Love Battlefield ★★★★

A man and a woman meet and fall in love on vacation. We see their life together unfold in quick edits and voiceovers, not always in an immediately intelligible order. One day, several years later, they're about to go on vacation to Europe. When they discover their minivan has been stolen, the ensuing fight breaks them up instead. Director Soi Cheang freezes the frame ever so slightly at this moment: what had been the story of a relationship on fast-forward is about to become something else entirely. It seems their car was stolen by a gang of criminals, and when the man (professionally an ER nurse) randomly encounters them, he's taken hostage and dragged through the city as they attempt to make their murderous way to safety. The desolation of a breakup, and the desperate drive to get back together after realizing your mistake, is externalized as a bloody Hong Kong crime saga.

It's not as slickly composed as Cheang's Milkyway films (Accident and Motorway), and it's much more hectic in pace (both those later films are very much about trying to slow down the chaos of Hong Kong's criminal life, or at least its crime genre films). Cheang piles flashbacks and side characters one on top of the other but always returns us to those first idyllic moments in the Chinese countryside. It's most reminiscent of some other attempts at fusing Hong Kong crime and romantic melodrama, like As Tears Go By or The Odd Ones Dies, but it isn't as cool as the first nor as gloriously weird as the latter.

Eason Chan plays the lead, and Niki Chow is his girlfriend. One of their friends is a cop, played by Carl Ng, son of comedian and 80s icon Richard Ng. Another is Raymond Wong Ho-yin, who is not the producer/writer/actor Raymond Wong who starred in three of Johnnie To's early films, that's Raymond Wong Pak-ming, nor is it the Raymond Wong who's composed many a Johnnie To and Stephen Chow score, among dozens of other Hong Kong films, that's Raymond Wong Ying-wah. This Raymond Wong is much younger, seen mostly in smaller roles in Milkyway films. He's pretty great here though.

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