Watched May 22, 2012
Adam Moody’s review:
Johnnie To's Vengeance is powered by surges of stylish, crimson-splattered violence and Lo Tayu's slick Western score. But stylish and violent revenge films seem to be pouring out of Asia over the last decade - most notably Park Chan-wook's Revenge Trilogy. What makes this film superior to the generic revenge thriller is that it doesn't rely on the stylish violence, not in the least. In-between those brilliant executed action sequences is a lingering anguish that drives the characters to seek revenge.
By a chance meeting, a chef hires a trio of taciturn hitmen to help him avenge the murder of his daughter's family. The chemistry between the four men is vital; the depths of their personalities aren't explored, but their distinctive traits paint a strong enough picture. Johnny Hallyday is the star, playing the tortured father trying to keep his promise of vengeance to his heartbroken daughter. Although, Anthony Wong, Lam Ka-tung and Lam Suet do a great job deceiving us into contemplating the justifiability of their characters' dark profession. Much of the film's plot relies on coincidences, some being humorous, and their timing is natural. As the simple, yet game-changing twists reveal themselves, realism is abandoned and replaced by energetic action.
The first of the two final showdowns involves the three hitmen fighting an army of Triad soldiers while using gigantic squares of recyclables as cover. That wonderful embracing of absurdity is what makes up for the faltering emotional and coherency aspects. Johnnie To wants us to feel for his characters, and he succeeds at getting us to care about them accomplishing their self-righteous crusade of violence. Stylish, emotionally resonant, technically impressive and, best of all, always thrilling.