(Korea) Crime/Drama. Directed by Choi Dong-hoon. Starring Kim Yun-seok, Lee Jung-jae, Gianna Jun, Simon Yam, Kim Hae-sook. Category IIB. 135 minutes. Opened Sep 6.
Boasting a caper on a grand scale, an eye-popping A-list ensemble and various shooting locations, “The Thieves” is one of the most ambitious movies coming out of Asia this year.
(Hong Kong) It all started as a selfish little project—director Alex Law wanted to make a film dedicated to his older brother, and wrote the screenplay based on his childhood in 1960s Hong Kong. It is a small, cozy film that feels like a personal tribute. But the end result is monumental—this cash-strapped production made newspaper headlines last month after it won the Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Reviewers’ Biases:Loves: Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie ToHates: Johnnie To, Ringo Lam and Tsui HarkThree directors working on a film is rare, but three directors working on a single narrative? That’s as common as three critics writing the same film review.
(Hong Kong/France) The opening film of this year’s Summer International Film Festival, Johnnie To’s “Vengeance” initially leaps onto the screen with beautifully choreographed shootouts. Unfortunately, it ends up limping off as an impotent imposter in the canon of Hong Kong gangster classics.
Category IIB. Last year, Ann Hui’s “The Way We Are” was lauded for piercing through the media hype surrounding Tin Shui Wai and giving us an honest picture of ordinary people trying to get by in the so-called “City of Sadness.” It might come as a surprise, then, that her follow-up picture, “Night and Fog,” chooses to spotlight the more morbid aspects of life in the area. That said, the film is no less honest a piece of social realism than its earlier companion piece.
Category IIB. It would be easy to brush off “Tactical Unit—Comrades in Arms” as nothing more than a half-hearted, Hollywood-war-film-style sequel to the award-winning “PTU” (2003), which followed a police tactical unit (PTU) through the dark side of Tsim Sha Tsui. But this is one of the most engaging, intense and realistic local films in years, even though Johnnie To stepped back to produce this time and handed the directorial reigns over to his protege Law Wing-cheong.
Category IIA. Much ink has been spilled over Johnnie To’s taking three years to complete this film. But the director doesn’t care. He’s said he would have taken even longer if he could have. Such insouciance can be found in every nook and cranny of “Sparrow,” and it’s what makes this lighthearted labor of love well worth the wait.
Don’t look for anything deep in Johnnie To’s latest offering, “Exiled.” Dialogue is sparse, the gazes are penetrating, and everybody is just itching to pull their guns out and go ballistic. But if it’s style you want, look no further, for this is the closest Hong Kong cinema has come to a brilliant Western in years.
Cops who play by their own rules try to take down a gangster who doesn’t have any.It’s no surprise that the Hollywood remake rights for “SPL” have already been snapped up. This blood-drenched cops-and-triads drama is as lean as Kate Moss in rehab and about as nourishing as a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Thanks to sharply drawn lead characters, this is the kind of cable-bound late-night B-movie that will have you staying up long past your bedtime.