Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2021 9:09 am 
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RICKY KO: TIME 殺出個黃昏 (2021) - 2021 NY Asian Film Festival (Aug. 6-22)


Once more with vigor

Chau (Patrick Tse), once-legendary hitman from the sixties, today is reduced to working as a noodle chef - and then he gets laid off from that, replaced by a high speed noodle-making machine. His two partners in crime from earlier days are similarly in lowered stations. Mrs. Fung (Bo Bo Fung, once the "Shirley Temple of Hong Kong") performs in a cabaret that she runs with her no-account son (Sam Lee); but her family want to take over her Hong Kong apartment and put her in a retirement home. The very large Chung (Lam Suet), once the best getaway driver, is now at best a security guard; he constantly visits a beautiful young prostitute he wants to marry; she is fond of him, but has quite other plans. These are three aging Hong Kong stars (of different ages, Tse being a steely 84, Fung a feisty, stylish 66, and Suet an imposing, wheezing 57) are united for a comedy that is partly about how hard it is to grow old when you were a hotshot, partly about how ill-served the elderly are by Hong Kong society and government. The film opens with a nostalgic flashback "hit" sequence from time past.

Patrick Tse dominates with his lean, erect elegance and his basilisk stare. He is like some Native American chieftain turned Asian and urban, and his character has a tough-love grandfatherly romance with Tsz-Ying (Suet-Ying Chung), a feisty, pretty schoolgirl who takes him on as her substitute family. (In real life Tse is known for his much, much younger wives and girlfriends, to this day.) When Tsz-Ying's high school beau gets her pregnant and is doing nothing about it, the three hitmen join forces and lower the boom, capturing the boy and torturing him till he promises to do the right thing. This is one of the central sequences in a modest budget but polished film full of deliberately absurd and classically cinematic episodes. As Chung, Lam Suet's sheer bulk, and how he can move it around, are memorable in themselves. Bo Bo Fung is magnificent as an aging lady unwilling to give up her legendary glamour. Her cabaret performances go on a bit long, perhaps, but they are still impressive - and she looks great all dolled up.

In a thread I'm glad isn't pursued very far though it's a good, if extreme, way of showcasing the ills of senior citizens, the trio team up for the "Elderly’s Angel" squad, with with Mrs Fung organizing, Chung driving, and Chau acting as the "guardian angel" to "serve" older persons requesting euthanasia. This means slitting their throats for a fee; Chau is famous for his small curved dagger, which he still wields with skill and aplomb. This program is unpredictable, and it's derailed when one of the clients turns out to be the adolescent girl Tsz-Ying, despondent because rejected by her parents and ignored by her boyfriend who got her pregnant. Her attachment to Chau gives her a new connection to life, even though he feigns indifference - at first, anyway.

The film is an interesting combination of Hong Kong acton movie nostalgia, comedy, and social commentary. It may be more appealing to aging Hongkongers than anybody else though, but younger local viewers have been known to find it side-splitting.

Time 殺出個黃昏 ("Burst into the dusk"), 99 mins., debuted at Hong Kong Apr 4, 2021. It showed at Nepal May 10 (internet), at Rotterdam Jun. 4 and at Udine Jun. 30. Screened for this review as part of the NY Asian Film Festival (Aug. 6-22, 2021).


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