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.