Johnnie To is one of Hong Kong’s most acclaimed directors, especially for his gangster films such as The Mission (1999), Election (2005) and Drug War (2012) and here we look at his 2006 epic set in 1998 Macao, Exiled.
As the people of Macau ponder the hand back to China a pair of hit men from Hong Kong arrive in town to execute a gangster who has left the triad gangster scene to start a new life for his wife and children. While the Chinese syndicate Boss wants to be sure he doesn’t share anything he learned while working for them, two other well-armed men also arrive in Macau, determined to see to the former gangster’s safety.
What sets the film apart from many other gangster films made in Hong Kong at this time and before, is the setting of Portuguese Macau which gives the film a fresh and unique feel. The director also gives it a very unusual look, with coloured filters and an excellent soundtrack by Guy Zerefa and Dave Klotz that is also very different from others films in the genre.
A homage to the Italian Spaghetti westerns, one scene even steals from For a Few Dollars More but it is done in a respectful and playful way. The acting is all round excellent. Anthony Wong is all cool in his long coat and shades and you know something is going to explode when he is pushed too far. Nick Cheung, Lam Suet and Francis Ng are all torn between following orders or loyalty to there friend and his family. Simon Yam is great as the cold and vicious gang boss who seems intent on getting his revenge on the former gang member.
Exiled premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2006 to great critical acclaim and won Golden Horse Award for best action choreography. The action when it does appear in the film is superbly photographed, look out for the shootout in a doctors surgery, but don’t go in expecting John Woo type slick gunplay, this is much more realistic and grounded. It was released on DVD in the UK and USA but only on Blu Ray in Hong Kong.
One of my favourite Johnnie To movies that gets better with each viewing, I urge those that have not seen it check it out as soon as you can.