(放 逐)

hong kong action movie

Exiled (放 逐)
Made in: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Director: Johnnie To
Starring: Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Josie Ho, Suet Lam, Roy Cheung, Ka Tung Lam
Year: 2006

Synopsis: The year is 1998, just months before the hand-over of Macau to Mainland China. Wo (Nick Cheung), a former gangster, and his wife Jin (Josie Ho), are trying to leave behind the world of bullets, hit jobs, and bad suits.

But just as they move into their humble apartment, two of Wo's childhood/gangster pals Tai (Francis Ng), and Blaze (Anthony Wong) come looking for him. Blaze, hired by notorious Boss Fay (Simon Yam), has come to kill him. Tai, on the other hand, is there to protect him.

After an intense shootout that amazingly fails to result in any fatalities (a first in Hong Kong cinema?), the three temporarily make nice. Agreeing to settle their differences later, Wo, Blaze, Tai, and their two buddies Cat (Roy Cheung) and Fat (Suet Lam), take on a job to kill Boss Keung (Ka Tung Lam), who's Boss Fay's rival. The plan is to take the money from the job to help support Wo's family.

As Wo and his friends are about to make their move on Boss Keung, Boss Fay makes an unexpected appearance and complicates everything. Without giving too much away, the team of five find themselves with nowhere to run as thugs from both sides try to hunt them down.

The Good: The strongest parts about Exiled are the unpredictability of the plot and the stylistic cinematography, not to mention one of the most clever uses of a Red Bull can in an action movie. The twists are exciting, and there's really no way to tell how each action sequence is going to end.

Very much an homage to old westerns, both in stunt choreography and the overall look, this is a thriller with plenty of visual creativity and energy.

Director Johnnie To cleverly blends the "Old West" look and feel with a subtext of angst surrounding the imminent end to Macau's colonial status. The layered theme on greed and loyalty plays well in Exiled, as the five heroes are portrayed as "cowboys," the last of a dying breed who still fight for the honor of the "old ways."

The Bad: There are a few too many melodramatic moments, and the over-acting gets a little annoying. Also, some of the exchanges between the protagonists between action sequences are just plain stupid and drag down the energetic pace.

Who would like this movie: Although the plot development, action, and cinematography are generally excellent, Exiled lacks the depth that other Johnnie To films such as Fulltime Killer and Running out of Time are known for. This film's for you if you're into comic-book style action thrillers or have a lot of experience watching international movies. Exiled is a strong piece, but it's not the best Hong Kong shoot-em-up that's out there.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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