Thursday, January 11, 2007

KBT Presents: EXILED

Welcome to the 2007 year and KBT Screening #81. Look a little further down the blog for my favorite films of 2006, most of them from other countries, and many of which had KBT screenings. I will admit that my interesting in foreign cinema started back in the early 1990s when discovering the hyper-violent gunplay cinema of Ringo Lam and John Woo. These movies were all about male-bonding melodrama (at times with Woo, bordering on the operatic) with tough guy bon mots to spare; but they always had a juicy tender centre. But, wait a minute... Perhaps even earlier, I was exposed to those Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef starring spaghetti westerns with my father on VHS in the 1980s. Again the macho-melodrama, this time with seriously cool long takes, tight close-ups and epic posturing against rugged back-drops.
So imagine my surprise to find these two types of film brilliantly combined into an instant-classic Hong Kong crime movies from Johnny To. You see, while John Woo and Ringo Lam wanked around with Hollywood budgets (and Jean-Claude Van Damme) from the mid-1990s onward, only occasionally turning out an fun actioner (Hard Target, Face/Off), To was building a serious gangsters and cops resume spiced with humour (PTU) and serious art-house ambitions (Election). With Exiled he has served up a robust meal of machismo spiced with humour, visual wit, and the niggling poser of how to properly deal with multiple loyalties. Ubiquitous character actor Anthony Wong, looking carries himself like a blend of Humphrey Bogart, Alain Delon and Clint Eastwood, standing out even as several black-bag carrying heavies converge on a whitewashed apartment. A woman with a baby tells the several times that the man they are looking for does not live there. There is to be a hit take place, and the stage is set with a twangy soundtrack and long meaningful glances between the various participants as a battered moving truck winds its way up the narrow streets.
To go further into Exiled it to shed the film of its many delights, needless to say, there is a gangland war about to go down with the Chinese Triads stepping into Macau (The film is set on that island in 1999, just days before Macau reverts back from Portugal to China), but also strangely enough, a heist of sorts, and a big final show-down worthy of the (Italians rendering of the) Wild West. There is even a Japanese Ronin vibe going on during Exiled, but perhaps this is not surprising, as Kurosawa's Yojimbo was itself remade as Sergio Leone's A Fistfull of Dollars.
The Hong Kong shooter film has had its ups and downs since the golden days of the late 1980s to early 1990s, but Exiled is certainly one of the jewels in the crown of the new millennium, even if it occasionally winks a bit slyly at its predecessors.

Come Out Thursday, January 11th and enjoy the film I had more pure fun watching than anything in 2006. Drinks at 8pm. Showtime 8:30pm.


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