Exiled : Ellen Chan makes a comeback!

Johnnie To’s Exiled was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival – most of the critics liked the film. I went out to see the movie when it started its run in Hong Kong.

In essence a very fine genre movie, Exiled is dominated by stylistic posing, unusual camera work, adrenaline-pumping action sequences and a genuine sense of fun. It is a marked departure from the serious tone of To’s two Election movies – in fact, it feels as if To has decided to have some fun after making two meticulous crafted “message” films. I think there is more gunplay in the opening scene than all the action in both Election movies. Filmed in Macau, the locations in Exiled feel exotic and critics have been quick to point out the movie’s spaghetti western overtones. This actually makes sense as the characters are out to settle a score that dates back to their shared past (a common theme in spaghetti westerns) and the finale even resembles a typical shootout.

The movie has an all-star cast of Hong Kong actors and To regulars. My comments on each are as follows.

Anthony Wong : I preferred his performance in Exiled to his acclaimed turn in Initial D. Enjoyable and entertaining.
Roy Cheung : I confess that I have always liked to watch Cheung. He has great screen presence. He looks cool in this movie.
Richie Jen : Unexpectedly, I actually enjoyed him in this film.
Simon Yam : Yam is a very capable and under-rated actor. I think his best performance in recent years was in the first Election movie.
Lam Ka-tung : Nothing special and very similar to his turn in Election.
Cheung Siu-fai : An unusual comic role for the veteran.
Lam Suet : More of the same from the reliable Lam Suet, who is just getting the same roles over and over again.
Francis Ng : Not a particularly outstanding performance.
Josie Ho : Had very little to do.
Ellen Chan: I think she actually looks better than she did back in her more “glamorous” days. She plays a hooker who is one of the characters that survives in the end.
Nick Cheung : Starring in this company highlights his shortcomings as an actor.

Verdict : recommended but a very different beast from the two Election films