I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Vengeance (2009)
What’s it rated? Unrated for hundreds of bullet wounds, thousands of empty shells and an old-fashioned sense of honor.
Did people make it? Written by Ka-Fai Wai. Directed by Johnny To. Acted by Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Simon Yam, Sylvie Testud, Ka Tung Lam and Suet Lam.
What’s it like in one sentence? A French-Chinese modern western complete with Johnny To’s obsession with slow-motion gun fights.
Why did you watch it? Mr. Relaxing Dragon asked really nicely.
What’s it about in one paragraph? An older French gentleman comes to Macau to get revengeance for the brutal shotgunning of his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. The problem is that he has Memento disease and his short term memory is for shit, so at some points he doesn’t even know what the act of vengeance is. Luckily, he hooks up with a trio of assassins who totally remember what vengeance is and point him in the right direction.
Play or remove from my queue? It’s worth watching, but nothing really special, either. Johnny Hallyday, who I’m not familiar with outside of this film, just can’t carry a movie, even though he’s very interesting to look at. He’s just…boring. The film might have been more successful if everyone spoke in their native languages, but since everyone goes balls deep in American English, Vengeance at times reminded me of the worst parts of Sukiyaki Western Django. But at least Django had the weird Miike vibe working for it, whereas this just feels sleepy most of the time.
Vengeance is a paint by numbers story and there isn’t a single thing in it you haven’t seen in another movie (or even another Johnny To movie). The character motivations for the hitmen and why they’re so loyal to helping the old Frenchman out is pretty murky and softens some of the more dramatic material towards the finale. I never understood where they were coming from and would have loved a little more time in their heads and less time having them walk through forests in slow-motion. Since we’re left with no motivations and a story we’ve seen 500 times, all Vengeance really does is look great while gentlemen are manning about acting tough and stoic.
My favorite Johnnie To film is still Exiled (although Mad Detective is a close second) and Vengeance doesn’t come anywhere near dethroning it. It’s too much like what the cliche’d idea of a Hong Kong action film is. Hundreds of bullets are fired and everyone looks damned cool doing it, Sure, the gunfights are good (if somewhat derivative), the actors mostly acquit themselves admirably and the framing of the shots are impeccable and sometimes painterly, but it’s all just a little too safe and generic to matter to anyone other than Johnnie To completionists.
Do you have a favorite line? Nothing stood out. Although, the re-use of taking polaroids to remember things wasn’t quite as offensive as it could have been. So…good on them.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Alain Delon was originally supposed to play the Johnny Hallyday role. Now that would have been amazing. I think a modern day quasi-sequel to Le Samourai would have made this movie much more interesting.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Exiled (a Hong Kong action movie classic), Oldboy (Koreans do revenge better), Triad Election (still need to see this), I Saw the Devil (Koreans do revenge MUCH better) and Heroic Duo (gonna watch this tonight).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? If you want classic Hong Kong action cinema, go for The Killer or Hard Boiled and if you want revenge cinema, go for Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy or I Saw the Devil. All of these movies are better in every way.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.3
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.5
Can you link to the movie? Sure, why not?
Any last thoughts? It’s just perfectly average in every way. It’s nice to see Anthony Wong as a good guy, though. There’s just too many great films about revenge for this to ever even make a splash.
Did you watch anything else this week? I’m going to see Beasts of the Southern Wild tonight, I think.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, The Perfect Host? Just that I’ve never seen David Hyde Pierce have so much fun before. It’s a fun movie, even if the third act twists don’t fully add up.
Next Week? The Dark Half?