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Hong Kong/China, 2018, color, 2.35:1, 129 minutes.
Director: Zhuang Wenqiang 庄文强 [Felix Chong].
Pulpy counterfeiting caper is entertaining sufficient till it turns into too Massive Twisty for its personal good.
Hong Kong, late 1990s. Counterfeiter Li Wen (Guo Fucheng) has been extradited from a Thai jail and delivered to Hong Kong to help in a police investigation into the id of a grasp counterfeiter recognized solely as The Painter 画家 who has left a path of our bodies behind him. Because the final surviving member of The Painter’s gang, Li Wen is pressured by the workforce led by inspector He Weilan (Zhou Jiayi) – daughter of deputy police commissioner He (Fang Zhongxin) and together with her personal personal agenda – to disclose The Painter’s id. However he refuses, saying The Painter will kill all of them. Claiming to be an previous good friend of Li Wen, well-known artist Ruan Wen (Zhang Jingchu) arrives and makes a cope with the police that, if she will persuade Li Wen to co-operate, he shall be launched. She provides that she needs to get even with The Painter as he killed her fiance. Li Wen lastly agrees and tells his story, beginning with how he and Ruan Wen had first met in Vancouver when each have been idealistic younger painters on the breadline and had then turn out to be lovers. Nevertheless, she went on to inventive success whereas he ended up working for grasp counterfeiter Wu Fusheng (Zhou Runfa) who had noticed his expertise for imitation. In 1996, Wu Fusheng, who claimed to return from an extended line of forgers who had by no means been caught, invited him to hitch his workforce – together with veteran Wu Xin (Liao Qizhi), organiser Lin Lihua (Solar Jiajun) and enforcer Bobby (Zhang Songzhi) – in a scheme to supply good copies of the brand new, “unforgeable” US$100 observe. The detailed technical work went easily sufficient, although when the gang hijacked a safety van carrying particular ink within the Vancouver countryside, Li Wen was appalled by the violence during which Wu Fusheng had embroiled him. The counterfeit notes have been bought to shoppers everywhere in the world, together with a druglord referred to as The Common (Gao Jie) within the Golden Triangle; Wu Fusheng used the chance to settle a rating with The Basic, who had had a hand in his father’s dying years earlier. Amid all of the mayhem and destruction, Li Wen rescued a badly burnt member of The Common’s workforce, Wu Xiuping (Feng Wenjuan), who was a specialist in counterfeiting; after lovingly overseeing her restoration, he later introduced her into Wu Fusheng’s workforce. Wu Fusheng, nevertheless, stored urging Li Wen, now he was a hit in his personal proper, to make contact once more with Ruan Wen, even if she was by now engaged to her agent. Round this time, He Weilan was working undercover with Chinese language Canadian detective Li Yongzhe (Wang Yaoping) to infiltrate the counterfeiting gang, and each had developed a liking for one another. Li Wen wraps up his testimony by claiming that it was throughout an important assembly in a Hong Kong lodge suite that Wu Fusheng not solely killed Li Yongzhe (who was posing as a purchaser) but in addition Ruan Wen’s fiance, resulting in a massacre from which solely he and Wu Xiuping escaped alive.
Project Gutenberg 无双 is a reasonably commonplace counterfeiting caper that depends rather a lot on its charismatic forged and a collection of Huge Twists. The second solo outing as a director by Hong Kong author Zhuang Wenqiang 庄文强 [Felix Chong] – extra typically teamed with Mai Zhaohui 麦兆辉 [Alan Mak]who simply takes an “artistic supervision” 艺术总监 credit score right here – it’s solidly rooted in Hong Kong crime pulp of the previous 40 years whereas making an attempt to persuade the viewer in any other case by some corkscrew plotting and magicianly sleight-of-hand. With a easily charismatic efficiency by veteran Zhou Runfa 周润发 [Chow Yun-fat] that shamelessly riffs on his iconic character in A Higher Tomorrow 英雄本色 (1986), and powerful help from gamers like Mainland actress Zhang Jingchu 张静初 and Hong Kongers Liao Qizhi 廖启智 [Liu Kai-chi] and Zhou Jiayi 周家怡, it’s an entertaining and typically gripping experience in its first half earlier than the twists take over. Regardless of a sometimes fussy efficiency by co-star Guo Fucheng 郭富城 [Aaron Kwok] that’s by no means convincing and doesn’t actually interact, the movie has loved a robust run on the Mainland, grabbing a hunky RMB1.27 billion throughout greater than a month.
Zhuang continues to be greatest recognized for his collaboration with Mai on the Infernal Affairs 无间道 (2002-03) and Overheard 窃听风云 (2009-14) trilogies. Amid all the approval for these films, nevertheless, it shouldn’t be forgotten that as a group the pair have had extra misfires than hits – keep in mind racer romp Preliminary D 头文字D (2005), buddy film Moonlight in Tokyo 情义我心知 (2005), crime dramas Confession of Ache 伤城 (2006) and Woman Cop & Papa Criminal 大搜查之女 (2008), plus interval spy drama The Silent Warfare 听风者 (2012)? – and that Zhuang’s earlier solo effort, the sunshine satire As soon as a Gangster 飞砂风中转 (2010), was decidedly hit-and-miss. He stays a film-maker who’s stronger on tips than characterisation and may’t actually break freed from what Hong Kong used to do greatest within the 1980s and early 1990s.
