DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FALLEN ANGELS (Duo luo tian shi) (aka: Duoluo tianshi) (director/writer: Kar Wai Wong; cinematographer: Christopher Doyle; editors: William Chang/Ming Lam Wong; music: Frankie Chan/Roel A. García; cast: Leon Lai (Wong Chi-Ming/Killer), Michele Reis (The Killer's Agent), Takeshi Kaneshiro (He Zhiwu), Charlie Yeung (Charlie/Cherry), Karen Mok (Punkie/Blondie/Baby), Fai-hung Chan (The Man Forced to Eat Ice Cream), Chen Man Lei (He Zhiwu's father); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jeffrey Lau; Kino International; 1995-Hong Kong-in Cantonese with English subtitles)

 
"A brilliantly innovative filmmaker who gets his feelings across through the cheeky and sometimes surreal visuals and his cool style of filmmaking."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sequel to writer-director Kar Wai Wong's ("As Tears Go By"/"Happy Together") 1994 U.S. breakthrough Chungking Express. It's set in Hong Kong, mostly at night in bars and at diners (there's product placement shots of Heineken and McDonalds), and is a moody urban comedy/drama that is a fine example of a disjointed anti-narrative tale by a brilliantly innovative filmmaker who gets his feelings across through the cheeky and sometimes surreal visuals and his cool style of filmmaking. Though plotless, it's surprisingly a touching tale about loneliness and forlorn love. Things are kept looking fit by top-notch cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the director's regular, and his probing camera work.

The film follows six oddball characters, all twentysomethings, who are confused and searching for something that seems beyond their grasp--just like this story always seems to be beyond our grasp even though we think we are catching up with it. The film ultimately only offers us snapshot peeks at these characters. 

Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai) is a killer for hire, who's lazy and likes having all the details of the job arranged for him. For the past three years he's been a business partner to a woman agent (Michele Reis) who secretly loves him even though they have only met once in all that time. She sets up hits by fax and that's there only personal contact, though she cleans his spare room located in a warehouse and rummages through his garbage to get a feel about what he's like. The lonely Wong then meets the playful punk Babe (Karen Mok) and there seems to be hope in relieving his melancholy, until their relationship can't get beyond a certain elementary stage of frolic and lust. 

Mute ex-con He Zhiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who has been been mute since the age of five after eating "bad canned pineapple," considers himself a self-employed businessman, who re-opens business shops (such as a butcher and vegetable shop) closed for the night by forcing his way in and then coercing passers-by to become his discounted customers. In one such venture he steals an ice cream truck and forces a patron (Fai-hung Chan) to eat ice cream. In another such episode, he falls in love for the first time in his life with wild woman of the night Charlie (Charlie Yeung). She's a beautiful gal who has a jealous fit that her girlfriend Blondie stole her boyfriend and is now about to marry him. The mute gives her his shoulder to cry on, goes on a futile search with her to get revenge on Blondie and believes she might become his girlfriend, but she fails to show for a later date to a soccer game and disappears from his life. Feeling hurt by the stings of love, he tries getting over it by spending his time shooting videos of his widowed fast-food worker father (Chen Wanei), whose wife was run-over by an ice-cream van, at work in the run-down eatery, tapes which his sullen sixty-year-old father seems to enjoy watching when back in the dumpy apartment they both share. When his dad dies Zhiwu takes over his job at the Midnight Express, where he runs into Charlie who doesn't recognize or acknowledge him as she meets her newest lover.

There's minimal dialogue, a constant onslaught of frenzied visuals from violence to tender moments to goofiness and scenes that intercut leaving one in a constant daze at the kinetic visuals. While taking it all in, one can't help feeling lost in a subterranean and impenetrable Hong Kong, but after awhile it becomes apparent in a neon-lit way what Kar Wai Wong is driving at, and the characters, ill-suited to fit into so-called normal society, do appear as fallen angels in his quintessential film that merges farce, embittered solitude and deep-seated feelings over love lost. 

REVIEWED ON 1/6/2007        GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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