If I had to describe this film in one word, it would be exhilarating. It’s a non-stop thrill ride that forces the audience to pay heavy attention and not miss anything. The film is split into two main stories with the characters in both interacting very little. They form this dialogue about free will and what it means to be completely free. Each character feels like a puzzle piece and you have to find what Wong Kar-wei is trying to say. It is action packed and well filmed. The camera is mostly handheld and there’s heavy motion blur to make you feel like you’re just a bystander who’s watched these events go down in the background. It’s a stunning technique that kept me engaged throughout the entire film.
The first story is about a killer (Leon Lai) who’s lazy and likes everything to be planned for him. He has a partner (Michelle Reis) who cleans for him and gives him diagrams of areas to find his targets. She’s infatuated with him and likes to sit where he sits to get closer to him. They barely know each other but have this idea that they’re close because of the work that they do. The killer, Wong Chi-ming, meets this woman in a McDonald’s who’s a prostitute named Blondie (Karen Mok). She’s constantly reminded of her ex-lover when she’s around Wong. Wong can’t tell her so he tries to tell her through a song on the jukebox. Eventually, the partner finds out about the relationship by smelling his cologne on the other girl and arranges a hit on him.
The second story is about a mute man who has escaped prison and is named Ho Chi-mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro). He happens to live in the same building as the killer’s partner and she helps him avoid the police along with his father (Chan Man-lei). Ho makes money by going to businesses late at night and opening shop for them and forcing unwilling customers to pay him. He falls in love with this woman, Charlie (Charlie Yeung), who cries on his shoulder nightly because her ex-boyfriend has left her for a girl named Blondie. Together they unsuccessfully try to find her and go to soccer games. Eventually, she leaves him and forgets about him, much to his dismay. He drives his motorcycle around until he meets her again and she doesn’t recognize her.
The performances in this film were great. Each character fit their role and had great chemistry with each other. Ho especially did well because he was mute, yet his facial expressions were so great that you could physically see what he was thinking at all times. When he convinced to a man to eat ice cream, I just got this great impression that he was filled with joy because, in his twisted mind, there’s no such thing as too much ice cream. I think Blondie was well played as well because she has an over the top personality was loveable in its own way. I think that the killer was also well played because his rationale of being a killer was shown by the way that he moved. He never acted like he was mad that he was a killer; he was calm and collected because it was just another job for him. I thought that was phenomenal.
The best part of the film is how it wraps this idea of free will into all of the characters. Wong, who hates planning things and making his own decisions, is in direct opposition of Ho, who has absolutely no responsibilities. They both have to survive, but they choose to do it in very different ways. Wong lives much more comfortably than Ho, but he struggles to make his own decisions and lets Blondie or his partner make all of them. He never tries to make a decision and it ends up being his downfall in the end. Ho, on the other hand, can’t seem to have any real relationships despite being free. He is mute and was in prison which hurts his ability to communicate with people, but his main issue is that he doesn’t live a normal life and people can’t relate to him. He struggles with Charlie because they have nothing in common because he runs fake businesses at night and can’t express that to her. He likes the connection that he has to her, but it feels shallow and it’s quite apparent throughout the film. He does seem to find reconcile with these problems by meeting Wong’s partner who seems to lead a similar life. Wong Kar-wei uses these stories to try to create two extremes and lets the audience try to decide which one is more appealing. The film starts a dialogue on how much free will is acceptable and how much balance we need in our lives.
Overall, I enjoyed the film a lot. It is action packed and has a little message that’s carried throughout the film. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone though because it is a little different. I would recommend it to people who want to see something different and are okay to be thinking throughout. I’m very glad that I saw it and I will hopefully be given the chance to see it again in the near future. I think this is one of those films that gets better with multiple viewings.
Score: 8 out of 10