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Exiled (HK 2006)

Director : Johnnie To
Cast : Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Lam Suet, Josie Ho, Richie Ren, Nick Cheung, Roy Cheung, Lam Ka Tung

When two gunmen from Hong Kong are sent to execute a renegade member trying to turn over a new leaf in Macau, they are thrown in a dilemma when two of their former comrades also show up, intent on thwarting their mission. It turns out the five of them used to be buddies-under-fire in another mission years ago. When the mission appeared to be accomplished, one of them was discovered to have betrayed their boss and the others were asked to eliminate him. They let him escape in the end. While the four former comrades are reminiscing and negotiating what to do with the buddy whose life they have spared once before, a fifth gunmen suddenly appears out of nowhere and takes the renegade out instead. A final showdown ensues amongst the five gunmen.

by Luke Carberry

Johnnie To’s Exiled does something brilliant, it takes what we love about old Hong Kong films, and combines it with the approach of modern day film-making to bring us something fresh and lasting. You have a combination of gritty, realistic shootouts, masculine but heartfelt friendships on screen, and simply great story-telling. Exiled delivers on almost every level, and is perfect for the To veteran, or even stone cold newcomers.

Following on from his last two critically acclaimed releases, Election and Election 2, To brings us the sequel to his 1999 Hong Kong classic The Mission. And what a brilliant sequel this is. Exiled follows the original characters and cast of its predecessor. The year is 1998, and the narrative centers around the actions of Wo (Nick Cheung), who had attempted to kill his boss Fay (Simon Yam) before the film, but having failed
he flee’s to Macau with his wife (Josie Ho) and baby.

Angry and vengeful; boss, Fay orders Wo’s four triad colleagues to travel to Macau and kill him. Though from the very start it is obvious that the gang members hold their different opinions, with Blaze (Anthony Wong) and Cat (Roy Cheung) wanting to follow out their Boss’ orders, and Tai (Francis Ng) and Fat (Lam Suet) wanting to save their old friend. After an emotionally fueled shootout between Wo, Blaze, and Tai, Blaze decides to let Wo live temporarily, and asks him what his one wish would be. Wo wishes for his family to live a wealthy and secure life. Because of this, the gang of five decide to take up one last job, which could prove very rewarding, if they manage to make an important hit.

That’s the basic premise of Exiled, and it never really extends much further than that, not that it needs to. To has taken a pretty simple plot, and turned it into a gripping piece of Hong Kong cinema, and for that he should get major admiration. Exiled manages to pack one huge punch with such little force. At no point does Exiled feel like one of those gangster films that is screaming to be noticed. It’s stylish, dark and revealing sure, but it’s not being so with any sign of arrogance. To quite clearly knows what he is doing, there is no need for him to fake “cool”, he knows “cool”, he’s been doing it for years. From the opening knock on the door, to the snapshot ending (literally), Exiled knows how to grip its viewer, with a healthy balance of action, dialogue, and character development. No need to cram scenes with unrewarding action scenes, filthy language, and excessive violence. Why bother when you can feel the same intensity from difficult decisions, tense relationships, and short but snappy shootouts?

Exiled is definitely a character piece, each character is fleshed out, has a personality, opinion and direction. There is no token “I’m so slick” gun-wielding gangster. You are suppose to become attached to each character, and you do. Granted, for different reasons, but you’re interested, you want to know what is going to happen to each and every last one of them. So do you? Yes you do. This brings about a sigh of relief, and satisfactory closure. I’d be slightly worried if To built up these great characters, only to have them disappear without a trace, like so many other films of the genre.

While To has written and directed these characters brilliantly, the cast have made them. The cast is great, with solid performances from just about everyone, making it hard to note a stand out performance (I say that in the most positive way possible). There is great contrast in personalities, for example Nick Cheung plays a devoted but life threatened family man, while Simon Yam plays a power hungry triad boss, willing to die for revenge. Though totally different characters, the actors manage to unite the two on  screen with believable conflict, difference in motives, and simply solid performances. While To is the driving force behind the film, the casts outstanding performance can not be overlooked.

So you’re probably thinking something like “this seems to be a heavy character piece, probably following on directly from the prequel, which I’ve not seen, best leave this.” Heavy character piece yes, a definite sequel it is not. Most of the character development takes place within this film, you don’t need to know these characters before hand, anything you don’t know actually seems to make Exiled better. It’s a rare case in which that sense of mystery and intrigue only adds to the film, and it’s another one of the
films major selling points.

So what does Exiled do? Well it does just about everything it should, making it the perfect gangster/triad film. Mind you, it does everything in order, in the correct speed, and to the correct level. It doesn’t rely on throwing all the best elements of iconic gangster films together, which is where most recent films have failed. Exiled entertains, educates; and most importantly, lasts. If someone should write a cookbook on the genre, it’s To. Exiled is compulsory viewing.

Plot : 3/5
Cast : 4/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- The dinner
- The shootout in the doctor’s apartment
- The last and climactic shootout

Buy this movie at  YesAsia – Exiled

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