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  • Stranger on Horseback

    Stranger on Horseback

    ★★★★★

    A great moral, idealistic western that avoids the white saviordom of another Tourneur-McCrea western, Stars in My Crown while pulling its conflict from the intersection of money, violence, and impunity. The rather generic title barely hints at the strong undercurrent of class rage, which McCrea conveys with a stoic dignity rather than seething. One shot that haunts me: dissolve to a straight-on shot of Miroslava holding a shotgun--lyrical and absurd and terrifying, a mood Tourneur sustains. Lot of mileage to get out of a Louis L'Amour story.

  • Where a Good Man Goes

    Where a Good Man Goes

    ★★★½

    No good men in this, despite the English title, with Lau Ching-Wan's DeNiro-esque laconic scene chewing serving the purpose of a vile character study. That Lau's antihero is too irredeemably vicious to be reconciled with the romantic/"uncle daddy" plot thread speaks either to a bad knot in Wai Ka-Fai's screenplay or a tacit acceptance of physical abuse that I don't want to begin to unpack. Otherwise, this is a very solid noir from the Milkyway crew, one that shows To's…

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  • Thief

    Thief

    ★★★★★

    Confronts the fatalism that drives so much noir yet often goes unexamined--how to live when, in Frank's words "nothing means nothing".

    Boiling over with class rage, and hemmed in by an existential terror that can only be defeated through violence; Admiring the simple act of a man at work while challenging the end result--the boss gets the spoils, the working man gets screwed.

    Noir at its best makes you forget the tropes even while it uses them to break your heart. But don't admit your heart's broken. Plant the explosive, get in the car, and drive away while the building blows up. Don't look back.

  • Don't Go Breaking My Heart

    Don't Go Breaking My Heart

    ★★★★½

    Avoided this for years due to the corny English title and poster (I know, I know) but this has got to be one of To's best. What's especially satisfying to me is the lack of distance between stops in To's genre hopping; how he handles crime pictures and rom-coms with the same kind of electricity and kineticism, not to mention the same pet motifs (finding these eerily desolate pockets of Hong Kong in the nighttime, which takes my breath away…