Memento-Lite in Macao: Johnnie To’s Vengeance


This French–Hong Kong co-production imports France’s pop icon Johnny Hallyday to the element-swept universe of Johnnie To. Hallyday dons a Jean-Pierre Melville raincoat to play François Costello, a “restaurateur” who touches down in Macao. His daughter has been gravely injured in a gangland hit. His mission you might guess by the title. To does his best to make Johnny’s highlighted bouffant and pinch-eyed, leonine head seem monumental, but they’re mostly just big. Costello hires guns to go after those responsible, speaking curt common-ground English with a trio of overdubbed Triad hitmen (led by Anthony Wong), who wind up caught in a nasty conflict-of-interest between new employer and old. Costello also needs caretaking—a head wound sustained in a shadowy past has left him with a faulty memory, so he has to take instructive Polaroids for, um, mementos. At one point, Costello drops down on his knees and prays for clarity, and is visited, in a scene of great beauty, by shimmering faces from the past. More than once does To’s grandiose imagism miraculously grant this rote thriller a gleam of the sublime, as in a trash-dump face-off staged as an epic field maneuver, or a campground shoot-out timed to the fickle light of the moon.