Andrei Zvyagintsev seems to have emerged from out of nowhere as a fully developed filmmaker. The Return is much more preferable to his sophomore The Banishment with it's straight storytelling and all but absent religious imagery. Granted, there are some obvious Tarkovskijan references here too, but not as shamelessly displayed as in the aforementioned. Shot in a gorgeously cold monochrome tone which fits the mood perfectly.
A triumph for Corey Yuen managing to keep this mixed bag of emotions together all the way. The high standard action and kung fu sequences, superbly choreographed by the director himself, matches the convincingly strong emotional drama. Even the comedy (which even though it includes lots of cross dressing and mistaken identity routines must be considered pretty fine-tuned by HK standards) works great, mostly thanks to the great Josephine Siao (sadly robbed of her award at the 13th HK Film Awards by Anita Yuen for her much lesser performance in Derek Yee's C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri). Some great names working behind the camera, Ann Hui on production design and skilful cinematographer/hack director Jingle Ma as DP, also probably helped turn Fong Sai Yuk into this great pastime.
Amazingly enough, this ain't the first time Gong Li is slumming it in the Stephen Chow division. In Flirting Scholar, as in her previous encounter with the king of mo lei tau in Wong Jing's God of Gamblers III, she is reduced to a porcelain figure and as such not really a participant in the general zaniness that goes on. Flirting Scholar is brilliant physical comedy and utterly bizarre at the same time. It also draws heavily on Cantonese wordplay, which makes large parts of the movie unintelligible to the non-Chinese among us. But the nonsensical jokes and absurdities are nevertheless easy to appreciate in all their surrealistic might.
With no Jackie Chan in the cast and lacking the populistic action of Crime Story, Organized Crime & Triad Bureau had a more modest effect on the box office than it's predecessor, but director Kirk Wong's decision to sacrifice commercial appeal for gritty true crime realism was at least artistically a clever one. Wong's film is character driven rather than action based and challenges the viewer's preconception of the traditional triad/cop relationship, creating an ethical grey area within the movie's framework in which triad head Anthony Wong and dedicated cop Danny Lee seem almost interchangeable, making the audience equally touched by Wong's humanism and appalled by the policemen's brutal interrogation techniques.