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] (1998)
The Sleepless Town

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 12/14/2006

Director Lee Chi-Ngai and talented cinematographer Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai join together with some Japanese producers to create an evocative gangster film noir about Hong Kong and Mainland people carving up territory in Tokyo’s mysterious Chinatown. Director Lee taps into the screen persona of Kaneshiro Takeshi casting him as an ultra-cool, dangerous gangster with revenge and redemption on his agenda.

Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai uses all his skill to create a beautiful, compelling world as his camera follows the twists and turns of the scenario. His cinematography is outstanding on this film, worth the price of admission. Eric Tsang, in a cameo role, is his usual brilliant self and Kathy Chow Hoi-Mei is real good in a pivotal supporting role.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 12/17/2005
Summary: Decent

It seems that when I was first acquainted with Takeshi Kaneshiro the actor, he was an idol to me. He was excellent in Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, and Anna Magdalena. From there however, his image slipped from my expectations, starting with Returner, and reached an all time low in my book with House of Flying Daggers. I had no idea what to expect from Sleepless Town. The result is a memorable but not totally satisfying experience.

It starts off by entering the nightlife of Kenichi (Kaneshiro) as he leisurely wanders the sleepless town of Tokyo. Without any background detail, we learn more as he meets dozens of people. One of the challenges in the film may be to keep up with all the character's names. There are quite a few extremely long takes that expose the underground business. Then comes the mysterious woman into Kenichi's life, whom you just know is more than meets the eye.

Rest assured there's plenty of deception and back-and-forth contradictions. I still can't quite put my finger on some of the characters' true motivation, which I guess is to say that the actors delivered a good dose of ambiguity. The ending builds up one of the biggest moments of suspense ever in film, "is he going to shoot her?" Well, I leave you to find out.

This is not an action-packed film. See it if you like a film where you are immediately thrown into a character's life (possibly confused at first) and gradually discover more details.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 11/09/2004
Summary: 8 out of 10

Well-paced triad drama. Takeshi plays a low-level 1/2 Chinese/1/2 Japanese triad loner in Japan who must find and turn in an ex-partner or be killed by the head of the Shanghai triad, while weaving through the overlapping worlds of the various Chinese triads in Tokyo. (The ex-partner had killed someone close to the boss a couple years ago and has suddenly turned up in Tokyo, though no ones knows where.)

Mirai Yamamoto plays Takeshi's ex-partner's girl friend and is the link between them. But she's got secrets. Is she to be trusted? Is she psycho? Will she be Takeshi's one true love? Her role is from another universe than "Who Am I" and she plays it excellently.

And Takeshi gets caught up further and further in a spider web of intrigue. You can almost feel his arms being pinned to his side as he fights harder and harder to retain control.

I don't want to go further into the plot because I don't know how to do it w/o spoilers. But rest-assured the story goes deeper as the movie moves along; from the opening credits it draws you in and pulls you along, but always stays two steps ahead of you.

The only reason I can think of that this film has apparently been neglected is that it was shot in Japan and the main language is Mandarin-spoken-by-Cantonese-and-Japanese-actors, so it's not as accessible as the usual Hong Kong films. But this film makes Infernal Affairs look pale (and I liked IA.) (And be assured there is none of the hyper-violence that often comes with Japanese triad movies.)

Highly recommended.