Former hitman Francois Costello (Johnny
Hallyday) is in Macau to avenge the brutal and apparently random murders
of his daughter, grandchildren and son-in-law. Being a Frenchman in a
Chinese colony he sticks out like a sore thumb and his memory is rapidly
failing him, so he enlists the aid of three local assassins in tracking
down the killers of his daughter and her family. The foursome head off
to Hong Kong to follow a lead and, this being a Johnnie To film, much
gunfire and moody neo-noir gangsterism soon follows.
Prolific Hong Kong-based director To has
certainly carved out a niche for himself with his last few features,
producing gritty and darkly realistic depictions of the Hong Kong
underbelly. He has also become known for his stylised violence and
penchant for ‘heroic bloodshed’ plotlines, and Vengeance
certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard. There are a number of
well-staged gun battles, including one memorably adrenaline-soaked scene
which takes place in parkland under shifting moonlight, and the shady
dealings of Hong Kong crime lord Mr Fung add a further layer of
narrative complexity to the proceedings.
Though it shamelessly borrows from a number
of other films, most notably Memento, this latest outing from To
was well-received at Cannes and has received a mostly positive critical
reception following its limited theatrical run in Hong Kong and France.
The film was originally set to star French acting legend Alain Delon,
but when he showed little interest producers ending up courting Gallic
superstar Hallyday, a decision which seems to have paid off in spades.
The grizzled Hallyday has sufficient mystique to pull off such a role,
plays well off his trio of talented co-stars and possesses more than
enough charisma to remain an interesting and complicated focal point as
the film progresses.
Though not without its flaws, Vengeance
is nonetheless an enjoyable entry into the sizable Johnnie To
oeuvre. The 5.1 sound is big and bold throughout and the 2.35:1
anamorphic transfer looks as moody and atmospheric and one could hope.
All in all this is a sleek, excitement-laden effort that will appeal to
fans of revenge melodramas, Hong Kong neo-noir flicks and good
Eastern Eye Trailers