Thursday, May 20, 2004

Caught Blood Brothers (Jiang Hu) last night with Justin at the SFS core screening. Now for my take on Infernal Affairs: The Alternate Universe.

It's an oft-hackneyed theme in slick packaging. No grittiness, no blood and gore (very odd to see parangs and knives remain shiny while people are slashing with them. Did the director run out of money for fake blood? Either that or teflon-coated steel.). Instead, if this were your first movie about HK triads, you'd think that every gangster had smooth baby-bum complexions when young and dress in a combination of expensive clothes and accessories without any modicum of fashion sense.

Whatever. The vets more or less perform as expected, but only Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung get things to do. Edison Chan and Shawn Yue still cannot act their way out of a meadow.

But that's assuming that you haven't been disoriented by all the camera changes, rapid cuts and visual tricks that director Wong Ching Po throws around. Blood Brothers is damn pretty. There's no doubt about it. If you want to study lighting, costuming and composition, you can't go very far wrong with this.

I hesitate to call it style though. That sounds like the director actually knew what he was doing other than throwing lots of disparate elements together.

Well, actually, maybe there was some kind of consistency. Mostly low shots, rapid cuts and slow-mo overkill.

What's with all the slow-mo? Any cinematic excuse for slow-mo, no matter how cliched, is in this film. Smoking a cigarette? Slow-mo. Cocking an automatic? Slow-mo. Stepping outside? Slow-mo. Fighting and getting slashed? Slow-mo. Big fight at the end? Slow-mo slow-mo slow-mo slow-mo slow-mo. I'm surprised he didn't shoot someone peeing in slow-mo.

Some call that style. It looks to me like a cover-up for lousy storytelling.

Plotwise the film is predictable in its set-pieces. No surprises there even though the director tries his darndest to confuse the audience at the beginning with rapid cuts back and forth across the conversations of 3 sub-bosses. So-so execution of the twist at the end. And if you didn't understand the temporal shift by the climactic (and incredibly cliched) fight scene, the director rams it down your throat through two lengthy sequences after that. Y'know, for all those viewers with IQs below 100.

The pacing was actually quite good up till the part where Yik goes back to look for Yoyo. After that the movie starts to drag considerably. The robbery sequence has a nice dreamlike touch, but it boggles the imagination that so many moneychangers would remain open so late into the night. A few Wong Kar Wai touches -- the 60's style ballad and the shot of Yoyo leaving the hotel room. Otherwise, Blood Brothers is a mishmash of techniques, more MTV special than thriller.

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