Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels (墮落天使)
Made in: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, Karen Mok, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Charlie Yeung, Man-Lei Chan, Toru Saito
Year: 1995

Synopsis: The film is divided into two stories that aren't directly related, although the characters intersect at various moments. The first involves Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai), a hitman who only accepts jobs from his partner (Michelle Reis). The two hardly interact, as their relationship only involves brief meetings in which Chi-Ming receives instructions.

The partner, however, regularly cleans Chi-Ming's apartment, meticulously removing evidence from his previous assignments. But in doing so, she comes to get a better understanding of who he is. Eventually she falls in love with him, and starts having some pretty explicit fantasies. She also frequents his favorite bar and sits in his regular seat while he's not there.

But during a late night meal at MacDonald's, Chi-Ming meets a girl named Blondie (Karen Mok), who appears to be an eccentric, free-spirited prostitute. As they spend time together, Blondie becomes convinced that Chi-Ming is a former boyfriend who left her for another woman.

Chi-Ming, like so many hitmen in other movies you might have seen, eventually becomes disillusioned with killing. He decides to leave the business, but his jealous partner might not be too keen to let him go.

The second story involves He Zhi-Wu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), an incredibly weird convict who's escaped from prison. He happens to live in the same building as Chi-Ming's partner, which is owned by Zhi-Wu's father (Man Lei Chan). Although not a dangerous criminal, Zhi-Wu breaks into various small business and forces people to buy from him. He rarely speaks, but the viewer is privy to his internal thoughts through voiceover.

Zhi-Wu keeps running into an emotionally unstable girl named Charlie (Charlie Yeung), who is distraught over a recent break-up with her boyfriend, Johnny. Johnny apparently left her for another girl named Blondie. Charlie enlists Zhi-Wu to help her stalk Blondie and Johnny, and the two end up going to restaurants and soccer matches in a hopeless quest to find them.

Zhi-Wu eventually falls in love with his unstable friend, and begins questioning his own strange behavior.

Remarks: Fallen Angels will come across as violent, explicit, head-scratchingly bizarre, annoying, sad, moving, and maybe even a little funny. Summarizing the film like I did just now doesn't quite capture the essence of how it feels. You've got to experience it yourself to know what I mean.

That being said, Fallen Angels is for fans of art cinema (or "weird" foreign films), and is definitely not for everyone. If you're a fan of Wong Kar Wai, you'll know what to expect. The use of convoluted, intersecting characters and story-lines is typical of his other films (such as Chungking Express), as is the theme of people needing to find connection with one another.

Although you'll find parts of the film difficult to get through (a good portion of the film comes across as extremely weird and/or boring), many of the visuals are rich and clever. And I have to say the last few scenes had some genuine emotion. Everything comes full circle in a pretty neat way.

If you watch Fallen Angels with an open mind, you may find, like the characters themselves, your final opinion to be complex. 

I myself hated and loved various parts of it, and perhaps that was the whole point.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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