THE LONGEST SHOT (2019) review

A milestone Chinese-Australian coproduction and the debut feature of advertisement director Xu Shunli, The Longest Shot is set in 1930s Shanghai, and follows aging, solitary hitman Zhao (Wang Zhiwen), whose early onset of Parkinson’s disease spells the end of both his dangerous job and his hobby as a watchmaker. Still haunted by the death of his son and by a fatal mistake he made years ago, he decides to take a final job, brought to him by his friend and middleman Du (Li Lichun). This final job is actually two final jobs, two targets to be eliminated on the same day and the same place: Peter (Christopher Downs) and Libo (Xu Yajun), two Shanghai kingpins who’ve been at each other’s throats for a while, threatening the order of things in the French Concession. But nothing is what it seems, strings are being pulled left and right, and the aging hitman finds himself in the center of a tangled web of deceit.

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A CITY CALLED MACAU (2019) short review

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Based on a 2012 novel by Yan Geling – and co-adapted for the screen by Yan herself – Li Shaohong’s A City called Macau follows Xiao Ou (Bai Baihe), a casino broker in Macau: she guides wealthy clients around the city, introducing them to games and securing loans for them. Over more than a decade (the film takes place between 2002 and 2014), two of her clients will change the course of her life: property developer Duan (Wu Gang), sucked ever deeper in debt by his gambling addiction and forever making empty promises to come clean, and sculptor Shi (Huang Jue), who goes as far as leaving his wife and child to pursue Macau’s mirage of wealth. With its ploddingly episodic structure (every time the narrative starts building steam there’s a jump forward in time), relentless explanative voice-over from Bai Baihe, trite sense of romance (walks on the beach, floating lanterns…), florid music begging you to feel, and – most damningly – thudding, repetitive storytelling (two hours of tension-free gambling and people getting in and out of debt), A City called Macau is a chore to get through. The drama is hopelessly contrived, with every single man in Xiao Ou’s life becoming a gambler (even her slapworthy son), and not one character seems worth caring for, except perhaps Chin Siu Ho’s Cat, her loyal – perhaps lovestruck – colleague. Xiao Ou herself is a strange and unlikeable mix of catty rashness and hopeless gullibility, with Bai Baihe giving a weirdly tone-deaf performance, mouth agape, permanently looking like she’s just been eating week-old sushi. Wu Gang is much more compelling, Huang Jue is livelier than his usual, and Geng Le makes the most of his short screen-time (as Bai’s ex-husband, also a degenerate gambler, of course), but their characters are merely hand-puppets for the film’s on-the-nose message on the price of gambling. Carina Lau and Eris Tsang make classy cameos; there’s a feeling the film would have been so much more interesting if it had focused on them, a steely, worldly casino owner and a tough, honorable businessman respectively. *1/2

LINE WALKER 2: INVISIBLE SPY (2019) review

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2016’s Line Walker was a loose spin-off from the highly-successful TVB series of the same title, with the characters of Charmaine Sheh and Hui Shiu Hung the only ties between small and big screen; this Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy is a thematic sequel, with all narrative connections to the TV show now severed, as Sheh and Hui don’t return. Louis Koo, Nick Cheung and Francis Ng do return however, in new roles. When a hacker (Jiang Peiyao), arrested for her connection to a terrorist car crash in the center of Hong Kong, reveals that there may be a network of undercover terrorists in the Hong Kong police, everyone becomes a potential suspect, including the three officers in charge of retrieving a hard-drive containing a list of the moles from a location in Burma: Ching (Nick Cheung), Cheng (Louis Koo) and Yip (Francis Ng). Ching and Cheng are both former students of Yip, but they may share a far older bond, while their allegiances soon prove mysterious.

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PROJECT GUTENBERG (2018) review

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Project Gutenberg is Felix Chong’s second solo project – that is, away from Alan Mak – after the underrated triad comedy Once a Gangster nine years ago. It follows Lee Man (Aaron Kwok), a painter of mediocre inspiration who discovers that he’s peerless at copying works of art. Soon, he’s hired by Ng Fuk Sang (Chow Yun Fat), aka Painter, the charismatic and ruthless head of a money-counterfeiting gang. Lee quickly becomes an invaluable part of the gang, and though he’s repelled by Painter’s violent ways, he sticks around in the hopes that the rewards showered upon him by the leader, will help him win back the love of his old flame Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu), a now successful artist. At the same time, the counterfeiting gang is in the crosshairs of Inspector Ho (Catherine Chow) and her team.

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