Monday, June 29, 2009

201) Expect the Unexpected (1998)

201) Expect the Unexpected (1998) Dir: Patrick Yau and Wai Ka-Fai Not Yet Released Date Seen: June 28th, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5

The accomplished scenes of screwball romance in Expect the Unexpected come as a bit of a shock after The Longest Nite, a gritty, sweaty and totally grim neo-noir that both Yau and Wai worked on that same year. They have a breezy humor to them and a sense of optimism that few other Milkyway films that are not strictly romcoms have. In them, tension arises from whether or not good cop Ken (Simon Yam) or bad cop Sam (Lau Ching-Wan) will make the opportunities they need to get the girl they both pine for. This is a far cry from the story's investigation overplot, which climaxes in a final shoot-out whose extreme nature feels like a dark reminder of just whose universe we're working in. 

The bleakness of the film's ending intrigues me because not just because it creates a beautiful tableaux of violence worthy of its Peckinpah influence but because of something Wai recently said to me when I interviewed him. He said that: 
"Death is unavoidable so I think that if there’s some change in the way that I’ve [approached the] topic when I was young, maybe I was more poetically thinking about it. Maybe evil cannot beat the good ultimately. As I get older, my thinking has become, 'Well, sometimes you can choose.'"
That choice is crucial because here, the characters squander theirs and in so doing, they lose all of their chances, which perhaps makes the final grisly shoot-out punishment for not recognizing their potential. It's a damning finale but one that strikes me as a weird kind of divine authorial tough love.

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