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Ev (2006)
Exiled


Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 02/16/2009
Summary: Excellent stuff

Ever since Milkyway Image rose to fame Johnnie To has made excellent movies, never slowed down and continues to contribute to the otherwise dying HK movie industry with innovative ways of movie-making: Movies such as A HERO NEVER DIES, THE MISSION and PTU proves this. With EXILED, To has once again done another movie that most current HK directors can't touch in terms of originality.

While To's choice of plot and themes has been done to death, the main attraction is rather HOW the movie progresses through To's specific style of storytelling. It's through the usage of cinematography, music, locations and most importantly the main actors, that makes the movie developing further rather than relying on too much dialog. To has done this several times but in the sense it's still quite original in execution and that's tells you something.

Overall, I'm highly satisfied with Johnnie To's accomplishment and couldn't have ask for more: the action, the character development, the music score, the cinematography, the locations... all done brilliantly.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/09/2008

Something of a cool mess "Exiled" is director Johnnie To's highly anticipated reunion with the principle cast (Ng, Wong, Cheung, Lam) from 1999's "The Mission." The net result is a bloated bag of poor decisions: "Exiled" mixes strong performances with pretentious passages of direction (not unlike To's own slightly superior "A Hero Never Dies"). The script is basically a giant homage to the western genre set in modern day Macau and is fun for a while but when To ultimately fails to do much with it you begin to wonder if supporting the industry on its shoulders has finally taken a toll on the scriptwriters at Milkyway Image.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: SimonYam.com
Date: 12/23/2007
Summary: Exiled

Overrated, redundant and meaningless.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 12/17/2007

In a different context the opening scenes of "Exiled" could be used without change as the basis for a satire of the look and feel of Johnnie To gangster movies. The quiet, almost somnolent gangsters and their studied, languid moves take up so much time and space on screen that one feels the desire to tell him "Get on with it". Having watched scenes with the same blunted emotional content, cinematic exactness, character types and even actors from Johnnie To in the past we feel he could, just this once, speed things up. He doesn't, but since we are also treated to gorgeous cinematography showing the sun drenched, whitewashed buildings of this tropical outpost, one of the last bits of the 18th century colonial world still existing in Asia it is well worth watching. To's gangsters are assembling at crossed purposes in a beautifully lit and shot anachronism.

The four men waiting in the street are caught in a tangle of competing loyalties to different bosses, gangs and factions within the gangs who are fighting each other for control as the Portuguese scramble to pile up as much portable wealth as they can to ship back to the edge of Europe on their last journey home. Having returned from someplace abroad, some safe place, Nick Cheung finds Anthony Wong is there to kill him while Frances Ng plans to keep him alive and Josie Ho his dutiful triad wife, watches things play out from a window above. Lam Suet and Roy Cheung are the indispensable and imperturbable assistants, each with single-minded allegiance to his boss, all the more complete because it is unspoken and taken as natural.

There are a few unmistakable parallels in “Exiled”, none more clear than the contrast between the four gangsters settling down for the night in Wo’s apartment after realizing that they are too evenly matched for anything to happen and when the same four bring Wo, now badly wounded, to the home of an illegal doctor. Neither the characters nor the audience knows that having four armed men bedded down in the living room will be the as close to secure that Wo and his family get. Nick Cheung lies in bed with his son while Josie Ho knocks back half a bottle of whiskey. She then attends to her guests, bringing them pillows and blankets so they can be comfortable and asking that they not slaughter the family. While this isn’t an obvious picture of domestic harmony, there is a clear connection between the two families—triad brothers in one room, wife and child in the other. There is a temporary truce between the two sets of gangsters, a time in which they not only help the Wo move his family’s belongings into the apartment but even repair the bullet damage that their armed stand-off had caused.

This is in stark and clear contrast to the scene in which the four now cooperating gangsters bring Wo to the home of an illegal doctor. The doctor lives alone and is having sex with a prostitute when they come to his door. Like Wo’s place the doctor’s apartment is all but unfurnished but in this case it is the way he lives, not just a temporary lack of furnishings. This is not really a home but one of the many way stations that a Macau gangster will pass during his career, a place that the doctor happens to occupy. The ravishing but muted colors on To’s palette during the exterior shots of Wo’s home are replaced by black, white and grey.

