To’s Sparrow soars – Kwok’s The Moss fails to excite

Sparrow 文雀 – Much publicity surrounded this Johnny To film as it made its debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Sparrow is supposed to be an elegy to the old Hong Kong – but I’m not sure it works well at that. It is however a very entertaining film – very little dialogue yet totally engrossing. Kelly Lin cons Simon Yam and his pickpocket colleagues into helping her regain her freedom by stealing her passport locked into her husband’s safe. To’s usual ensemble of actors are present here, from Simon Yam to Lam Ka Tung and the ubiquitous Lam Suet. Kelly Lin is also given more to do than most actresses in To’s crime capers. For me, Sparrow resembles Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le Flambeur in its insistence on being light-hearted at the core despite the presence of a few unsavory characters. Very good and highly recommended.

The Moss 青苔 – Director Kwok Chi Kin’s previous film The Pye Dog 野‧良犬 won some accolades at the Hong Kong Film Awards this year and Kwok was nominated for a Best New Director Award (though he lost), so I became interested in his latest film. The trailer looked interesting – Shawn Yue is a cop who will do anything to survive on the streets. Make no mistake Yue’s character is not likeable. Trouble starts when the son of a gang’s leader is missing and Yue is “assigned” the task of locating him. Shit piles up quickly . . . and the plot breaks down! The 2nd half of the film falls back on cliches like a reclusive assassin, betrayals within the various gangs etc. I did not find the film particularly intriguing.


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