22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The Honor Of The Hit--A Contemplative Hong Kong Shooter About Retribution And Redemption
, October 25, 2010
This review is from: Vengeance (DVD)
Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To is back and this time he's gone international--heck, this film even competed at Cannes! "Vengeance" is a co-production with France and utilizes French, Chinese, and English as its primary languages. For fans of To's work, "Vengeance" aligns thematically with "The Mission" and "Exiled." But no prior familiarity with To is necessary to enjoy the pleasures that "Vengeance" has to offer. Even though the film is staged in an urban setting, it is essentially an existential gunfighter western with one man seeking retribution for an attack on his family. Moody and contemplative, "Vengeance" is not a non-stop action picture but rather a thoughtful meditation on honor, loyalty, and mortality.
As "Vengeance" opens, a family of four is gunned down at their residence in Macau. As the wife clings to life, her father (French rock star Johnny Hallyday) arrives to provide comfort. With his craggy face and sullen demeanor, Hallyday recalls a "Death Wish" Charles Bronson--and, indeed, it does appear that the film is headed in that direction. Hallyday, a chef by profession, knows his way around a gun but needs help identifying the culprits responsible. He conveniently runs across a team of hitmen (doesn't that always happen when you need it?). Promising them everything he owns, including his restaurant, they join forces and are soon off to Hong Kong to settle the score. But tracking the killers down is just the first stage as the team on Hallyday's payroll unravel some unexpected connections.
To has reassembled many familiar faces from his previous films--I particularly liked Anthony Wong, Lam Kar Tung and Lam Suet as the trio working with Hallyday. A real relationship develops within the team and this, to me, is one of the stronger elements in "Vengeance." There are several finely staged, if somewhat familiar, shoot-outs. A sequence in the park is orchestrated with precision and artistry while the finale is both loopy and surprisingly poignant. One of the more unusual aspects of "Vengeance" is a condition (which I won't reveal) that Hallyday must cope with--but it is done well and really highlights a number of interesting philosophical questions about the nature of revenge. There is a complex and adult subtext within this genre picture about responsibility, what we owe to others and ourselves. "Vengeance" may not be the film you are expecting from its title and set-up, there is an underlying sorrow and a depth that is quite unexpected. Give it a try. KGHarris, 10/10.
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