The four don’t respect the illegal doctor. They dump his new patient on the couch and ask how much to fix him up. When he tells them it will be $50,000 they respond by saying they will pay $30,000. He hesitates for a moment and then accepts the deal. However they have just a bit more than half the reduced fee, dropping the bills and forcing the doctor to scramble to pick them up. It is clear that when a group of armed men arrive at your home in the middle of the night that one’s specialized medical knowledge isn’t a strong bargaining point. This is really brought home when, during the operation—shown in extreme close up with all the clinical detail of a documentary on surgery for gunshot wounds—someone begins hammering on the door. It is Boss Fay and his cohort, fresh from the battle in which Wo was wounded and with a bullet wound of his own. The negotiations here are much quicker and simpler with Boss Fay (played with his oft used but always effective maniacal edge by Simon Yam) telling the doctor that he isn’t paying him anything and to stop working on the guy on the table and get going on him.

This must inevitably lead to a second confrontation between the Fay and Anthony Wong, who is unnamed and credited only as “Boss Fay’s killer”. Wong’s character had ceased working for Fay as a killer when he accepted, along with the rest of the group, a contract on his life, becoming a killer of instead of for Fay. The philosophical semantics of dual language credits aside, we next see why Johnnie To is so well respected among fans of urban action films. As the very close range gun fight explodes into action, first in the cramped space of the doctor’s surgery and then on its balconies and outside staircases, we see yet another perfectly staged set piece of barely organized violence. Very quick shots lit only by muzzle flashes are cut into scenes that show the chaotic intensity of men killing each other in extremely close quarters. These alternate with longer shots—both in duration and in distance of the camera from the action—of the four protagonists staging a perfectly executed retreat under fire, a Johnnie To trademark that he has used in “The Mission” and other movies. It is an extraordinary sequence, as obviously staged and created on a set as anything one will see on the screen but still enthralling. Johnnie To has captured us again.

Before the last shoot-out he tries to cram a bit too much into the time he has left—much like the unorganized cramming into the handy photo booth by the four comrades in arms, an unnecessary and distracting interruption into the ultraviolent, bloody and fated from the beginning coda. He shows off a bit too much here by using “Red Bull time”-- between the instant that a can of the energy drink is thrown into the air and the moment it hits the ground (while doing a lot of slow spinning) all of the gunmen on both sides have been shot dead.

Recommended

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 11/21/2007
Summary: more ROOT2 than Mission

The film is a triumph of production design and art direction, a visual and aural buffet for film fanatics to savor. Beyond that, Exiled is a fairly frivolous exercise. In the context of Johnnie To Kei-Fung's body of work, this film has less to do with The Mission [1999] than it does with Running Out of Time 2 [2001], and that is not a bad thing. Law Wing-Cheong has his fingerprints all over this movie.

[In deutscher Sprache] Der film ist ein triumph der produktion in richtung design und kunst, eine visuelle und akustische buffet für film fanatiker zu genießen. Darüber hinaus werden, Exiled ist ein ziemlich leichtsinnig werden. Im Rahmen der Johnnie To Kei - Fung stelle in der arbeit, dieser film hat weniger zu tun mit The Mission [1999], als dies mit Running Out von Time 2 [2001], und das ist nicht eine schlechte Sache halten. Law Wing-Cheong hat seine fingerabdrücke aller über diesen film.

[En español] La película es un triunfo de diseño de producción y dirección de arte, una gráfica y fonética buffet para los fanáticos de la película saborear. Más allá de eso, exiliados es un ejercicio bastante frívolo. En el contexto de Johnnie To Kei-Fung el cuerpo de trabajo, esta película tiene menos que ver con "La Misión" [1999] de lo que hace con "La Carrera de salida de Time 2" [2001], y que no es una mala cosa. Law Wing-Cheong tiene sus huellas digitales en toda esta película.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 10/28/2007
Summary: Truly excellent

A group of Triad hitmen arrive at the home of Wo (Nick Cheung) in Macau, assigned to kill him. After a brief firefight, they sit down to talk things over. It transpires that Wo knows his would-be killers very well – he was part of their gang and grew up with them. Blaze (Anthony Wong), Cat (Roy Cheung), Fat (Lam Suet) and Tai (Francis Ng) eventually disregard their orders, much to the annoyance of Boss Fay (Simon Yam), who ordered the hit.

EXILED burst onto the screens in 2006, and was the perfect antidote to the growing trend of style-over-substance, CGI-heavy Hong Kong movies. What’s more, there are no giggling/pouting pretty boy/girl pop stars here. Instead, we have a wealth of acting talent headed by the wonderful Anthony Wong, who just seems to get more miserable-looking as he gets older – in this, you’d think the man had never smiled in his life!

It throws the viewer in at the deep end right from the start. One minute Blaze and company are shooting at Wo and the next minute Wo’s cooking them all a meal - during which Blaze finds a stray bullet in his tea, leading to much laughter amongst the gang. But the film drips information on a regular basis and pretty soon you know what’s going on as long as you’re prepared to join the dots occasionally.

