Bullet-ridden and star-studded, Exiled - the latest action-packed film from Johnnie To - sheds a dusky light on the melancholic end of an era. The 1999 turnover of the Portuguese colony of Macau to China is investigated here through the unique rites of passage of a group of cold-blooded hit men as they wonder what the future has in store for them, try to make quick money or simply hope to retire. Gathering some of his regular actors - including Roy Cheung, Lam Suet and Simon Yam - and pairing them with Anthony Wong and Francis Ng (from the Infernal Affairs films), To creates an exquisite ensemble piece in which the borders between tragedy and deadpan comedy blur, resulting in a highly entertaining, black-comic thrill. Directing the viewer to understand and sympathize with each of the characters, To spins the tale of the traitor Wo (Nick Cheung), who has decided to quit his criminal life and wants to live quietly with his family. His story is tied to that of the other hit men - and former buddies - who have come to Macau to kill him. Resolved to take him down, but also willing to negotiate a sort of gentlemen's agreement, they grant Wo another day of life and help him find one last job to provide for his future widow and newborn baby. Enigmatic yet visually eloquent, Exiled seems to follow a fleeting code of honour in its compelling articulation of situations and moods. As various contract killers crop up on the small island to stalk each other, To's slow-burning storytelling builds a strong narrative tension and unveils the inner rhythm of his characters' emotions. The film's aesthetic mixes gangster iconography, languid atmospheres and stylized Macau sets with superb cinematography, recalling the baroque intensity of Caravaggio's paintings. The blazing trajectories of bullets cross paths with the men's desires and palpable anxieties about their uncertain futures in this brilliantly choreographed ballet.
MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND AND MY FRIEND IS MY ENEMY