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- Nau of Sands
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Um fa (1997)
Director: Tat-Chi Yau
Genre: Drama / Thriller / Crime / Action
Runtime: 81 min
Country: Hong Kong
This is a Honk Kong dark thriller shot in 1997, the year of Hong Kong s retrocession to China.
The movie was directed by Tat-Chi 'Patrick' Yau, usually a scenarist in the Johnny To's team. Johnny Tois a director and producer in Hong Kong, quite active nowadays, and if here he is officially the producer he seems to have been the actual director (but nothing for sure, it seems that Patrick Yau has been dismissed durig the shooting, The producer disregarded his work. But what part of this is his, what part the producer's ? This will remain a mistery for the audience, i fear. Anyway, today Patrick Yau is still a scenarist for To's producing firm).
This is a movie for dark Crime / Police stories lovers. The atmosphere in the movie is gorgeous, everything is shot in the night of Macao and its bad town districts. The action is settled in streets, bars, hidden cellars, warehouses, highway crossings.
The triads are powerful in Macao, with two groups facing each other : The criminal organization of Mister K versus the criminal organization of Mister Lung. Above them, like a patriarch is Mister Hung, an old man from former triad groups, that has gained a moral authority and seems to be the only efficient kind of anything that could be called law in Macao.
In this dark universe, which group will outpowers the others ? Will Mister Hung be able to keep the balance as it is today and thus maintaining his authority ?
A gossip is spreading among the bars in Macao : Mister K has offered 5 millions dollars for the killer of his rival Mister Lung.
At this very moment arrives in town Tony, played by Ching Wan Lau, a strange looking man, obviously a professionnal killer and bounty hunter.
At this moment of the movie, we have already been introduced to Sam, played by Tony Leung Chiu Wai, a corrupted police officer, who seems to be more important in the hierarchy of the triads than in the hierarchy of police, an who is trying to stop all the killers in town that are attracted by the unsure offer.
His methods are extremely violent, he uses tortures, screws hands, slices the fingernails out with the help of the police forces or triad crews, sometimes both. He wants to maintain order, that is, he is in at the service of Mister K, or thinks he is.
I said that he thinks he is at the service of Mister K because very soon things stop being simple. Something is happening which will lead to a new dispatching of the power in Macao's streets, but what exactly ? Who is pulling the strings of all these puppets there ?
Is Tony only an independant bounty hunter, or is he working for someone, and if it is the case : who and why ?
The story will then be the encounter of two destinies in this very dark film, the corrupt cop Sam and the mysterious killer Tony.
This is a dark movie and very soon both main characters will have to fight for their own survival. They will do it the most efficiently possible. Sam will cross the whole city trying, with the viewer, to understand what is going on. But, with the viewer, he will arrive with a delay everywhere and have to rush to another place to try to catch up the story.
Tony, in the meantime, seems to be following a very precise agenda, but it seems that things do not turn exactly as scheduled. Or do they ?
A very fine script, with a good plot and many twists that are not that easy to anticipate. Besides, the movie is rather short, 81 minutes, and leaves very little time for breathing with useless scenes. This is pretty intense.
I loved the atmosphere here, it has everything you can expect from a Police Thriller, incredible shootings of Macao by night, gorgeous pics of the city's lights, a dark, tense mood in the true tradition of Jean Pierre Melville, Michael Mann and others. It is not important to find who influenced who and in which way, the result is just there, great.
I have seen other movies of Johnny To : the great PTU, the very good Fulltime Killer, the more average Breaking News and I know another one has been released in 2005 that I hope will be shown in theaters this year, Election (havent seen it yet). Johnny To is very active and this is great news for Hong Kong police movies lovers (since John Woo - the former police thriller guru there - seems to be a little tired nowadays.
Johnny To's style is more oriented on style with characters than in gunfights. These people like to kill or torture safe rater than risk their lives. A large part of The Longest Nite is a rush for survival of the main characters, acting in the most selfish way.
I ll give it a 5/6 because there must be some weaknesses honestly, but it deserves a 6/6 as it is the perfect movie of its genre.
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