Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I love this film. There are lot of reasons — the unique combination of Hong Kong action filmmaker Johnnie To and French pop singer Johnny Hallyday; those ballet-like the action choreography… lush, the film is a beauty to behold; now, this is saying a lot for a tradition revenge-themed actioner.

I saw the film, again, recently and then wanted to see what Roger Ebert had to say about the film. There was a time when I’d visit the Roger Ebert site after every film I watch. Nowadays, I don’t watch films that much and since he passed away a few months back, I haven’t been visiting the site that much.

Here’s what Ebert has to say about Vengeance:

There's an audacious scene in "Vengeance," a Johnny Hallyday thriller set in Hong Kong and Macao, that may remind you of Burnham Wood advancing on Macbeth's castle. In the play men carried shrubbery to hide behind. In Johnnie To's movie they hide behind huge bales of scrap paper. A fierce wind fills the air with flying paper. The bales advance across a field as a wall -- thump, thump -- on Hallyday and the three local hit men he's hired to obtain revenge on the killers of his grandson and son-in-law, and a grave wound to his daughter

Hallyday, who is a French combination of Elvis Presley and Charles Bronson, plays a chef who owns a restaurant on the Champs Elysses. Summoned to Hong Kong by the devastating news, he has an unspecified background in violence but doesn't know the lay of the land. He moves with admirable speed to repair that. Walking down a corridor in his hotel, he happens upon three professional hit men in the act of killing their boss's unfaithful mistress. He pauses, turns, regards them, and tells them he needs them.

One sequence that deserves attention is a most peculiar confrontation that begins with Costello and his men approaching the bad guys at a family picnic in a forest area. They stop on a hillside in full view of their targets, and do nothing because wives and children are below. The picnic continues with deliberation. After the family is packed away, the shooting starts. Is it a matter of honor that Hong Kong shooters sometimes advance on each other in full view, blazing away, or are they sure who's a lousy shot?

Johnnie To employs a beautiful color palate. There's a scene, all grey and rainy, with Costello wandering in confusion, trying to spot his targets by reminding himself with the Polaroids. The gloom is modulated by patches of red and orange. During a gun battle, To makes no effort to depict realistic blood spurts, but obviously just paints in red foggy bursts. And later notice the counterpoint of a second, very different, family picnic.


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