Sunday, June 21, 2009

189) The Longest Nite (1998)

189) The Longest Nite (1998) Dir: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-Fai and Patrick Yau Not Yet Released Date Seen: June 20th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

While I couldn't say why immediately, it was obvious that the five scenes that Patrick Yau directed before The Longest Nite were different from the superb noirish framework Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai gave them. Yau's scenes all revolve around spontaneous violence, creating jaw-dropping moments of insane black humor thanks to their frighteningly abrupt and volatile nature. To and Wai probe the nature of those scenes with a tangled plot that could only come from them (the film's central metaphor of being a rubber ball, full of restless motion but not being able to control where you go, is very much Wai's cinematic worldview distilled). Moody and dark, the film is yet another exceptional transitional film in To's career, a movie that like Hero Never Dies (also 1998) pushes him from his so-so earlier films to the string of great films that he continues to crank out today.

Note: Tony Leung Chiu-wai was seriously miscast here. The film can be broken down into four quarters. First and last are when the film goes off-the-rails and requires Tony to be an unhinged tough guy capable of matching Lau Ching-wan's effortless attitude; the middle half is a traditional whodunnit plot. Leung does well with the that latter chunk but is never really convincing in the former. These extended bookend scenes are crucial in changing Leung's character from a mild-mannered detective into a vicious character capable of anything, just like Lau's character. Leung instead shows that he's best when he's playing characters that look breathless and confused all the time, which is nowhere near the enigmatic anti-hero the role required.

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