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Jan 24, 2013Johnnie To's artistic style is beautifully displayed and brought to life in "Vengeance", from stand-offs, to shootouts with a myriad of automatic weapons and handguns-the bullet shells never stop hitting the ground. This stylish, revenge melodrama is one of Johnnie To's best, and is also his first English language film.
The third part of an informal trilogy, with "The Mission" and "Exiled" being the previous installments sharing a number of noted cast members (Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Lam Suet) and locations. The films are primarily connected by themes involving brotherhood and loyalty; fatalism; and group dynamics. All three films also feature artistic, elaborate, over-the-top action sequences.
In "Vengeance" an aging and retired French gangster, Costello (Johnny Hallyday), now working as a chef, travels to Hong Kong when his daughter, son in law, and two grandchildren are gunned down in a seemingly professional hit. Though badly injured, his daughter survives and begs her father to take vengeance upon the perpetrators. And so he sets out to do just that, even though he has no idea where to start in this unfamiliar country. Rather conveniently, he happens upon three professional hit men (led by the legendary Anthony Wong) who've just bumped off the unfaithful mistress of their boss. Tentatively, he approaches them and tells them of his needs. Hesitantly, and with little verbal communication, they take Costello up on his offer, which includes payment of cash and his restaurant in Paris. Once hired, he takes individual Polaroid photographs of each hit man and writes their names on each photo. Costello does this throughout his encounters, due to the fact that there is a bullet from days gone by lodged near his brain and causing the Frenchman rapid memory loss. He needs these photos so he knows his friends from his enemies and to never forget his daughter's tragedy. The film's plot serves the fabled Hong Kong director Johnnie To as an excuse to create arresting visual action set pieces with stunning results. Scenes like Costello wandering through the rain in confusion, trying to spot his targets by reminding himself with the Polaroids, look absolutely magnificent. Some of the major action set-pieces, especially one involving Anthony Wong, are positively stunning. But through all the gloom and doom, humour is not forgotten in "Vengeance", with some occasional tongue-in-cheek dialogue delivered completely deadpan by Yam and Wong in particular. Then there are other sequences, such as a shootout that takes place at a picnic area in the woods, where two groups of killers wait for a family picnic to finish. And as night to falls, the families depart and the shoot out begins.The cinematography is visually-striking, and plenty of style to spare. An exquisite, artistic blood bath.… Collapse