Director: Wong Ching-Po
Cast: Ethan Juan, Gingle Wang, Ben Yuen, Chen Yi-wen, Lee Lee-zen, Cherry Hsieh
Runtime: 2 hr 14 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Sexual Scene)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 2 November 2023
Synopsis: Fugitive Gui-lin found out that he had only 6 months left to live and he was only ranked third among the most-wanted criminals. He tracked down the top two criminals and eliminated both of them, thinking that he has become a modern-day hero. However, he never thought that greed, anger and ignorance were the sins and punishments he had to face at the end of his life.
Taiwanese actor Ethan Juan has come a long way. The good looker first found fame during a time when idol drama series were popular, and charmed his way into fans’ hearts with 2008’s Fated to Love You. Then he shed his pretty boy image and played a tough gangster in the 2010 drama movie Monga directed by Doze Niu. Juan was named Best Actor at the 47th Golden Horse Awards, which was a testament to the rising star’s acting skills. More than a decade later, he is again playing a gangster in his latest work. Incidentally, he has also garnered a Best Actor nomination at the 60th Golden Horse Awards.
And if you ask us, Juan’s performance is even more impressive than the one he delivered for his breakout role 13 years ago, so we are rooting for him to take home the prize again.
Juan plays a mean gangster named Chen Gui-lin in this crime thriller inspired by a Chinese fable where a thug named Zhou Chu battled three adversaries – a tiger, a dragon and himself. The third antagonist Zhou Chu had to fight was himself because he realised that he has to change his lawbreaking ways.
In this modern version, Gui-lin finally decided to surrender himself to the police after being informed that his grandmother has died, and he himself has stage four lung cancer. The poor guy is also beginning to feel exhausted after being on the run for four years, after a showdown at funeral which ended with a cop losing his eye. But when Gui-lin sees that there are two other criminals who are ranked above him in the most wanted list, he goes on a journey to hunt them down.
You may start wondering the motive of the protagonist when he says “I’m not afraid of death. I’m afraid of being forgotten after death.” Looks like he isn’t as noble as Zhou Chu after all.
But you won’t have much time to ponder over the deeper symbolisms that the movie is trying to convey, because from the get go of the 134 minute film, you will be trying to catch up with the pace. The opening sequence is an exhilarating cat and mouse chase which is wonderfully choreographed. It ends with the cop played by Lee Lee-zen in a bloody (but alive) state.
Fast forward four years later, we see Gui-lin as a weary man with no friends and family, except an underground doctor (a fine performance by Cherry Hsieh) who updates him about his grandmother. Just as things get emotional, Gui-lin tracks down his first target (award winning Hong Kong actor Ben Yuen), who is a real menace and a creep who is in a relationship with his stepdaughter (Gingle Wang). There is a lot of tension between the three characters, and the violent action will keep you at the edge of your seat.
And when you think this movie directed by Hong Kong filimmaker Wong Ching-Po is going to serve up more stylised violence, the tone is drastically changed when Gui-lin arrives in a serene location to look for his next target. There, he meets a spiritual leader (played eerily by another award winning actor Chen Yi-wen). We won’t give too much of the story away, but this part of the film is one wild ride that you wouldn’t have imagined. There are scenes where you snigger uncomfortably, and you wonder whether this is a black comedy.
The film is nominated in seven categories at the upcoming Golden Horse Awards, and it should take home a couple during the ceremony held later this month. The attention is definitely on Juan, whose arresting performance anchors the entire movie. Amidst the action and drama that culminates in a thoughtful finale, you will be rooting for Gui-lin although you know he has done some very bad stuff. The actor gets to showcase his versatility in certain emotionally charged scenes, and these showstopping performances are what we hope will win the jury’s heart for him to nab a second Golden Horse Best Actor trophy.
(An arresting performance by Ethan Juan anchors this movie that promises a roller coaster ride that is beyond your wildest imagination)
Review by John Li