Macau cop Sam (Tony Leung) is
a man with total control of his destiny.
Having forged a solid bond with local triad bosses, Sam is often
called upon to lend his "persuasive" nature to certain
members of rival gangs.
Unbeknownst to Sam, a shaven-headed man is closely following his
every move, and in the process, plotting his downfall.
Realising things are not going as he would have planned, Sam resorts
to capturing the shadowy figure and attempts to interrogate him.
More questions than answers are provided, and it becomes clear that
Sam is merely the puppet of a higher power...but who's pulling his
Tony Leung's customary excellence
is given an equally strong foil in the imposing shape of Lau
Ching-Wan's somewhat unhinged character.
Lau's character has one quite exceptional scene early on, in which
he is forced to drive to the harbour under the supervision of one
of Sam's fellow officers.
I won't spoil the surprise, but the way in which the sequence unfolds,
and the combination of music and camerawork, is utterly superb.
twisting plot is handled remarkably well and although certain scenes
are somewhat ambiguous, the dark tone of the film is maintained
There are a number of standout sequences, such as the film's finale
involving Lau and Leung, with the cinematography and direction being
However, the film's main flaw is that it's sometimes guilty of trying
too hard to be different. This is particularly evident in the quirkiness
of Maggie Siu's character, which quickly feels unnecessarily over
Overall though, this is another high quality Milkyway production,
which does much to further the reputation of the company who also
brought to the screen Anna Magdalena
and A Hero Never Dies.
a Universe DVD, I was expecting a slightly better transfer than
the one provided here.
My main area of disappointment came from the slightly soft appearance
of the picture. Detail looks just off-sharp, and whilst it could
be argued that this is an intentional choice by the director to
create a "dreamy" visual style, I somehow don't think
I noticed little artifacting, although a noticeable smearing effect
can be seen on fast-moving objects throughout.
Wear is surprisingly mild, and for the most part insignificant.
The transfer's strongest aspect is its colour. As I previously mentioned,
the dark tone of the film is bolstered by some great lighting, with
blue filters being used regularly. These, as well as the other colours
on display are particularly good, and are very well contained.
Black levels can occasionally drift into dark blue, but are generally
All in all, a good transfer, but one which could be improved upon.
excellent soundtrack is handled very well, being focused mainly
in the front left and right speakers. The rear channels are all
but silent throughout, with dialogue emanating from the centre speaker.
Apart from some slight background hiss, dialogue is clear and free
However, on occasions, sound effects such as gunshots seem somewhat
muffled and not quite a 'punchy' as I would have liked.
As the film appears not to have been filmed in synch-sound, it's
difficult to tell whether the subdued nature of the sfx is due to
Universe's poor mixing or the film's original sound mixing.
film's complex plot is not made any easier to follow by the subtitles,
which often appear and disappear so quickly it's hard to take in
what's being said.
Grammar and spelling errors are rare but difficult to decipher,
due to the too-briefly-appearing subtitles.
In more general terms, the subs are on the large side, and are easy
to read regardless of the background colour.
very dull, old-style Universe menus. No problems navigating them,
but rather poorly composed pictures are featured throughout.
Show (2.20 min)
Unsubtitled footage from the film's Hong Kong premiere, with Johnnie
To, Lau Ching-Wan and Tony
Leung each taking part in very short interviews.
Of... (10 min)
This 'made for TV' feature is unsubtitled, and features clips from
the movie interspersed with on-set interviews with Tony
Leung and Lau Ching-Wan. Johhny
To also makes some occasional appearances, but for non-Chinese speaking
viewers this is a waste of time.
Footage (2.53 min)
Set to the film's main theme, the completely silent clips are fairly
interesting, although largely unfunny.
Press Conference (6 min)
From what I can gather, this is a pre-production party/photo-shoot,
and is worth watching if only for the moment when a nervous Johnnie
To takes hair clippers to Lau Ching-Wan's
Yet more interviews take place, and once again, no subtitles are
Overall, a good set of extras if you're a Cantonese speaker, and
a pretty useless bunch if you're not.
impressive shots of Lau and Leung are placed on the front cover,
and a well crafted plot synopsis is presented on the back.
The overall design could have been slightly more eye-catching, but
it's far from ugly.
moody thriller, directed with great flair, and featuring two superb
actors at the top of their form...if only the subs were as good.
Even so, this still makes for a very good purchase.