Because it units up an intriguing story that guarantees a lot – a frightened, fairly geeky painter-turned-forger (Guo) is extradited from a Thai jail to Hong Kong and persuaded, towards his will, to rat on his fearsome boss, recognized solely as The Painter – the primary hour holds the viewer because it launches into an enormous flashback that takes up a lot of the two-hour-plus operating time. The dramatic hook isn’t who The Painter is (the viewers is proven very early on that he’s performed by Zhou Runfa) however whether or not he’ll be caught and whether or not Guo’s character, Li Wen, is a dependable narrator. If not, why spend a lot time recalling the historical past of his character, who started as a wannabe painter in Vancouver through the late 1980s and was then recruited into The Painter’s gang for an formidable counterfeiting operation involving US$100 banknotes?
Zhuang’s script delights within the technical particulars of the operation – paper, engraving, inks and so forth – to some extent the place the viewer is successfully distracted from the bigger recreation being performed. Different distractions are additionally introduced into play: Li Wen’s infatuation with a fellow painter (Zhang) who went on to develop into a profitable artist, his personal place in life as an countless “supporting player”, his abhorrence of bodily violence that a “star player” like The Painter takes in his stride, and smaller particulars like different roles having the identical surname (Wu) as The Painter and different characters being actual painters. With its forgery plot, Zhuang evidently meant the movie to be about actuality vs fakery, and by extension fact vs fiction, and he commendably nudges the drama right into a world the place identities in addition to banknotes are cast. However because the calls for of the style regularly take over – a security-car hijacking with all weapons blazing, a Golden Triangle shootout with a lot of Hong Kong-style mayhem, a massacre in a lodge suite – character yields to pulp cliches and eventually, over the past half-hour, to an overload of Massive Twists.
To Zhuang’s credit score, a lot of the twists do the truth is make sense (given a big dose of suspended perception) however are extra to be admired for his or her cleverness than actually dramatic. There’s by no means that waah! feeling, of the bottom giving approach, that accompanies a character-based twist by which an viewers’s emotional funding is instantly betrayed. And because the surprises pile up (with an particularly low cost one on the finish) their effectiveness is diluted.
With a much less fussy actor than Guo, the impact might have been stronger however, as so typically, the hard-working Hong Kong star by no means actually engages the viewer nor establishes any actual chemistry together with his co-star. Zhou cruises alongside in full Massive Star mode, Zhang brings an appropriate thriller to her half, and Zhou Jiayi (the PR boss in Heaven within the Darkish 暗色天堂, 2016, however principally in TV) registers strongly because the investigation’s pushed, tomboyish inspector with an agenda of her personal. Taiwan veteran Gao Jie 高捷 [Jack Kao] telephones in a cameo as a Golden Triangle druglord and Mainland actress Feng Wenjuan 冯文娟, 29, who was so good because the sparky PA in rom-com Love Contractually 合约男女 (2017), is strong in a extra winsome position because the druglord’s counterfeiting specialist that recollects her small half in The Final Tycoon 大上海 (2012).
Technical credit, from the cool, bleached, widescreen pictures of d.p. Guan Zhiyao 关智耀 [Jason Kwan] and on-the-nose modifying by Peng Zhengxi 彭正熙 [Curran Pang]are prime drawer, and motion (by Li Zhongzhi 李忠志 [Nicky Li]) is strong sufficient aside from the quite untidily staged van hijack. The movie’s Chinese language title, which frequently crops up in these for heroic films, means “matchless” or “peerless”.
Introduced by Shanghai Bona Media (CN), Emperor Movement Footage (HK), Shanghai Alibaba Footage (CN), Huaxia Movie Distribution (CN), Bona Movie Group (CN), Bona Leisure (HK), Actually Joyful Movie (CN). Produced by Popcorn Films (HK).
Script: Zhuang Wenqiang [Felix Chong]. Images: Guan Zhiyao [Jason Kwan]. Modifying: Peng Zhengxi [Curran Pang]. Music: Dai Wei. Manufacturing design: Lin Ziqiao. Styling: Wen Nianzhong [Man Lim-chung]. Motion: Li Zhongzhi [Nicky Li]. Inventive supervision: Mai Zhaohui [Alan Mak].
Forged: Zhou Runfa [Chow Yun-fat] (Wu Fusheng/The Painter/Wu Zhihui), Guo Fucheng [Aaron Kwok] (Li Wen), Zhang Jingchu (Ruan Wen), Feng Wenjuan (Wu Xiuqing), Liao Qizhi [Liu Kai-chi] (Wu Xin), Zhou Jiayi (He Weilan, police inspector), Wang Yaoping (Li Yongzhe), Fang Zhongxin [Alex Fong Chung-sun] (He, deputy police commissioner), Gao Jie [Jack Kao] (The Common), Xing Jiadong (The Common’s sidekick), Solar Jiajun (Lin Lihua/Hua Nv), Zhang Songzhi (Wang Bo/Bobby), Zhang Jiansheng (Shen Sihai/Si Zai), Wu Jialong (Ruan Wen’s agent), Lin Jiahua (artwork vendor), Liang Jianping (police detective).
Launch: Hong Kong, four Oct 2018; China, 30 Sep 2018.