I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed an action film as much as this one in years. Apparently this is the third of Hong Kong director Johnny To’s “Gunmen” trilogy, although I don’t think they share characters so much as your normal themes as the nature of loyalty, both to your fellows and to a larger (admittedly romanticized) Code.
In this, the film was a very successful throwback to the French gangster flicks of Jean-Pierre Melville and others I love so much. It’s also a successful throwback to what I love about action films of the ’70s. There certainly a good amount of action, and it’s all excitingly filmed (one shootout particularly is a standout), but To largely lays off the CGI ‘tracking bullets’ effects and relies on stately camera work and an emphasis on faces to put characterization front and center over the whiz-bang stuff…which thus serves to make the whiz-bang stuff all the more exciting. I mean, I loved Woo’s stuff when he first hit the US (I saw The Killer like six times when it was in its initial art house run), but now I’m much more enchanted by To’s solid storytelling.
I don’t want to get too much into the plot, since I myself went into the film cold and really enjoyed it on that level. Anyway, as soon as I get back from Texas next week, I’m going to round up the other two films. If I like them even half as much as this, I’m in for a good time. Highly recommended.