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再見阿郎 (1999)
Where a Good Man Goes


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 09/27/2010

Lau Ching-Wan is Michael a psychopath just released from prison. Whenever he confronts something he doesn't understand, his plans are thwarted or he just feels bad he reacts by punching someone or breaking something. He is a thoroughly repulsive person who would improve the world by leaving it. But since this movie takes place in To-land, that slightly twisted part of the Hong Kong or Macau real estate (and psyche) that is populated by characters created by Johnny To he not only lives to the end of the movie but has a Damascus Road conversion from a vicious criminal to a Gandhi-like adherent of non-violence.

Johnny To tries to create a universe in which Michael, while bad, is the victim of someone even worse--a corrupt police sergeant played with leering loathsomeness by Lam Suet, a role he is very comfortable with. Ruby Wong is perfect as the ruefully sexy widow who owns a bankrupt inn and who puts up with too much from Michael.

We are taken to a lot of familiar places in To-land: Triad meetings late at night in closed restaurants; the backrooms of karaoke clubs full of mainland hookers; deserted, neon-drenched streets. It begins when Michael is thrown out of a cab in front of the International Inn and he staggers inside after an affray with the cab driver and two of his fellow drivers. If the driver had put up with Michael's antics for another minute or had tired of them a minute before he never would have met Ruby Wong's character but in this existentially absurd world that turns on chance and happenstance, there he is.

During the first couple of hours of his stay Michael smashes a phone when he can't reach a number--Macau had changed the phone numbering system while he was in prison--wakes up half the residents on his floor looking for cigarettes, insists on being served a meal (the inn has no restaurant), insults the innkeeper and leaves a trail of bloody tissues behind him wherever he goes. Things get steadily worse from there. The next day he tries to convince the Inn's only employee, a hard working young woman from Szechuan province that she should improve her life by quitting and working as a whore.

He is framed, publicly humiliated and arrested by the crooked cop. Ruby Wong's innkeeper goes to the jail with his clothes--Michael's humiliation included being paraded in front of a crowd in hand cuffs and leg irons, clad only in his jockey shorts--one hopes he sent a prayer thanking his mother for making him always wear clean underwear when he was young. She is the alibi witness for the crime that he is accused of and refuses to change her story even when the cops threaten her. This bad guy has, as they often do in movies, fallen into the hands of a very righteous woman.

Which doesn't change his behavior in the least. The next day he all but kidnaps her son--grabs the boy and runs to the hotel's van, refusing to release him and almost running over Ruby's character when she jumps in front of the vehicle. She manages to get into it and they drive off with Michael telling her how terrible a mother she is. Things calm down enough for Michael to take them on a tour of some of his old haunts including walking past a prison that was his last home, pointing out the walls he had painted while incarcerated.

Michael is truly a bad person. Even though he now spends his free time patching the roof of the inn and doing other necessary jobs he is still a maniacal brute whose mere presence is dangerous which, if we weren't convinced already, is made clear when his sexual assault of the innkeeper is stopped just short of rape when her son bangs on the door. If given a choice between him and the corrupt cop the cop would win every time since with him one would know how he would act. While he would be an evil person at least he would be predictable--one could understand and foresee his depravity. So the movie doesn't really work as a story of how a flawed man experiences contrition, conversion and redemption because of a good woman.

Lau Ching-Wan is at his demented best here making it impossible to empathize with him as a felon who has served his sentence. All his problems--other his uncontrollable rage and deeply held beliefs that everything that happens to him is the fault of someone else--involve money that he has left with crooks or with people that have reason to hate him. The underlings in his old gang don't have the million dollars he left with them and the two million that his girlfriend was holding is long gone. We find out that the girlfriend was with him for five years before his last stretch in prison and that he beat her up regularly so only Michael is surprised when she has spent the money to buy a currency exchange and gotten married while he was locked up. The gang members are venal thugs who found they could function without Michael and no longer fear him.

