Director: Johnnie To
Ka Tung Lam/Chu
After his daughter's family is haxed out, a French chef named Costello ( Johnny Hallyday) teams up with three talented hit men and goes about Hong Kong seeking brutal and bullet laced payback. He finds it.
Slap this in the shame on me folder. I knew director Johnnie To’s name but had never seen a film of his before. There was a point in my life where I overdosed on Asia cinema, once that happened I kind of of set it aside, avoiding it at all cost cause…well… I was sick of it. Big thanks to my bud Gonz who dragged me to the VENGEANCE screening promising me that it was a film MADE FOR ME. And f*ck was he right.
Keep in mind that VENGEANCE was my introduction to the world of Johnnie To. I know lots of peeps say that its redundant when taking into account his previous films but hey, I’ve never seen his past work. Hence I came in there a To virgin and came out of it happy to see that YES there are still some people that make films for men addressing themes that MEN can relate to. In my opinion, somehow, everything that I perceive as being manly has become out of style – I guess it doesn’t gel with the overly PC society we live in. Well VENGEANCE doesn’t give shit about that and gave me what I crave 100%.
The revenge theme in cinema has been done to death by now (shit, I even contributed to it via my flick with Christian Viel called DEADEN) and yup its tough to make a unique revenge jamboree now of late. To accomplish that it’s not the WHAT that is important in my pointless opinion, it’s the HOW and To has managed to go about his HOW in a stand out and gripping way. How I loved VENGEANCE? Let me count the motherf*cking ways! It opened strong with quite the uppercut, making sure to rattle me off the bat and then went about unraveling its infectious tale. I respect the fact that great man JOHNNY HALLYDAY’S name burst on the screen right after the prologue. Made for an impactful title card, that told me off the bat that Hallyday was the man and I had to respect that. Respect it I did.
By starting off so strong, you’d think that the film would lose steam as it forged forward – nope – not this celluloid badass. It just kept topping itself via varied angles. If it wasn’t our protagonist’s grief hitting killing my heart, it was the camaraderie between the hitmen warming me the right way. I really dug how this film was about men being men among their fellow men. Developing friendships and establishing brother hood based on how strong they are, how much heart they have and a loyalty to the man-code, which in the real world should be like in the film – never broken. The films visual style floored me as well. Think John Woo, screws Sam Peckinpah doggy styles Leone. To has a talent for shooting "cool machismo" and there were shootouts here that would make John Woo cry like a toddler getting the belt. To’s brilliant emphasis on sound (or lack of), lighting, hero shots, slick angles and slow motion whoring made the pow-pow bits highly memorable. There’s one gun party set in a forest, sporadically illuminated by moon light with no sound other than gun fire that made me cream my shorts. What a scene!
On a human standpoint, the flick nailed it too. The thought provoking question of “is revenge a must, if you won’t remember exacting it” hit home while Johnny Hallyday made for a above the norm anti hero. With his emotion filled eyes and a face that says “yes I’ve lived the hard life got a problem with that” he was ideal for the role. Likable but at the same time you know this dude can f*ck you up. Furthermore, the able supporting cast chimed in to knock it out of the park. To regulars: Anthony Wong, Ka Tung Lam and Suet Lam all shared an electrifying chemistry and gelled with Hallyday’s acting style effortlessly. Wong in particular really stood out – talk about an awesome screen presence. I couldn’t help but love the dude!
Shot-gun on top of that an over the top villain that had me grinning, extreme violence galore, a somber score and circumstantial humor that rubbed me the right way, an endearing dip in the Catholic faith and a Memento-ish plot device that elevated the urgency and stakes of this tale and you get one hell of a movie. Any qualms? Just two: 1- some of the squibs were or looked like paintball hits. 2- Lots of implausibility here (no cops in Hong Kong it seems) – but I easily let that last one go – too content to be on this crazy train to give a f*ck. Yup, VENGEANCE was a flick made for me as it covered pretty much everything I love about cinema while addressing the values and ethics that I myself practice with my fellow muchachos.
A superior and incredible fulfilling tale of revenge and redemption. Leave the wife/girlfriend at home for this one - see it with your male friends i.e. your brothers and call it QUALITY male bonding.
An ear shot off and countless grisly gun shot wounds. You will see lots of red.
T & A
One gal gets nailed hard by some dude. Sadly the flick focused more on that said dude’s ass pumping away than the chick’s yum-yum assets. Still a hot dame though! I’d buy that for a dollar!
To quote Clarence Bodicker in RoboCop: “Guns, guns, guns!” I’m a sucker for a good payback opus and Johnnie To’s VENGEANCE was one to be reckoned with. Mucho stylized, cool as f*ck, rock solid cast, novel shoot-outs, humor that worked, themes that I related to and so much violence that it would make OJ Simpson (aka the gloved one) blush – this mofo was the real macho man deal! Yeah suspension of disbelief had to be applied and I could’ve done without the paint ball squib effects but hey who gives a choco-fudge. This is Johnny Hallyday kicking ass, taking names, kicking more ass and when out of ass, finding further ass to whoop stupid. Consider this action film and revenge fan OWNED over OWNED! One of my fav films of the year and for sure I will now seek out To's previous action films.
Alain Delon was originally attached but pulled out Johnny Hallyday took over.
Johnny Hallyday is a popular singer that hit it big in the 1960s.
Johnnie To has over thirty directing and producing credits to his name,
SHOOT DOWN THE FRENCH VENGEANCE FILM HERE