How can a film with such sledgehammer direction be so good?
Reviewer Score: 10
If ever I were to pick my top ten fave HK films, this would definitely be in it. Why ? Director Lau controls proceedings with a steel-grip. He drags the audience by the scruff of the neck, making it perfectly plain at every moment what you, the audience, should think and feel. He shamelessly presses every emotional hot-button imaginable. The result is a heart-in-the-mouth rollercoaster, an in-ya-face hyper-operatic romance which is completely irresistable. Keep a box of tissues handy, even if you fancy yourself a hardened film veteran.
The story, the main three characters and two of the main three actors were brazenly pinched from "A Moment Of Romance". The adorable Ng Sin Lin plays JoJo (as she did in AMOR), Ng Man-Tat changes from father figure (if a weak one) to father, and Leon Lai subs for Andy Lau as the angry outcast lad.
Despite the obvious theft, Love & The City substantially improves on its progenitor. The plot is really two stories interwoven. First, a father & son growing apart then finally coming to terms. Second, a story of two reckless young lovers. The first is the overarching one, and only when it's resolved is the second able to be fully dealt with.
Both are equally powerful (at times even shattering) and well-done, but I have to lean toward the father/son story as the most moving element. Ng Man-Tat is outstanding, and turns in the performance of his busy career as the sensitive widower whose boy at first disappoints then totally rejects him to lead a life of petty crime. We see numerous shots of Ng picking up the lad from prison, only to return, then be released. Despite the boy's lack of reaction, it is clear that he still loves the lad. Leon, who then takes over the narration, finds he's attracted to JoJo.
One problem : she's the fiancee of a local gang boss. Everything Leon does seems to be motivated by attraction to danger. She accepts his invitation to run away with him, and the boss sends his hoods to pursue. Then the first turning point : Leon is in the wrong place at the wrong time. A prostitute is murdered, and he gets the blame. With a rap sheet like his, no-one believes he's innocent. Certainly not the cops.
Even his father falls for it, as evidenced by a brilliant and torturous short scene where father and son face each other, exchanging a tense look with nothing to say. Leon breaks out and goes on the run. Will JoJo help him ? How can he clear his name when he refuses to even talk to the police ? Will he and JoJo ever get their expectations and feelings synchronized enough to really get together ?
It is this last question that the director hammers at and wrings out for all its worth, and tugs you this way/that way, will they/won't they for what seems like forever, keeping you guessing all the way to the end. In this genre, one or both of the lovers generally die a horrible death just before finally coming together. Will they in this one, or won't they ? You're kept guessing right up till the credits roll......
This is pure, brash cinematic magic. Don't miss it !