Monday, December 17, 2007


Having seen this film, I think I can safely say that I’ll never need to see another one, since this played like nothing more than a pastiche of just about every major action and crime film ever made, from old Sergio Leone westerns to Reservoir Dogs. And if director Johnny To forgot to include characters worth remembering, or an interesting plot, well, who’s keeping track, right?

The story, such as it is, concerns a gangster who’s pissed off his boss and now must die. However, while two men track him down to kill him, another two come to defend his life, and, as they are all old friends, they decide on a compromise. They’ll honor a final request from him and score enough gold to set the man’s wife and newborn child up for life, so he can die knowing that at least his family will be better off. Along the way, there are a number of gunfights and standoffs that pretty blatantly pilfer from a number of other films, despite a great many Asian cinephiles swearing that this is the most innovative film ever.

I think that may be a bigger problem for me than it should be, but let me explain it like this. When Black Sheep did callbacks to some earlier horror movies, it did so organically. The mentions were subtle and inobtrusive, occurring naturally within the story, so they had a proper flow to them. When it nicked a visual from An American Werewolf in London, for instance, it did so at a moment where that visual would fit perfectly. When Exiled rips off the shooting contest in For a Few Dollars more, it doesn’t go organically. It just feels instead like To really likes Leone’s movies and wanted to direct that moment himself, and just changed it slightly to squeeze it into his already shaky framework. Believe me, I get that it sucks Leone’s dead, but you shouldn’t try to appropriate his directing style unless you’re sure you can at least do it close to as well as he did. And don’t get me started on that walking cliché of an ending.

I am a pretty big fan of Asian cinema, but this is not one of its prouder moments, no matter how many fools want to overrate it on IMDB. There’s plenty of much better Asian action films out there like Kill Zone or Ong-Bak. This one’s not worth your time.

Rating: * ½

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