It quickly becomes apparent that Boss Fay (Simon Yam in his default mode) is the real villain of the piece, and the only character without any redeeming features. After a particularly exciting gunfight with Fay, Blaze’s life is saved by Wo, but the latter is injured and has to go to an “underground clinic” – a surgery run by a quack but the only place a Triad member can be treated without having to answer some serious questions. This leads to an unfortunate meeting that you should see coming but don’t, in a scene that starts off pretty humorously and ends in more gunplay and a shocking conclusion.

Johnny To nods to the spaghetti western at various times and there’s even a scene that’s reminiscent of Leone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, but it’s film noir that he seems to be mainly aiming for. Later in the film we have some outdoor scenes filmed in a very unusual, almost surreal, way. It’s here that we encounter Chan (Richie Ren), the sharpshooting cop guarding a cache of gold, and the film works itself up to the finale.

The whole package is wonderful – the story, the characters, the action, everything. It also has a great soundtrack that matches the tone of the film perfectly. The only fly in the ointment is some horribly invasive product placement and a pretty pointless appearance by ineffective cop Shan (Hui Siu-Hung) who is literally counting the hours until his retirement. But these are small criticisms compared to the engrossing and uplifting experience of watching a film that bucks the trend of Hong Kong films and delivers something essential. It’s probably not a coincidence that the film is set in the 90s, and stylistically feels from that period. It does have a couple of CGI shots, but on the whole seems very organic and natural and very much like the way Hong Kong films used to be made before the digital age. The setting of the very European-looking Macau over Hong Kong is also a great choice, and some of the locations are brilliantly atmospheric.

EXILED is an essential viewing experience and a must-see for even the most casual fan of the genre.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 07/06/2007
Summary: Johnnie To Tries Showing Off A Little Too Much

I agree to a large extent with the previous reviews. Nobody plays a group of gangsters like these guys; Francis Ng is God; the film has style spilling off the screen; it’s refreshing not so see CGI and teenybopper stars; and it’s got a decent plot. I have to give it an "8" based on all that. But I think maybe those who see this movie as the second coming of John Woo reflect how badly they’re jonesing for Mr. Woo more than how good this movie actually is.

Here are my reasons for not rating it higher than 8. Possible mild spoilers, but I think you’re probably ok.

I think “Exiled” is to “Infernal Affairs” what “House of Flying Daggers” is to “Crouching Tiger.”
“Exiled” is a neo-classic gangster movie like "House of Flying Daggers" is a neo-classic sword film. They both try to take the genre out further but don't really know how to, they both have tons of style, they both have climactic fight scenes that are both riveting and compromised (see below for “Exiled”, the sudden re-birth of Zhang ZiYi for HOFD), neither is as good as the original neo-classics ("Crouching Tiger" and "Infernal Affairs") each of which came out four years before their counterpart, and both contain scenes that verge on parody (e.g., the running through the bamboo forest in HOFD, the shootout scene where To crowds what seems like dozens of gangsters all within arms reach shooting at each other, while the can of Product Placement flies into the air). And both, while flawed, are really good movies.

But how can “Exiled” be compared to “A Better Tomorrow”, for instance? Can you imagine John Woo having Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, and Ti Lung in the climatic scene to suddenly run in and out of a photobooth like a bunch of high school kids drunk on candy-flavored wine? Think of CYF with the toothpick and grin, lighting the cigarette with the fake Benjamin; now he’s on the dock running in and out of a photobooth with the others. It just jars. How can To make fools of his characters like this?

And when he has the fantastic four come into the hotel laughing and joking about “where’s the ambush?”. These two scenes destroyed the cool characters he’d built up over the course of the film. Whatever he was going for, whether it was just to throw some levity in to clear our palettes for the big gun battle or some other reason, it was excessive and just didn’t work for me.

One more case of character assassination and then I’ll stop. Anthony Wong is the super cool leader who’s always a couple moves ahead of his opponents; this is why the other three follow him. Suddenly, two-thirds of the way through, he can’t come up with a plan but has to rely on flipping a coin to make all his decisions. For gosh sake, when presented with a golden opportunity to make a minimum of $20 million US apiece – at a time when they have no money and need to get out of the country and hole up indefinitely – he takes out the dang coin again! Oh I know, it’s supposed to show how cool they are, they just let fate lead them, don’t really care about money. Sorry, that’s a no sale. You can’t take a character like Anthony Wong’s through a movie and two-thirds and suddenly change him from cool-headed thinker, complex planner, into a “duh, I don’t know what we should do, let’s just flip a coin” dope. Like I say, it’s character assassination and I resent Johnnie To for pulling the trigger.

