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  Vengeance Guy Forgets
Year: 2009
Director: Johnnie To
Stars: Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Testud, Anthony Wong, Ka Tung Lam, Suet Lam, Simon Yam, Siu-Fai Cheung, Flix Wong, Ng Ting Yip, Maggie Siu, Vincent Sze, Michelle Ye
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: French chef and restaurant owner with a past Costello (Johnny Hallyday) has flown into Macau on a mission since he heard the terrible news that his daughter Irene (Sylvie Testud) has been shot and gravely injured. To make matters worse, her husband was killed outright by these mysterious hitmen, followed by her two young sons who were hiding in a cupboard to escape the murderers, but to no avail. Costello meets with the now-mute Irene in the hospital and manages to get some information that might help in solving this crime...

Vengeance was director Johnnie To's third part of a loose, thematic trilogy begun with The Mission and continued with one of his greatest works, Exiled, but the reaction to this closing instalment was not quite as warm. For a start, audiences were unsure of Hallyday taking the lead, and no wonder when the role had been earmarked for another French entertainment icon in Alain Delon, who had eventually turned the part down for his own reasons. This was a shame in that the connections between this hitman crime thriller and the works of Jean-Pierre Melville would have been all the stronger if Delon had starred after all.

Hallyday didn't quite have the same cultural baggage, he had earned his fame certainly, and had appeared in a variety of movies before, but it was singing he was best known for: imagine if To had cast Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdinck had this been a British co-production instead of a Hong Kong-France one. Adding to the distractions was that Hallyday had obviously undergone a plastic surgery disaster at some point, leaving his eyes especially looking very strange indeed, as if there were clothes pegs hidden under his hairline to try (and fail) to create the appearance of a younger man.

As the dialogue was in Cantonese, French and English you might have hoped the Gallic Elvis Presley would have more luck in that department, but he offered a curiously awkward performance, either that or he saw fit to keep as straight a face as possible (maybe not too difficult for him by this stage). The English lines sounded wooden, unfortunate when that was the only language Costello and the three brothers he hires as his own hitmen communicate in, but then he didn't sound any more adept at French and other than a distinct stillness to his performance there was a lack of charisma otherwise.

Better were the three brothers, led by To movie regular Anthony Wong, who conveyed much needed cool to the plot, which for the first half sailed to close to conventional, or at least not much we had not seen before. Yet then as Costello is taken to meet with the killers, there's the expected shootout, but with a twist when he is shot in the shoulder and in an item of dubious medical development he explains that he has been shot before, in the head, which means he is losing his memory. That most recent slug has triggered the problem, acting as a catalyst meaning Costello is now unaware of what he is doing in Macau, or even that his daughter and her family were gunned down. So as the hitmen muse, is there any point to continuing the revenge when the man who hired them has no idea what he is doing it for? This could have smuggled in a theme about senility, but true to form To makes it more about loyalty, and though the film does improve the further it goes on it doesn't quite hit the mark. Music by Tayu Lo.

Aka: Fuk sau
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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