As mentioned, Lau Ching-Wan is terrific in this role, completely credible as a psycho who rules those around him through fear. Ruby Wong is just as good although her performance is a bit muted--which is typical for this artist and most likely part of the artistic tools she brings to a role. Her character would need untold reserves of heart as a widow trying to raise a son and run a faltering hotel almost without help, beset with unsympathetic bankers and surrounded by corrupt cops. Once Michael is dumped into the life she would need the four virtues of the Buddha to carry on so a sense of reserve, of energy deferred, makes sense.


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 05/27/2010

Where a Good Man Goes doesn't really deviate too much (if at all) from Johnnie To and the Milkyway production company's usual gangster movie playbook. But when you have an excellent performance from Lau Ching-Wan anchoring your picture, perhaps there's really no need to break the mold.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 07/04/2009
Summary: Different in style but maintains greatness

I find it strange (although it's officially a known fact that Johnnie To can produce quite an amount of movies simultaneously) that something like this could be made in a short time of period, at the time when both THE MISSION and RUNNING OUT OF TIME were being shot back-to-back at the same time(!), and the fact that the movie doesn't match the style and approach of Johnnie To's other movies made during the time when he found his game. Moreover, it doesn't feature most of the certain production traits (I could be wrong) usually seen in his movies but everything is done to make it look like an ordinary production with straight plot, acting, message and so on (I might exaggerate here because it's nothing like that either).

Nevertheless, WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES is really good stuff that relies mainly on the story and its' characters and how they make progression and eventually develop from there, and little of To's typical film language techs used (except for cinematography and music) for stylistic enhancement and dramatization of the scenes and mood. The best thing overall would be the cast which is pure greatness; from impulsive and almost careless Sean Lau (who does a great job of making you hate, forgive, pitying and eventually like him), innocent and struggling Ruby Wong, corrupt and disobedient Lam Suet, by-the-books Raymond Wong, Law Wing Cheong, Ai Wai, and Wayne Lai all play and color their roles at their utmost.

The overall result is highly satisfying but beware! WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES is mainly a drama with emphases on the actors, the story and the characters. For those looking for a slick, stylistic, and visually pleasing Johnnie To movie, look elsewhere.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 07/03/2007
Summary: Cooda Ben A Contenda

A strong performance by Lau Ching-Wan is wasted because someone got lazy with the writing. The premise of the story is not new. Guy gets out of prison with no money or skills plus a huge chip on his shoulder, tries to do what he thinks is right, but society is out to get him. Society is played here by one police officer (Lam Suet)and the entire taxi fleet of Macau. Is it a case of once-a-triad-always-a-triad with society forcing Michael to maintain his role, or will the love of a good woman give him the push he needs to turn his life around?

With a solid performance by LCW and Johnnie To directing, you'd guess this would be really good. Unfortunately, the writing's weak in that it's difficult to sympathise with Michael, as he's essentially an angry, violent SOB. His enemies are one dimensional and, at least initially, more sympathetic than Michael. And one of the main reasons Michael becomes more sympathetic is simply because the taxi drivers and cops are exaggeratedly evil. E.g., the scene where Ruby's character has to go to the hospital, and the scene at the school yard with the drivers and Lam Suet's cop. They just lacked credibility.

If they could have made the characters more realistic I would have enjoyed it more. Still, it's not a bad movie. It's just a little frustrating because with a little more time on the script it could have been a classic.

I'm giving it a 7 because of the three leads and the look of it.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 10/16/2006
Summary: a remarkable ensemble piece

[1999 was a good year.] A few months before he released his internationally acclaimed film The Mission, director Johnnie To made a small film that, for me, stands as a better movie than many of his subsequent works. Working with executive director Patrick Yau Tat-Chi and assistant director Law Wing-Cheong, To keeps to a straight narrative form to tell his story.

