Vengeance (Fuk sau) Reviews
A French chef with a checkered past discovers that members of his family, including the children, have been brutally shot up and murdered by a gang. The chef hires three mafia assassins to help him find those responsible and gain revenge. While the gang believes they can easily dispatch of this problem, the chef and assassins may be more than they bargain for.
"He took a bullet to the head."
Johnnie Toe, director of Blind Detective, Exiled, Drug War, Running out of Time 1 & 2, The Heroic Trio, The Royal Scoundrel, and The Iron Butterfly 1 & 2, delivers Vengeance. The storyline for this picture may seem straightforward but definitely contains several unique elements, awesome shootouts and great action scenes. The acting is very good and contains Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Simon Yam, and Sylvie Testud.
"I just wanted the parents dead, and you know me..."
"And we know you."
I watched this film off Netflix after finding it while scrolling through the foreign film list. I can tell you this is an awesome action picture (one of the better ones I have seen in some time). The shootouts were creative and fairly intense and I found myself invested in each character. Overall, this is an awesome action picture worth adding to your DVD collection.
"I am looking for my daughter."
"Vengeance" takes a left turn from most revenge pictures when we find that our hero needs help from the most unlikely source. Normally, the bad guys don't get to be the heroes in films, but here they are saving the day and guiding the film's moral compass.
In the film, a former assassin turned chef hatches a plot for revenge against the men who slew his family. The chef, played by Johnny Halladay, is a mysterious Frenchman named Costello, with a flair for the unorthodox in everything he does. He dresses like a GQ cover model, speaks fluent French, English, and Chinese, and doesn't bat an eye when surrounded by a room full of people who want to kill him. His memory is slipping, so he won't be able to carry out his plot without the help of three men who nearly killed him one night in a ritzy Hong Kong hotel.
The trio are high level hit-men for the Triads. One, is a seasoned veteran. The second is the jolly portly comic relief. And the third, acts as the groups "Leoglas". Together, they are a lethal tour de force. The seasoned veteran is played by Anthony Wong in a scene stealing performance.
Costello offers the trio the opportunity to work for him. He will pay them handsomely and will give them his restaurant in Paris. They accept not only for the money, but because they feel its the right thing to do. The foursome bond quickly after a dinner conversation where they learn they share the same values. The trio are also intrigued by the kindhearted Costello, as they peel back the layers of his past.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the developing friendship among the foursome. They are four very different souls, but share a common goal and similar principles. They are united by their histories of violence and share war stories with one another. The film's excellent script allows us to get to know each characters and why they remain so loyal to one another in the face of unspeakable dangers. They adopt a similar philosophy to the "All for one and one for all" philosophy found in "The Three Musketeers," a novel written by Alexander Dumas. They don't yell the saying aloud, but infer their trust in one another with a simple smirk and nod of appreciation.
Director Johnnie To expertly blends a compelling story with great visuals. The action is slow and methodical. There are two gun battle scenes that have a civil war-like feel to them-- The first is shot for shot over a long range in the dead of night. Film Critic Roger Ebert asks, " Is it a matter of honor that Hong Kong shooters sometimes advance on each other in full view, blazing away, or are they sure who's a lousy shot?" I think To believes in the former. The second battle, is a unique sequence were our heroes and their antagonists roll huge paper blocks to shield them in a bloody firefight.
This is a true Art House film --i.e. films like "Drive (2011)-- as every shot looks like it could belong in a painting. Hong Kong has never looked so interesting. There is one shot (similar to the one pictured above) where we follow Costello walking in the rain among neon lit signs in a seedy part of town which may symbolize his transition back to the gritty underworld, his first nature. It's one of the best shots in a film with many great shots.
The violence is intense at times, but it serves as high art. It's very realistic, as we see our heroes getting shot in nearly every gun battle their involved in. They have to stop, rest, and repair themselves as their enemies constantly breath down their necks.
If I ever made a film, it would be in the style of To. In fact, If I could ever make one movie in my whole lifetime, it would be this one. I admire its courage, its resounding direction, and its magnificent story. I love every shot and every line of spoken dialogue. I love its heroes, and their thought provoking philosophies on the dynamics of revenge.
"Vengeance" is a gem of a film that can be found on Netflix right now. I highly recommend it.