costello recruits the help of three hitman who are Kwai (Anthony Wong), Chu (Gordon Lam), and Fay Lok (Lam Suet), after stumbling onto a hit for their mobster boss George Fung (Simon Yam). He offers them money and a restaurant in Paris to help him take revenge, and they gladly oblige.
SPOILER ALERT: Costello has a bullet lodged in his brain and this adds to the plot as his memory starts to go and he has to remember the hitmen he has hired by writing their names on pictures of them. Although this is told early on in the story, it’s never really expanded upon but does have a dramatic effect on the finale of the film when trying to recognise the big boss (Simon Yam) who ordered the hit.
There is little in the way of twists and turns here, and what you see is what you get from a story point of view, but what you do get is the usual high calibre gunplay action we come to expect from To’s action sequences. It’s definitely up there with ‘The Mission’ and ‘Exiled’, and the action just hits you in the face and then comes back round for another smack, it really oozes beauty. Johnny Hallyday does a fair job, although he’s acted off the screen by those around him, maybe due to large portions being filmed in English, but you kind of warm to him as the film progresses and it needed that rugged kind of look for the role.
So should you watch ‘Vengeance’? Well if you love the gunplay genre then you’ll love this as it’s just so amazing to look at, but the story does take a backseat so the action can be given centre stage. Personally, I would love Johnnie To to do more of these kinds of movies and it proves that once again I’ll be waiting with baited breath for more from Johnnie To so I can once again use the immortal line “Heeere’s Johnnie”.
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- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
Vengeance (Fuk sau)
Directed by: Johnnie To
Starring: Johnny Hallyday
Screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival 2010
A purported French chef named Costello arrives in the eastern hemisphere’s gambling capital, gorgeous Macau, to track down the killers of his daughter, her husband, their children. Lucky for Costello, he happens to find the best hit men in Asia, and even luckier they all become best friends, in a strange but very pleasing literary-quality twist… brothers in combat, or even in their lives? Their hearts beat as one, Costello and his three brothers. They hunt for the killers. This may sound derivative (even though that relationship between Costello and the hit men is practically enough to sustain us), so Mr. To enlivens the story (or perhaps just complicates) with this addition: Costello has a bullet in his brain which is gradually wearing down his short-term memory, so with enough running, chasing, shooting and the fatigue that follows, worn-down middle-ager Costello will forget his friends, his daugher, his vengeance. Hold onto that feeling, Costello! Focus! Yes, he takes polaroids, writes on them, it’s exactly like Memento. Unfortunate. I’m sure deft Mr. To wouldn’t have borrowed the device had Memento not come from the distant West.
Johnny Hallyday plays Costello, which you may find familiar in name and bent (the role was originally considered for Alain Delon). Johnnie To’s Vengeance is, absolutely, a living homage to Jean-Pierre Melville, for these reasons: characters never speak without reason, and when they do it is directly to the point, providing us with much silent time (which is lovely)… shots are composed and the camera rarely moves at all… it’s a crime story… it’s very cool under its own steam, nobody’s trying too hard, it’s cool because of the look, the shadows, the attitudes, the professionalism and skill that reek from precision… Yes. Like Melville, the universe within the film feels like a vacuum. I adored it! How pleased I was to realize, 10 minutes in, that I was not watching crap! This vacuum neutrality is enhanced by the film’s lack of desire to be pigeonholed as a Chinese film, Costello often speaking French, the others speaking Chinese (god knows what dialect) and everybody else in the world falling back on broken English. There is a wonderful and I daresay relatively original presentation of a gunfight on a sporadically moonlit night. And finally, Vengeance’s greatest weakness lies in the assuming done between characters since they so rarely communicate verbally. Following this particular chain of cause of effect can be difficult for the viewer, but I fear is exaggerated here because silence seemed to be an unnatural turn for Mr. To (whom I had not met until now, so what do I know), whose efforts at personified precision came off as just a bit spurious.
Vengeance took part in Cannes 2009 and was considered for the Palme d’Or.
Written by David Ashley
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
Vengeance is a movie tailor-made for Hong Kong genre film geeks, all you need to know is that Johnnie To was courting Alain Delon of Le Samourai fame for the lead role in this film (a French guy with the last name “Costello” no less) before it went to the Franco-Elvis himself, Johnny Hallyday, whose face has so much personality you have to wonder why he hasn’t been in more films, as he has a classic tough-guy vibe in the vein of Bronson, Lee Marvin, and Stallone. Link him up with To regulars like Anthony Wong and Lam Suet and you get a nice, potent gravitas-sauce. Hallyday plays a French chef named Costello who travels to Macau after receiving news that his daughter and her husband and children were gunned down by Triad gangsters. Naturally, Costello (who also happens to be a former hitman) seeks revenge, and enlists in the help of some killers to get the job done (Wong, et al), leading them to a showdown with a Triad boss (played by Johnnie To’s go-to bad guy, Simon Yam).
The movie moves into Memento territory when it is revealed that Costello is quickly losing his memory, finally going all Shelby Leonard by the end, using anything he can to remember who he is supposed to kill. The memory thing is To’s way of examining the motivations behind revenge, memory being the reason vengeance is sought, however the device of Costello’s memory loss is handled clumsily, and this ground was covered with more grace and precision by Christopher Nolan. The movie is at its best when To is in more well-weathered territory, the classic themes of brotherhood, loyalty, and everything we’ve come to expect and love from heroic bloodshed films. I like it when Hong Kong films branch outside of the norm, it’s just not done too well, the movie stands better when it’s sticking to safe ground this time.
Most of the time the film is concerned with atmosphere, making the characters appear to be as cool as possible. When they’re killing, they look stoic, when they get shot, they take the bullets with style, when they eat, they make it look delicious, and when it’s nightime, they can see better when wearing their sunglasses (at least Anthony Wong can). The problem is that as cool as they are and as accurate as they are with their weapons, they can’t seem to hit shit when the shootouts go down. Fortunately To’s absurd-yet-artsy action set-pieces make you forget about that pretty quickly, the piece-de-resistance being a gunfight in a field with rolling bails of recycled paper.
Vengeance is a movie by and for people who obsess over genre movies (in other words, people like me), specifically die-hard fans of Hong Kong and French crime films. In other words, your enjoyment of this movie might be dependent on that, unless the aura of crime-film cool is enough for you, because To’s movies have that in spades.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.
My friends and I went to the Ryerson theatre Tuesday night to watch Johnie To’s latest film, Vengeance. In a nice change of pace, the film wasn’t playing at midnight, but at a much more reasonable 9:15. Colin Geddes influence looks to have extended out of the Midnight Madness program. Vengeance was an entertaining film. A French man arrives in Macau after his daughter and her family are killed by hit men. He then proceeds to find another set of hit men to help him exact his revenge. Well, there is a bit more to it than that. It’s very much a To film. There are a some really great shoot outs, interesting characters, and some moody atmosphere. During the Q&A the audience learned the original star of the film was to be Alain Delon, the lead in Le Samourai. For whatever reason this didn’t end up working out, but the producers found French rock-god Johnny Hallyday to play the role. He was pretty awesome, if only because he looks so strange. Also, he has a great jacket in the movie. The film also stars some great HK actors: Anthony Wong is as usual excellent playing one of the hit men; and you can’t make a film in HK without casting Simon Yam. The film was quite enjoyable.