Where A Good Man Goes is a remarkable ensemble piece of filmmaking that features a great cast performing a well written, character driven screenplay. Lau Ching-Wan gives one of his finest performances alongside a remarkable performance from Ruby Wong Cheuk-Ling. Veteran cinematographer Cheng Siu-Keung makes the whole film look fantastic.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: the best of to...

well, after having seen 'the longest nite' and 'expect the unexpected', my expectations had been lowered; this, however, was refreshingly good.

the film tells of michael; a triad big brother who's just been released from prison in macau, his abrasive personality and reputation causes him problems from the off. his growing relationship with the woman, and her son, who own the inn he is staying in lead him slowly anlong the difficult road to living a normal life.

the best characterisation, narrative and performances that i've seen in a to film. good stuff.


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/06/2003
Summary: Hmmmmm....a bit strange

2/5


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/04/2002
Summary: Under-rated and misunderstood

The Milkyway movie that nobody seems to talk about. I'd always resisted picking this up because people never seemed to say anything very positive about it - it was certainly never listed in the same company as A HERO NEVER DIES & RUNNING OUT OF TIME for instance - and I didn't want to be disappointed. But I figured that a bad Milkway movie is still better than most, and it couldn't be any worse than Running Out Of Time 2 or Fulltime Killer.

The reason it never gets mentioned with Milkyway's classic action deconstruction type movies is because it's not really that type of movie at all (sounds obvious I guess, but a lot of people seem to have missed this fact and hence missed its charms). It's quite a modest, simple yet cosy movie. It's another one of Milkyway's ironic English titles - the opening scenes that show Lau Ching Wan's character just out of prison show that he's anything but a good man. Completely unreformed by the system, he goes around beating up or smashing up virtually everything that crosses his path. The exception to this is Ruby Wong, who's hotel he ends up staying in. He's just really rude to her.

Lau's first mission when out of prison is to try and track down those who owe him money - unsurprisingly none of them pay up, but he does get himself a follower or two and starts getting into his old triad ways. Cop Lam Suet seems to have a major grudge against him, for unspecified reasons, and tries to get in his way. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, widow Ruby Wong and her young son perhaps show Lau Ching Wan another side of life, another way to live it. Can she find a good man inside him somewhere?

WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES effectively only has two characters (Well, 2.5 I guess - Lam Suet's role is more than just background), so much of the movie depends on their development and the performances behind them. Lau Ching Wan and Ruby Wong do a fine job with a decent script, making the characters more or less believable. Lau Ching Wan in particular seems to have fun tearing up the scenery, the thought process in his head from "something I don't like is happening" to "smash things" is wonderful for the second that it usually takes to make the leap. Ruby gives her character a certain tired sadness and gravity that is appropriate, but breaks into rage or despair when needed too.

The script has a number of glaring holes that are perhaps best filled with the phrase "genre convention" - probably knowingly. It wouldn't be much of a movie if Ching Wan & Ruby didn't develop feelings for each other, but no particular reason is given for it other than proximity (which I believe to be largely true to life as it happens). Lam Suet's cop seems to feel that Ching Wan is the only Triad in the whole of Hong Kong - a little background cliche like LCW having killed his family would have helped). I think that Wai Ka Fai was quite happy to take the bones of convention and build his characters and scenes around them in a reasonably fresh way. He doesn't tip the conventions on their heads the way he does in scripts such as A HERO NEVER DIES, but he doesn't let them get in the way too much.

Ultimately it's true that it's not a movie with as much style or invention as the 'classic' Milkyways, but it's a movie with a lot more character and depth, and basic narrative sense, than the duo's most recent efforts in that direction. Here's hoping they get back to making movies like this :)

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 02/06/2002
Summary: To's Overlooked Masterpiece

Since 1999, when Johnnie To's "Where a Good Man Goes" was released, To has put out a bunch of successful comedies that include "Needing You" and "Love on a Diet." Many of his gritty, triad-genre based films like "The Longest Nite" and "The Mission" were box office flops. Audiences flocked to the mediocre comedies while leaving the dramas in the dust.

