Where a Good Man Goes (1999)
Reviewed by: morgold on 2000-04-20
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.