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Ok, I understand… not only do I have some catching up to do with respect to Korean police procedural (Bong’athon), but I also have completely missed out on the Johnny To phenomenon. Another marathon… sigh! But it seems it’s worth it. “Vengeance” features Johnny Hallyday, who is usually a quirky French singer with a worn-out face. Here he plays a French restaurant-owner with a history and a bullet in his head. That matters only insofar as towards the end of the film, he starts forgetting quite vital things. It does not really affect the plot, because by hiring a bunch of triad killers, he seeks vengeance for the death of his daughter’s family. Why they were killed also does not matter. A lot of things do not matter, actually, what matters is the way To puts the chase into scene, with some memorable scenes: a chase sequence down a fire escape, the discovery of one the hired guns’ uncle in his Macao shed, several showdowns between several key protagonists. I never fell in love with the Hong Kong action cinema, but watching “Vengeance” I started to wonder why. Maybe To is of a generation to have emancipated (a little bit at least) from the perennial slow motion gun fights and excessive bullet impacts making bad guys fly in flocks across restaurant kitchens. It’s there, but confined, and that’s a good thing. The cast is brilliant, with Hallyday stumbling through Macao and Hong Kong not understanding anything about the culture or the language, depending on the worst possible people. These helping hands are also not just side characters, but written and played as strong and decisive individuals who have their own ethos and their own demons. Still a Hong Kong action film, but one that allows itself through silent moments with beach lunches, beautiful cinematography and mature acting to be taken seriously.

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