Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Exiled [2006]

Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To is in love with the adage, “Slam Bam, Thank You Ma’m” (no puns intended); also, he’s attained a cult status of sorts for his hyper-stylized action flicks. Exiled, which is considered among his most famous works, is a curious blend of two popular genre tropes – the Gangster and the Western. Set just prior to the 1998 handover of the then-Portuguese city of Macau to the Chinese government, it is a tale of camaraderie and vengeance at the backdrop of the afore-mentioned political transitioning. When two hitmen are sent to assassinate a former member of Boss Fay’s gang, they end up confronting two guys there to protect him. As it turns out, they are childhood friends, and consequently, leaving their personal allegiances aside, the five comrades join forces to take on the mighty mobster and his gang. The film boasts of a lot of “cool” gunplay – it’s not enough to shoot the other guy, one must do so with braggadocio, style, and in a blaze of glory. The film also has its share of likeable deadpan humour – the occurrences at the doctor’s residence, the interactions between the protagonists while they are roaming in the wilderness trying to escape from Boss Fay’s wrath, and their taking decisions based on the toss of a coin, are fun to watch. However, despite its unabashed style-quotient and coolness, the movie felt a tad hollow at times courtesy a relatively weak script. For better or for worse, this over-the-top action thriller sure provides a classic illustration of 'style over substance'.

Director: Johnnie To
Genre: Action/Crime Thriller/Gangster
Language: Cantonese/Mandarin
Country: China (Hong Kong)

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