"Where a Good Man Goes" is To's last solid piece of filmmaking. Nothing that he's put out in the last three years comes close to this film in terms of content, acting, script and production values. "Where a Good Man Goes" is the story of Lau Ching Wan as an ex-con/ex-triad member, attempting to go straight and falls for inn keeper/owner, Ruby Wong. Their fate is intertwined as the people surrounding the couple force them down a spiral of misfortune.

Released during Macau's handover back to China, Lau personifies the transition. He's an ex-con whose only skill is that he speaks Portuguese, which is no longer a desired talent in Macau. Lam Suet, as the hardnosed cop, gives Lau a hard time. Lau and Wong struggle to find themselves amid the chaos. The acting is on the mark by Lau and Wong, and especially by Lam Suet, who does an outstanding job as the nasty cop.

Since "Where a Good Man Goes" is a drama more so than an action film, many were taken aback by its lack of guns and knives type of violence (although the scene where Lau has three bottles broken over his head is amazing in its own way). And, by doing so, they failed to appreciate the nuanced characters and their quirks, portrayed so well by each and every member of the cast. This film gets better with repeated viewing, something I can't say for To's recent spate of movies. While I personally enjoy To's critically successful films more, the financial considerations with his lowest common denominator films have taken hold at the moment. At least with video and DVDs in particular, I can revisit To's last overlooked masterpiece.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Good but not great Milkyway film starring Lau Ching Wan and Ruby Wong. LCW plays a triad just released from prison who ends up staying at a hotel run by Ruby. An unspoken bond develops between them, and he is torn between the violent world he comes from and the warmth and peacefulness she represents.
The film is more a character study than a Milkyway actioner, but quite satisfying.
Recommended.


Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 09/24/2000
Summary: Difficult to define, but good...

It's difficult for me to write a particularly meaningful review of this movie; there aren't any parts that knock me off my feet, but I can't think of much to criticize, either. Basically, it's a good-looking and thoroughly watchable drama with a bit of humor and good performances from Lau and Wong. Lam Suet gets what may have been his biggest role at the time the film was made, and does a good job with it. I recommend the movie, but not to someone who, based on the Milkyway mark and the fact that Lau plays a triad, is expecting a violent gangster movie. If you're willing to accept that it's not going be a typical Milkyway crime movie, you'll find that it's more than the sum of its parts, and there are a number of wonderful parts. While it doesn't live up to the films that preceded it and would follow, it's widely considered a lesser film mainly because it was made in the middle of what must be one of the most consistently impressive producing/directing streaks in the history of film. It deserves watching.


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/17/2000
Summary: I agree with MilesC

Like MilesC, there isn't much to hate about this movie, but whats there to like?

I bought this Vcd because i thought this was going to be a good movie (well thats what other reviewers gave me the impression) and............it was ok!!

I am really lost to give this a score.
The ending is suprising happy and the IIB rating, i don't see at all!! It doesn't have much violence in it!!

All the performances in this movie are great. They all play there parts really well.

Well don't have high expectations for this movie and you will enjoy this movie. I will give this movie, though i am not sure if i should or not since rating this film is really hard, but it gets:

7/10

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: morgold
Date: 04/20/2000
Summary: Disappointment beyond belief

I had been looking forward to this film, having really enjoyed (most of) To's previous 'A Hero Never Dies.' But I can honestly say I hate "Where a Good Man Goes" more thoroughly than any film in recent memory.

I was not prepared to hate it, and technically the film is one of the best HK productions of the last 2 years. The cinematography, though not in 2:35 like "Hero", is equally stylish, and the art direction is superb, with careful attention paid even to details like wallpaper and furniture. But there is nothing here--the story of an ex-con recently out from jail, the cop who tails him, and the woman whose inn he haunts is so bereft of any meaning whatsoever that I literally had to force myself to stay seated, just so I could make the humble claim that I had watched this film to the end.

A lot of people, I am sure, will like this film simply because it was directed by To, and while I have been a fan of his I think this is the worst film of his career bar-none (yes, including "Happy Ghost 3," which at least was unpretentious).

This is Milkyway at its most self-indulgent. Lau Ching Wan's character is barely that; sometimes he explodes into anger, sometimes he doesn't say much, and after watching him for 90 minutes I still have no idea what his character is thinking.