Enough ranting. It’s a good movie, you should see it, you’ll enjoy it. It’s just three scenes two many to be called Great.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 07/02/2007
Summary: Return to Greatness

The fabled Hong Kong action film has been in a steady decline as of late. sure there are a few entires to the genre being made but they fall stale compared to the brilliance seen in the 90's by the likes of John Woo, Ringo Lam and others. Leave it to Johnnie To to remind us how great those films can be.

Exiled is a fun-filled, electric visual experience. Truly one of the best films I've seen as of late. The story worked. It was complex in its simplicity. With more than a couple "Oh $#!}" scenes throughout along with some genuinely funny interaction between the characters. The films pace is fast but not erratic. just a very fine job by Mr.To.

Simon Yam, who can be hit or miss much of the time is on his "A" game here. turning in a very good performance. Anthony Wong, while good is over-shadowed by Francis Ng and Nick Cheung also having captivating on screen presence here. Again I have to credit the director for this as well.

If you're looking to recapture the old "Heroic Bloodshed" movies feeling of the 90s. look no further than this film.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 05/02/2007
Summary: The greatest door slamming scene in movie history?

What a wonderfully energetic film. The slamming of the hotel door by Francis Ng evoked sounds of cheering from the crowd of filmgoers, as they sense only one possible outcome of this slamming--that their much anticipated final gunplay sequence about to be unveiled before their eyes. With its stylish showcase of triad gunplay, EXILED is a bit more in-your-face than the minimalist THE MISSION. Still, the film has its share of engrossing stillness, such as the amusing coin flipping scenes, which will be remembered as much as the extravagant action choreography.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 04/27/2007

These past few years have been lean times for many Hong Kong movie fans weaned on the seminal "heroic bloodshed" films of the 1980's like A Better Tomorrow. With shrinking budgets and incresingly fickle local audiences, HK film-makers have, for the most part, been playing it safe with romantic comedies and CGI-infested swordsplay "epics".

But there has been one consistent director who has stuck to his guns -- Johnnie To. Sure, in his other guise as a producer he's had a hand in such fluff as Love on a Diet. But as a director, one can always count on To's films to give you the quirky, thoughtful, funny, and violent experiences that only pictures from Hong Kong can truly deliver. And Exiled is his finest work ever.

That is high praise indeed, since To has created several undeniable classics in the genre, most notably 1999's The Mission. In many ways, Exiled parallels that movie. But don't think this is a Wong Jing-esque vulturing of one's own work. Exiled shines completely on its' own, and stands head and shoulders above any other movie -- from anywhere in the world -- released in 2006.

I'm not going to get into the plot details here, since one of the joys of Exiled is seeing how the movie develops. Sure, it's not the most original story in the world, and there are a couple of fairly obvious plot twists. But To lets the film develop so organically that things never seem forced on the viewer, which is so refeshing in this time, when far too many film-makers seem insistent to jamming scenes that just scream "plot twist" down viewers' throats.

Exiled also showcases To's masterful use of mise-en-scene. Every part of every shot, down to the smallest detail, seems necessary. Forgoing the bloated nature of many recent Hong Kong films, To creates a lean look and feel to the film that is still gorgeous, thanks to stunning cinematography, crisp editing, and a soaring soundtrack.

But quite possibly, the greatest part of Exiled -- as you might expect from To's previous films -- is the acting. What the hell did Johnnie To put in Anthony Wong's kool-aid to bring out his performance? Whatever To did, it worked wonders not only with the notoriously fickle Wong, but every single actor on the set.

Simon Yam is outstanding as the film's villain, Francis Ng become the epitome of "bad-ass", and even Nick Cheung manages to turn in second good performance within a year. One is only left to wonder what To could have done with his former mainstay Lau Ching-Wan, who has seemingly left the realm of crime dramas for more audience-friendly work.

At any rate, simply put, Exiled is a movie that you must see if you consider yourself a fan of Hong Kong films. The industry might be for most intents and purposes be on life-support these days, but as long as HK film-makers can keep creating pictures of this caliber, it will keep kicking.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/28/2007
Summary: what is your dying wish...

wo (nick cheung), his wife jin (josie ho) and their newborn son have returned to macau. a return that prompts the visit of four old friends; blaze (anthony wong), tai (francis ng), cat (roy cheung) and rat (lam suet). it's not your average reunion, though: blaze and rat have been sent by their boss, fay (simon yam), to kill wo. luckily, tai and cat have come to protect him...

i'll not say much about 'exiled', but i will say it's the kind of film you thought hong kong had stopped making. johnnie to focusses on his aimiable bunch of triads, as their loyalties, honour and friendships are put to the test, in a way that john woo might once have done, with bullets flying just as balletically. to blends the action, drama and humour together effortlessly, the cast are universally excellent and macau never looked so good.

just go and watch it.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/04/2007
Summary: 2nd best HK film of 2006?

