Opening

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—— Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Aug 08
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Man Jeuk (The Sparrow) (Cultured Bird) Reviews

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Nicki M

Super Reviewer

September 29, 2009
Quite slow and not the easiest to follow, but the scene at the end with no speaking is very well done and makes the movie worth a look. Also very nicely filmed street shots and I liked the black and white photography.
DragonEyeMorrison
DragonEyeMorrison

Super Reviewer

December 30, 2008
To never fails to bring a smile to my face, even when the plot is not making a lot of sense. Simon Yam has more charisma, screen persona and acting skills than all hollywood put together. Also, weird to see Ka Tung Lam not playing a villian.
skactopus
skactopus

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2008
Johnnie To takes a step away from the usual crime suspense films that have made him a successful director and producer. It really is different to see no guns in a To film, but in the end, Sparrow is vintage Johnnie To.The story revolves around pickpocketing, but there really is more to it than that. You need to pay attention and follow the characters to get the full effect of what is going on. As usual the dialogue is at a minimum, which lets the acting and great cinematography tell the story. The minimal dialogue does tend to keep you in the dark, but that just makes the movie that much more entertaining.With Sparrow, the background music is upbeat, jazzy, and it does wonders in this setting. It is almost as if it is a musical of sorts. This is a nice way to liven up a drama.The cast is made up of actors that are no strangers to Johnnie To films. Simon Yam is the lead once again and he carries this picture with no problem. The beautiful Kelly Lin fills the shoes for the female lead and she carries the film where Yam doesn't. Ka Tung Lam, Wing-cheong Law, Hoi-Pang Lo, and Kenneth Cheung round out the supporting cast. Lam Suet also finds a role to play in here.Sparrow may be missing the great shootouts, cops, and gangsters that we are used to seeing, but that doesn't make this a bad film. This just shows that Johnnie To is able to take his directing style over to another type of genre. Don't be afraid to check this out if you are a Johnnie To fan.
September 4, 2009
Not my favorite Johnny To, mainly because of setting of the characters (pickpockets) and the casting, but it still does show To's matureness as a film auteur as well as some recent works of him. What To achieves lately is really mature mise-en-scene, in other words, the way of creating the original atmosphere in the pictures. Especially in this film, use of music and shots of night, rainy Hong Kong city are superb (it also works as an homage to old Hollywood films), although some parts are set-up too much and look too comical. Moreover, setting pickpockets as main characters and describing them as a certain kind of skilled workers make you feel somewhat out of place and not comfortable (morally) throughout the film (although I don't know why I feel so on pickpockets and do not on gangsters...). Simon Yam shows some new attractions with this role. The heroin, Kelly Lin, is too inconspicuous.
sumodaemon
October 19, 2009
Sparrow is a very different Johnnie To film in that it is very lighthearted in its approach and fairly free of conflict. There are the usual To themes of brotherhood and familial bonding but the theme is presented quite a bit differently here. The usual conflict driven themes of brotherhood is replaced by a more lively and slightly more combative relationship between the more low key characters. This is mainly due to a basic lack of serious life threatening situations that are generally present in most To films and so the characters behave a bit more like actual family then family driven together by serious desperation and an instinct to survive.

The pickpocket characters led by the legendary Simon Yam as Kei live out a fairly carefree existence as pickpockets. Kei is very artistically driven and wanders the streets in a dreamy fashion photograph anything that catches his interest with his retro camera. One day a sparrow flies into his loft and refuses to leave. He thinks it might be a sign of good luck but his cohorts aren't too sure and feel it might be the sign of something very bad.

As if on cue, a mysterious woman (Kelly Lin) pops into the frame of a shot being lined up by Kei. Kei is enchanted by her seemingly distressful situation and she seems concerned by his interest. Then slowly the same woman pops floats into each and everyone of the gang's lives looking fairly different and perfectly catering to each of their weaknesses which she exploits to the fullest in order to set them up for a slight beating. But she wants something more from them then just a lesson in who not to pickpocket. She needs them for a special job that only they can fulfill.

Kelly Lin quite obviously is the metaphorical sparrow in all of this but in more than just the obvious flitting in and out of people's lives much like the actual bird in Kei's apartment. She is a foreigner to Hong Kong and wants nothing but to get out and get back to her modern life. As pickpockets are a dying profession, Kei and his gang represent the old Hong Kong that wishes it could maintain the quaint old way of doing things. But try though they might, old Hong Kong, much like the pickpockets, are fully entranced with the mysterious new ways and what it could possibly bring them and so they are inexorably drawn in despite their suspicions and reservations.

This film is quite obviously a love letter to the old Hong Kong that is disappearing as old buildings are replaced with the new. The neighborhoods that are heavily featured are poor but quaint with their cobblestone roads and worn down architecture. The colors are incredibly warm and inviting, even the metal and washed out whites are compelling. To seems to go to great lengths to perfectly compose and frame shots heavily featuring the objects in which the characters interact. A simple wandering of a character into a side street becomes compelling as you notice an ambient pedestrian wearing a color that perfectly frames the shot by complimenting the color of the post boxes on the opposite side of the shot.

The music greatly compliments the romantic nature of the film as well. A mixture of hip retro '60s western and traditional Chinese strings further cements the slow merging of the old and new in Hong Kong. The minimal dialogue and slowed down pace of many scenes also appears to be a bit of an homage to the old symbol ladened Hollywood romances in which, in lieu of actual contact, every movement and eye glance further intensifies the interaction between the characters. The scene between Kelly and Simon in which they share a cigarette is just a beautiful thing to watch.

Unfortunately all this desire of To's to bring in all sorts of elements that he has admired from other sources coupled with a short running time means that there is very little story going on here. And what story there is going on is very light and very lacking in any real conflict. Because of this in the end I felt the precedings a bit unengaging and I really desired to know the characters a bit better before it all came to a screeching halt in a beautifully filmed non musical tribute to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. In simple terms it's an art over substance sort of film although there is a great deal to be admired in the aesthetics that are presented. It's Johnnie To's guilty pleasure film basically and if you don't go in expecting sturm und drang and guns a blazin' you might just have a great time.
TurkishStain
March 10, 2009
Johnnie To is one of the few directors in Hong Kong who delivers quality whenever you see his name in the credits (even as a producer). Sparrow, while not one of his finer movies, continues this streak that is more or less a homage to the French films of the 1960s with a lot of style and little substance. But Johnnie To style goes a long way and it's truly a great film to look at with many memorable scenes instead of being a memorable picture overall. It's an enjoyable fluffy time though, a great cast of To regulars and while not his strongest it proves that he continues to be one of best working directors in HK if not the world.
nreeves2
November 25, 2008
Interesting style to this Hong Kong move that appears to be part Hitchcock meets musical comedy. Really enjoyed it on the Lufthansa flight back from India.
HouseMC
March 7, 2012
Overrated film. It's nice, funny but too mainstream for me. The plot is rather dumb. Not a must see. You can spare this one.
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