"What does revenge mean, when you have forgotten everything?"
After waiting for what feels like an eternity for the latest slab of gritty crime drama from one of my favorite director's Johnnie To, "Vengeance" finally hit the US. It was worth the wait. Its low key energy and subtle humanity spliced into its dark atmosphere make for a fascinating watch. Although not necessarily the most unique kind of film (how many revenge flicks are there in the cult film world?), the execution is stellar and the heart of the film lies there.
Costello (Hallyday) finds himself in Macao, China after his daughter and her family find themselves at the business end of a professional hit squad. She barely survives, but Costello promises her vengeance. On the trail of the big boss who ordered the hit, he comes across a three person hitman squad whom he hires to help him out. Now these four men journey into the dark depths to find out just to what lengths they would lose and gain a soul to finish the revenge promised.
Despite its rather basic premise, "Vengeance" really strikes all the right moments when it needs to and builds on an atmosphere not usual for this sort of film. Johnnie To really packs a punch with his gritty visual realism (very similar to another one of his films "PTU") that brings the film to a grounded plane of reality. The subtlety of its performances on screen, particularly from Hallyday and his three cohorts, really matches the visual intensity of the film. The humanity that is touched on dealing with the complexities of revenge are quite impressive and insightful and it balances some of the more intense gun fights.
There are moments where I can foresee some criticism on there film including its stylized gun violence. The bullet wounds blast out a powder like spray rather than liquid and it does add an almost artful look to the film but pulls away from its sense of reality. The film also has a little odd twist dealing with Costello's memory lapses which somewhat comes out of left field. That definitely could have been fleshed out more although its subtlety inserted into the film.
With its great atmosphere, gritty and realistic visual style, and subtle character builds "Vengeance" strikes a brilliant balance between its moments of artistic violence and its heavy drama. It does have some off beat moments that veer off its path here and there, but overall its another pretty awesome success from camp To. Definitely worth checking out though and one of the better revenge tales I've had the pleasure seeing.
Written By Matt Reifschneider