A group of old friends cross paths under less than ideal circumstances - one of their number has a hit placed on him by their former boss, and two of them are there to carry it out - the other two to stop it.

EXILED is a sort of spiritual sequel to Johnnie To's masterpiece THE MISSION - most of the core cast return, playing similar roles, in a story that could be thought of as an alternate-universe sequel, or a riff on a theme, or something like that. The setting moves to Macau, and the cinematography and soundtrack move with it, but the films share connections on a less tangible level. A little bit of A HERO NEVER DIES might have gotten mixed in there too.

In short, EXILED is a gangster film that remembers just how freaking cool a group of guys with guns can be when they're played by great actors, and directed by a visual stylist who trusts those actors (and the audience) to tell his story without needing to cosh us over the head with expository dialogue, foreshadowing and all those tricks that less talented writers and directors think will make them look like they know what they're doing.

I've been a bit disappointed by the last few Johnnie To films - i.e. the ELECTIONs - and thought his late 90's heyday was definitely passed. EXILED is the closest film to the pre-NEEDING YOU Milkyway Image that he's produced this millenium, and the To film I've enjoyed the most since RUNNING ON KARMA. It's great to see the stellar cast given chance to do their thing again - especially Francis Ng, who seems to have been on vacation from gangster movies for a few years (after once being ubiquitous in them). Nobody else does it like him. It's worth mentioning once again that Nick Cheung has completely transformed since his early-ish days, into somebody I actually look forward to seeing now. EXILED is possibly his best role yet. Josie Ho usually takes interesting roles and does them well, and that's definitely the case here too.

THE MISSION had a really unique, innovative approach to gunplay. EXILED's gunplay has a somewhat similar style, though not quite as 'pure' - there's more motion, and some of the scenes get quite chaotic. Perhaps it could be considered an evolution of the style, though it's an evolution that takes it more towards other HK gunplay. That's not necessarily a fault - the shootouts in EXILED are exceptionally good (glad to see To hasn't succumbed to the CG squib yet!).

Maybe comparing EXILED to THE MISSION is a distraction, since it's not really a sequel, but it's hard for me not to compare it to one of my top 10 HK films. Happily, EXILED does not disappoint even with the burden of expectation that such a comparison brings. Johnnie To's best in years, and I think the 2nd best HK film of 2006 (FEARLESS still wins).

Recommended!

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: steve_cole1
Date: 01/14/2007
Summary: Johnnie To does Sergio Leone

Johnnie To does an Eastern Western set in Macao the action scenes are great and are very simular to the John Woo of old like the last scene is simular to ABT2 minus loads of grenades. The music is the second best non canto pop soundtrack behind Infernal Affairs that i have heard in a HK film and it is good to see them using their own music not like in the 80s like in young master where they stole music from Holsts the planets pity there is no soundtrack you can buy.
All actors are great especially Francis Ng and it is good that they put no teeny bopper who cant act arron kwok jay chou e.t.c to ruin it.
On the whole my favourite HK film of the year

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 11/04/2006
Summary: Movie of the year for 2006

This is quite a different movie from "THE MISSION"
THE MISSION had what i called slow action, this is a lot more fast paced action.

The basic plot is Anthony Wong and Lam Suet are ordered by Simon Yam to kill Nick Cheung, for a past failed attempt on the triad bosses life but Francis Ng and Roy Cheung are there to stop them. One thing leads to another and you find out that they all (all 5) were friends when they were younger. (Which makes it a little strange when you see them meet for the first time in THE MISSION) and the deal is Nick Cheung gets one shot to earn big bucks for his family before he goes toe to toe with Anthony Wong. Things dont turn out that great, one disaster leads to some hope, which leads to another disaster and the cycle repeats itself.

This movie, like THE MISSION has a lot of style and substance, are
and you drawn into there world from the first scene.
The use of music definately works well here providing the right atmosphere!!
All the actors are brillant, Francis Ng would be the stand out but only by just to the others. Richie Ren small role was a delightful suprise.

There are not many bad things you can say about this movie, the ending, is it predictable? Did it end the right way? I am still not sure whether i am satisfied with the ending but apart from this there is no other flaws that i can identify.

A worthy sequel to THE MISSION, though THE MISSION is slighty better but its own unique way

Reviewer Score: 10