EXILED (2006) is directed by Johnnie To (Full Time Killer, Election, Breaking News), one of the most acclaimed directors of Hong Kong. Johnnie To is the epitome of hard-boiled cool, his films are fresh, visually inventive and have a cinematic magic that just screams ‘cool‘. The cast of Johnnie To's hit "The Mission" has been reunited for this film. No, this is not a sequel, although it does have very similar characters. Johnnie To bagged the best direction award in the HKGolden Bauhimia film awards when it was released. “Exiled“ is flawed and has stereotypical devices; yet I cannot find myself disliking the film. To’s 2006 film is just highly entertaining.
The time is 1998. The setting is Macau. Every living soul jumps at every chance to make quick money before the Portuguese colony ushers in a new era under the Chinese rule. For the jaded hit men, they wonder where this journey will end. Against this background of fin-de-siècle malaise come two hit men from Hong Kong sent to take out a renegade member trying to turn over a new leaf with his wife and newborn baby. They soon find themselves in the throes of a dilemma when two of their former associates also show up, intent on thwarting them at every cost. Once there, all 5 men must find a way to resolve the situation. But can they, without getting anyone killed in the process?
At first look, one may take `Exiled' a buddy flick; it is a film that works around a simple formula and that is to entertain with its ‘hard-boiled coolness’. The film is a little predictable and it doesn’t hide this fact; but what made the film work is that it succeeds in side-stepping that impression by executing everything with the Johnnie To signature. Johnnie To is back! This is the type of film his fans loved him for, this is purely a testosterone-driven, bloody heroic violent display that makes its characters shine with its ‘cool factor‘ and action sequences. The term "epic violence" may apply to this film. This is a guy's film, not to say chicks won't dig it, but males will truly appreciate it more. This is not a sappy, funny comedy.
One of the best things about "Exiled" is the INVENTIVE action sequences. Long distance gunfights are a bit low-key, subtle but extremely intense. Close quarters gun battles have the usual "BULLET BALLET" reminiscent of Chow Yun Fat. Johnnie To made the right decision dividing the segments of the stylized gun battles, low-key or "bullet ballet", To's talent shines through. The gun battles are very FRESH with his usual signature style. The film is almost magical (albeit a little exaggerated) in the way it executes its gunfights, on some scenes no one is hit by a bullet while in other scenes everyone seems to have been grazed by one on occasion and others everyone is shot. It is to To’s credit that he makes such devices work, it never feels cheesy or hokey but he makes it an integral part of the film.
Another great thing with this film is the cast. Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Lam Suet, Roy & Nick Cheung, Josie Ho, Richie Ren and Simon Yam, they are ALMOST in the majority of To's films. The chemistry of the cast meshes very well considering they worked together in most of Johnnie's films. That is one of the magic of To's film making, he always find the right actors for his films and the actors just become so charismatic that the viewer wouldn’t care if the main characters are genre types. Surprisingly, despite the fact that To made this film for the male viewer, the most compelling character may indeed be Josie Ho who stands out amid all the male macho ridiculousness; she feels like she is the most human and the most fundamental character in the film.
The film is filled with some nice touches for entertainment, such as two dueling hitmen having a drink and having friendly "small talk", they know they will eventually end up trying to kill each other. The group enjoying a home-cooked meal (cooked by 2 of them) and reminiscing about their past after the gunfight in the 1st act of the film, adds depth to its characters in a subtle way, at the same time emphasizes a sense of `honor' while setting the film's moody, “nourish” Western atmosphere (just add a hat to the guy playing the harmonica and what do you see?). I suppose if the film had a flaw, it would be its single-minded simplicity. It is quite predictable and once you’re used to the nature of To’s films, you can see the motivations behind each character and it does feel like we‘ve all been there before. Not that they’re not developed well, it is just that there are times that To feels like the actual star of the film despite the fact he is behind the camera.
“Coolness” does work, predictable yes, but can still work especially when you have the careful hand of Johnnie To behind it. I’ve criticized the film in some ways but truth be told, I really enjoyed “Exiled”. The film has great cinematography, music and the art direction and set designs are top notch. Johnnie To deserves to continue making movies the way he likes to without any outside influence. While "EXILED" did contain similarities to his previous film; The Mission...I would have to say…so what?…I don’t care. "Exiled" is Johnnie's gift to all his fans and is a welcome return to the genre he excels in. This film is not perfect but it sure is refreshing. It is meant for fans of the Hong Kong Gangster movies and quite personally, after his attempts at some drama, I'm just happy he's back doing what he does best.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4- Out of 5 Stars] This Review Was Originally Posted in amazon.com But rewritten and re-edited for the AsianFlix 'n' AnimeFix Community @lunch.com
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The film was awarded a Category III rating (18+ restriction), particularly for one scene showing Simon Yam's character shaking hands with another gangster with their left hands turned around, making a triads agreement handshake. The scene is present on the Mega-Star uncut Limited Edition DVD. However, only the Category IIB cut version was released in Hong Kong theatrically.
Exiled was released in Hong Kong on October 19. The film, on opening weekend, grossed a total of HK$47,533. The film's total HK box-office take was $687,434.
It was later released in the United States with an R-rating by the MPAA "for strong violence and some sexual content." Following its limited released in the United States, Exiled grossed US$20,351 on opening weekend. The film's total gross was $49,413.
Magnolia Pictures acquired the North American rights of Exiled and the film was given a limited release as of August 31, 2007. The North AmericanDVD version of the film was released on January 11, 2008. Critical receptionExiled received fairly good reviews in the United States. The film is ...