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VENGEANCE

A 2009 neo-noir Hong Kong crime film.

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An awesome neo-noir revenge flick.

  • Jul 24, 2011
Rating:
+4
***1/2 out of ****

Interesting color schemes. Nice usage of lighting. Truly kick-ass action sequences. I like Johnnie To's "Vengeance" because it contains all three. I almost loved the film; none the less, it's quite great. I'm not sure if one would call it a masterpiece, but all I can really conclude from it after finishing it is: man, that was AWESOME! And yes, AWESOME, with the big, radical capital letters. I enjoy a traditionally and skillfully made revenge flick, especially one from Hong Kong...and France. I'm always in the mood for these films; I'm always in the mood to smile at masterfully crafted, bloody, relentlessly violent action scenes. When the fools of Hollywood can't impress me, I turn to foreign countries for worthwhile films, and I'm almost always glad to do this.

The film is sort of a cross-breed between "Memento", "Unforgiven", and "Oldboy". Whether it is intended as some kind of sly, slick homage to all three of those films, I'm not certain; and I don't need to be. The story involves a former-chef named Francis Costello (Johnny Hallyday) who hungers for vengeance after his daughter and her family is assaulted in their home by three mysterious men. The woman's husband is killed; although she survives, although is suffering injuries in the hospital. This is where Costello meets up with her, and promises that he will find her assailants, and kill them.

Now, this is where things get interesting. Costello hires a trio of high-class hitmen, who he first meets whilst incidentally overhearing one of their very own hits (which is, if you must know, one which involves killing their bosses unfaithful lover). After gearing up with fire-arms and with the other men at his side, Costello is ready to delve deep into the world of violence once again, as it was hinted that he had a past of guns and blood, but was hoping to leave it all behind him. Fat chance, given the sticky situation he is in now.

As can be expected, Costello hunts down the home-invaders, tries to kill them and only succeeds after a few failed attempts. But at least I can say that each "failed attempt" was a beautifully shot, energetically staged one. There's one shootout during the nighttime, and it takes place in the woods. Great scene. There's another fantastic moment in which the enemy assassins hide behind...I didn't know what the hell they were, but from memory, I believe they looked like hay barrels. Another great scene. Basically, the gun-fights are some of the best I've seen in a long time; which is good. It's a good, nice feeling to experience something new and particularly exciting. "Vengeance" gave me a certain kind of rush that cannot be often found in most films, so in that sense, it's a treat not only stylistically, but also as an experience all-together. It's pretty damn cool.

But can a film be "cool" and also "great"? I suppose so. There are plenty of films that I have seen and loved that could also be called "great". For instance, "The Social Network" is hip, accessible, and indeed, "cool". But it's also compelling, flawlessly crafted, and unforgettable; much like "Vengeance", but just a wee bit different and just a wee better. Anyways, I can't truly compare them.

Johnnie To is, quite possibly, very good at making films such as this one. I wouldn't know (yet), given that I haven't seen any of his previous pictures. But honestly, I'd like to; this one was pretty darn good. The direction is pitch-perfect. The filmmaker, To, focuses a lot on cinematography, but is also able to weave an impressively old-fashion revenge tale. It's not a perfect or entirely original one, but it's all that I needed for an entertaining and passionately made night at the movies.

Another thing I strongly admired was the performance of the film's star, Johnny Hallyday, a popular French singer. I'm sure he wouldn't be everyone's first-choice when it comes to a revenge-seeking father, but I tell you; he does so well here, that you lose the ability to care. He's really in to his character, and his performance...and the intensity that he gives off, on an atmospheric level. "Vengeance", as an all-around film, is half-style, half-substance, and 100% bad-ass. And that's probably all the reasons why you should see it.

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More Vengeance reviews
review by . January 25, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
Hong Kong Director Johnnie To Returns to What He Does Best...Very Cool Action Films!
   This film has been selected in the Cannes Film Festival.     I’ve often said that Hong Kong Director Johnnie To is the epitome of cool and calculating style. His latest film also proves that he is one versatile director seeing as how he is able to direct a film that uses three languages such as French, English and Mandarin; it wouldn’t be too impressive but To doesn’t speak a word of English or French. “VENGEANCE” (2009) is a film that has …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
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It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Vengeance (Chinese: 復仇) is a 2009 neo-noir crime film directed by Johnnie To from a screenplay written by Wai Ka-Fai. A co-production between Hong Kong and France, Vengeance features an international ensemble cast that includes Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Testud, Simon Yam, Anthony Wong, Lam Suet, Lam Ka-Tung, Maggie Siu, and Cheung Siu-Fai. The film was co-produced by ARP Sélection in France, along with Hong Kong production companies Media Asia Films, and Milkyway Image.

Vengeance tells the story of François Costello, a French assassin-turned-chef whose daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are murdered by a gang of Triads. Costello heads to Hong Kong to embark on a violent quest for revenge, enlisting the aid of three hitmen. The film features To's trademark use of stylized violence, along with elements of both film noir, and heroic bloodshed, a sub-genre of Hong Kong action cinema.

The idea of Johnnie To directing an English-language film originated with the ARP co-founders and French producers Michèle and Laurent Pétin, who had Alain Delon in mind for the lead role. In 2006, after the Pétins approached him with their idea, To met with Delon, who was not interested in making the film. The Pétins later recommended Johnny Hallyday, and Hallyday was cast in the lead role after meeting with the director in early 2008. Principal photography for Vengeance began in November 2008, and concluded in February 2009; filming took place in Hong...
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