Tuesday, January 30, 2024

...Or the Highway: I Did It My Way (2024) Review

Director: Jason Kwan

Notable Cast: Andy Lau, Gordon Lam, Eddie Peng, Liu Yase, Simon Yam, Lam Suet, Kent Cheng Jak-Si, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Hedwig Tam Sin-Yin, Kevin Chu, Terrance Lau, Tony Ho, Angie Cheung Wai-Yee


Even though the films Chasing the Dragon and Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch received an overall mixed reception, co-director Jason Kwan became a new director I was excited to follow. Although those films certainly had their fair share of Wong-Jing-isms to them, which led to audiences having some mixed emotions, they were stylish and highly entertaining. Regarding Hong Kong crime capers, that’s a great foundation on which to build. 


For his first solo-directing effort since the Chasing the Dragon duology, cinematographer turned director Jason Kwan tackled very similar subject matter with the oddly titled I Did It My Way. Boasting a stacked cast of A-list talent and featuring a classic Hong Kong crime narrative that bounces between 80s heroic bloodshed and a more modern Chinese blockbuster, I Did It My Way will very much appeal on the surface to fans of the genre. Even with a somewhat muddled narrative and some melodramatic punches that don’t quite land, it never ceases to be an entertaining romp carried by its powerhouse dual leads. 


Considering that Kwan was the cinematographer on a slew of modern crime caper classics like Cold War, The Last Tycoon, and the aforementioned Chasing the Dragon, it’s no wonder that I Did It My Way would follow in the footsteps of those films. The plot is very familiar in following classic blueprints as hardcore law enforcement, represented by Eddie Peng and Simon Yam, desperately hunt down a dark web-powered drug lord and his two right-hand men, played by Andy Lau and Gordon Lam. Alliances are tested, secrets are revealed, and the bonds of our two leads - who are the criminals and not the law enforcement - are tested time and time again as their morals and loyalties are called into question. 


For fans of the genre, I Did It My Way is a relative jog down familiar territory. If anything, the film is trying so hard to thrust in twists and turns into its characters (some good guys aren’t good, and some bad guys aren’t bad, you know?) that the overall plotting and themes become muddled as it takes a back seat to the big character beats required for its stars. Even as it trudges down familiar territory, I Did It My Way does earn some forgiveness in its moments, but the whole story is far more mundane than expected due to its blurred lines around its themes and characters. 


Yet, despite my overall temperate feeling about the film, it’s hard to deny that it doesn’t have those elements and key moments that kept my eyes glued to the screen. The push and pull between Lau’s lawyer, George, and Lam’s street-wise enforcer, Sau, is enigmatic and interesting - particularly in how there seems to be a brotherly bond despite their own coldness to the events and lives around them. The film is littered with icons of the genre, from Simon Yam and Lam Suet delivering on well-paid cameos to the third lead of the film, Eddie Peng. If anything, it’s the performances at the heart of this film that truly carry it through its rough patches and scattered narrative, and for fans - it’s great to see these guys consistently deliver. 


That’s not to say that I Did It My Way is without style, provided in full by Kwan. Although sometimes the style is overzealous - including the many, many quick zoom hyper-edited establishing shots that have already dated to the film substantially for future watchers, it’s enough to keep the film visually interesting. The numerous gun battles are worthy of a watch and the initial “siege” that leads to the big crime boss’ capture in the first act sets a potent standard for the rest of the film to try and match. Most of the action and style are relatively common for the genre and for the films that Kwan has been involved with, right down to the melodramatic slow motion of its final car chase, but it’s not without its merits. It keeps the entire thing entertaining enough and allows the cast to deliver their best, even if the script falters in giving the film its necessary foundations. 


All in all, I Did It My Way is a classic Milkway HK crime caper through the lens of a modern Chinese blockbuster, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a little too reliant on attempting to recreate the past to do its own thing truly, but those throwback elements - particularly in its casting and blend of drama and action - highlight what’s best in the film. It’s a visually punchy and insanely well-performed crime flick built on rocky foundations that will interest fans but not blow them away. 


Written By Matt Malpica Reifschneider

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