As Tears Go By

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Reviews Counted: 11

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Average Rating: 3.5/5

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Movie Info

Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai makes his feature film debut with this gritty romantic crime-drama inspired by Scorsese's Mean Streets. The film opens with young gangster Wah (Andy Lau) getting a visit for the day from his beautiful cousin Ah-Ngor (Maggie Cheung), who is coming into Kowloon from the remote outlying Lantau island to receive medical treatment for a lung condition. At first, the short-fused gangster and the quiet country girl have little in common, but gradually the two start to form a bond of sorts. Meanwhile, Wah's buddy Fly (Jacky Cheung), who has an absolutely volcanic temper, is always getting Wah into hot water. Even though Wah knows that Fly is bound to end up dead soon, he stands by his foolhardy friend. After some hesitation, Wah -- who has fallen for Ah-Ngor -- visits his cousin on Lantau, hoping to make their relationship more than family. Fly later infuriates a psychopathic mob boss, Tony (Alex Man Chi-leung who, along with his henchmen, beats and degrades Fly and Wah. This induces Fly make amends with Tony by undertaking the outrageously difficult task of rubbing out an informant who is in the custody of the cops, before the man has the opportunity to testify in a court hearing.

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Critic Reviews for As Tears Go By

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (7)

  • Some of the editing has a giddy, overeager quality, the natural excess of a young prodigy, but when the action and the tempo align, the results are exhilarating: an early brawl in a pool hall fairly leaps off the screen.

    Jan 30, 2014 | Full Review…
  • This sounds like a fairly standard debut. But Wong smothers the story with tremendous style.

    Aug 22, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • As Tears Go By doesn't measure up to Wong's later classics, such as In the Mood for Love (2000) and Chungking Express (1994), but it shows a master in the making.

    May 2, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Unpersuasive as drama, Tears is the first and last Wong movie touched by any feel of the obligatory.

    May 2, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/5
  • Long before Wong Kar-wai perfected his dreamy, ennui-infused aesthetic (or got hopelessly stuck in blueberry goo), he made a name for himself with this warhorse tale of small-time hoods on the road to ruin.

    Apr 30, 2008 | Rating: 4/6

    David Fear

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Ostensibly a conventional tale of triad loyalty, As Tears Go By announced the presence of a genuine Hong Kong new wave -- as well as an ambitious cineaste.

    Apr 30, 2008

Audience Reviews for As Tears Go By

Wong Kar Wai's Promising debut

Arash Xak
Arash Xak

Super Reviewer

Great first effort by Wong Kar Wai

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer


This is Wong Kar-Wai's debut from 1988. Starring Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau. Fiited with typical 80's ambiant soundtrack and two narrtives told. Being a wong Kar Wai fan I've tried to watch all of his movies over the past couple of months, this has to be incredibly different to the others I've watched. For one thing I haven't watched A Wai film with a gangster feel to it. It was a little odd to start with but for me it did feel realistic and probably very typical to Hong Kong in the 1980's, so, Wai diffently makes a stament there. I enjoyed the hard reality of this gangster feel. I mean when watched Hollywood gangster film I don't usually feel that I can't watch what's going on on screen as it just seems very typical. What Wai does well in his debut is that the violence seems very realistic and not delibertly done in such a wy that is for Hollywood and looses the realism. Naturally there's no Chistopher Doyle's cinemtography in this film as it was his first but the cinempatography isn't bad but not great. Hand-held camera was used a lot so you felt like you were there in the film. Unfortunatly what the movie falls up upon is the love story betwwen Andy Lau's character and Maggie Cheung's. To me it does seem a bit pointless. First of alll it just doesn't seem particularly geuined, almost like a fling but perhaps it could have meant to be that what or not; I just didn't understand that bit. Some of the characters I couldn't figure out, Andy Lau had a brother then he apprently has another younger one- too confusing. Asides that, this is a good debut for the then 30 year old Wong Kar Wai you can diffently seen potential in this film. Overall worth the watch if you're a Wong Kar Wai fan, just don't expect anything outstanding as In The Mood For Love.

Sarah Gaish
Sarah Gaish

Super Reviewer


The film is influenced by Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets", but of course contains some moments that would later become part of Wai's signature. The main draw back for the film is that it hasn't aged well, being very much a film of the 80's. The most disappointing aspect is the terrible repetitive 80's rock/synth soundtrack, that accompanies pretty much every scene. Thankfully after a while the music does fade into the background, and you learn to accept it. The fashions, and the gritty realism are also reminiscent of most 80's films. The lighting is also quite shocking early on in the film, as it changes between cuts during the same scenes, bright one moment and dark the next. Once the film gets going though it is hard to look away, with shockingly real violence and some well shot action set ups, such as the slow motion knife attack, and the gun down the trousers. The editing is well done (not as well done as Wai's later pieces), but slow motion is particularly well used. "As Tears Go By" never once gets boring despite its floors, and there are many, many more pros than cons, and it all adds up to a spectacular finale.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer

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