This, actually, is the film's very idea of 'style'--create maddeningly ambiguous characters who fail to communicate with each other in any meaningful way, and then pass off that non-communication as something profound, something enigmatic, something existential merely because it is uneventful. And then, when you funnel that non-communication through the trappings of the triad genre (though the film, surprsingly, is not violent), you wind up with a self-referentially hip post-genre item. Well, I hate to have to break this to you, but uneventfulness constitutes neither meaning nor entertainment.

To fills the movie with surface details and rituals--the inn-keeper maternally cleans up Lau's room every day, Lau paints a watch on his wrist for no reason that I can figure out other than that it seems like a cute gesture in some vaguely French new-wave way. But a surfeit of surfaces and macho posturing in no way make me understand what the point of this film is supposed to be.

I could go on, but I won't. Luckily, To's next film "Running out of Time" was a big step up in entertainment value, although even that film doesn't seem to be about anything terribly important. If only To would just sit down with a real script instead of using his Milkyway banner as the vehicle to define the "new" HK style as something graceful, generically studied, yet totally pointless.


Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 11/21/1999
Summary: Where a Good Man Goes (1999)

This year Jonnie TO Kei-fung is selected as the Director-in-Focus of the Hong Kong International Film Festival while his latest direction 'Where a Good Man Goes' is selected as the opening movie. In view of this, the opening movie tag should be the main attraction from audience.

In view of the fact that it's Milkyway production and with the cooperation of Jonnie TO Kei-fung, Patrick YAU Tat-chi and WAI Ka-fai, like 'The Longest Nite' (1998), this time 'Where a Good Man Goes' starts its story in Macau. Ruby WONG is the boss of a motal called 'International Motel', which supposed to be the cheapest place to stay in Macau. CHEUNG Dong-long (LAU Ching-wan), a Triad head who has been released from prison, stayed in 'Internation Motel' subsequently he has the quarrels with a taxi driver followed by tons of flighting. Then Ruby is warned that the stay of CHEUNG will be bad for her and the motel. On the other hand, CHEUNG is trying to get back his money from his friends including the boss of the nightclub (AI Wai) as well as his ex-girl (TSANG Siu-yin). Together with the pressure from the cop who wishes to trap CHEUNG into the jail again.

Usually Milkyway productions are productions with its background meaning of the future of a city while their point of view the most pessmisstic ones out of the directors in Hong Kong. This time they selected Macau as the main place for the story may be due to its handover to the PRC this December. Once again, this is a movie about a group of guys who are without future. Ruby WONG is a boss of a motel which has been under financial problems and she was at the crisis of broken. CHEUNG Dong-long, a triad head, has to face his days after prison which he has no money and no power upon the triads again. In addition, CHEUNG is the target of the cop who wants to trap him.

In terms of the style and presentation, it seems that 'Where a Good Man Goes' is a bit simple as it describes only LAU Ching-wan and Ruby WONG. Maybe they would like ot focus on the main characters. The trade off is that it's not fruitful enough to meet audience expectation who expects a movie with more stuffs for guys.

However, in terms of sentmential presentations, Jonnie TO has done a good job in it. One of the examples is the beinning of the movie to see how LAU and WONG get along with each other. The plot successfully describes the characters of LAU who is a bad-tempered guy but has his good heart inside. However, as a normal audience, I expect a rough description about CHEUNG Dong-long's past and how he was in jail. This may not be the focus of the movie but this can make the character more complete. For Ruby WONG, I consider it's also good in describing Ruby as a lady who has lost her wife for years and she tried to supress her feelings while her feeling is being opened by CHEUNG.

When comapred with previous Milkyway productions, I am afraid that it seems a bit pale as it does not have a strong style of Milkyway productions.

In short, 'Where a Good Man Goes' is a movie with style like Milkyway productions but less in depth. Performers has done their good job. The plot can describes the main characters but not fruitful enough to be impressive.