The Titular Devil, With Hand

The Titular Devil, With Hand

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Gangster Flick Top Twenty, Part 2

Okay, here's the rest of the gangster list.

11.Miller's Crossing 1990
1990 was a wonderful year for celluloid gangsterism. You had Goodfellas, State of Grace (nearly made the list) and MC, which was the third Coen brothers movie. I realized right away that I was onto something after I saw their first film, Blood Simple, loved Raising Arizona (although there was too much screaming), and thought Miller's Crossing was their best entry yet....still might be my Coen fave. A lot of their movies have endings that don't quite work (I might name Barton Fink, Fargo, and No Country), but MC builds wonderfully, and comes to a very satisfying finish. Lot of good twists and turns, great characters and dialogue, and memorable mayhem (including Sam Raimi choppered to bits in one scene). Some have complained that the film's too convoluted, but I never had any trouble with it. You just have to pay attention, that's all.

Gabriel Byrne (who should've become a bigger star) is Tom Regan, an extremely cerebral hood who dreams about losing his hat (losing his head?); he's always dispensing excellent advice to Leo (Albert Finney) who's the underworld boss of some unnamed city (movie was shot in New Orleans, to great effect). In the interest of peace and general rationality, Tom tells Leo that he should give up Birney Birnbaum "the Schmatta Kid," (an incredibly odious John Turturro) who's been evening out the odds on fights fixed by Johnny Casper (Jon Polito), Leo's chief competitor...Casper wants Birney dead, and it's a very sore matter between him and Leo. But Birney's the brother of slinky Verna, Leo's girlfriend...and Verna wouldn't like it if her brother gets whacked. Matters are further complicated by the fact that Tom's seeing Verna too, though Leo doesn't know. Leo spurns Tom's counsel...all hell breaks loose. Tom appears to switch sides...locks horns with Casper's terrifying henchman, the Dane, (J.E. Freeman, who would've made a very good Legion), and is blackmailed by Birney...things get really intense before they're all wrapped up at an apartment building called the Barton Arms, which seems to be a reference to Barton Fink, which hadn't been made yet...oh well. Love this movie. Turturro is most memorable, horrible beyond belief.

I do wonder about the Coens' take on Jews, though. All the Jews in all their movies are either neurotics like the lead character in a Serious Man, hyper caricatures like the movie guys in Fink, or extremely evil specimens like Birney...if I wrote about Jews like this, I'd get in trouble, and would probably deserve to, although all the Jews I've discussed this with don't have any problem with it. What's a poor goy to think?

12.Goodfellas 1990
This is my vote for the greatest gangster movie ever, Martin Scorsese at the absolute top of his form. Yeah, I know a lot of people like The Godfather better, but treating gangsters as though they're semi-Shakespearean material is something of a mistake, in my opinion. Gangsters aren't royalty. They're fuckin' hoods. They don't sound like college professors or screenwriters, like the guys in Pulp Fiction. Their lives are trainwrecks of vice, stupidity, and bad taste, and they almost always wind up in prison, ratting on their friends, or shot to pieces. They like to think of themselves as men of honor, but that's because honor is so noticeably lacking in their lives. Goodfellas, based on the memoir Wise Guy, by Henry Hill, reflects this understanding. The Godfather, to a certain extent, was grounded in Mafia reality, but sanitized and romanticized it---and invented a lot of stuff out of whole cloth. Goodfellas is the totally straight dope. It's not shitting you at all.

Unlike a lot of gangster flicks, this one doesn't concentrate on the guys at the see things from the point of view of Mr.Hill, who's strictly a mid-level guy, and that's great, because he knows everyone underneath him and above, and he really knows how the system works. He rubs elbows with made men, but his closest friends aren't members of the club---yet. A lot of the story hinges on the apparent rise of an extremely vicious mid-level earner named Tommy(Joe Pesci) who's dying to become a full-blown mafiosi, but is just too crazy...Henry (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) are expecting Tommy's incoming tide to lift their boats, but Tommy gets iced, and when Henry gets busted for some dope dealing, he has no recourse but to rat on everybody, bringing the whole Lucchese crime family (headed by Paul Sorvino's Pauly, the only sympathetic character in the film) crashing down...

Everything about the film is persuasive. Pesci's Tommy is incandescently crazy, Liotta's Henry is one slippery observant dude, and DeNiro's Jimmy Conway is truly Satanic. Fantastic use of the guitar stuff at the end of Layla...the violence is headache-inducingly vivid. Nobody's ever been better than Scorsese at serving up carnage....just look at the that long single take when Samuel L. Jackson gets it. There's no editing, no cutting to a dummy. There's lots of dialogue capped by a single, spectacular, completely successful special effect, captured in a medium really feel like you just saw somebody get snuffed. Memento mori, sheesh. How often does that happen in a movie?

13.Full Contact 1992
Along with John Woo, Ringo Lam went a long way towards launching Chow fact I rather prefer Lam's Chow Yun-Fat movies to Woo's. Lam gets better performances out of his actors, his films are frequently pretty damn funny (the Prison on Fire movies are a case in point)and the action is a whole lot sharper and meaner than Woo's. You might be interested to know that the scene in Big Lebowski where Walter bites the guy's ear off is a homage to Ringo Lam. Moreover, Lam is a heavy enough hitter that Tarantino ripped off the story of Reservoir Dogs from the last twenty-five minutes of Lam's City on Fire. Lam just isn't as melodramatic and silly as Woo, and doesn't have as many easily copied mannerisms...he deserves to be much more famous in the west than he is.

Which brings us to Full Contact.

Based on a Donald Westlake novel, The Hunter, this is a real murderous ride....try to locate the uncut version if you possibly can. Chow Yun Fat plays Jeff, a Chinese gangster living in Bangkok, who's always getting his buddy Sam out of trouble. Sam enlists Jeff in an arms robbery orchestrated by his cousin Judge, (Simon Yam) an extremely flamboyant gay maniac. Jeff and Judge don't hit it off, but Jeff goes ahead with the robbery anyway, only to be double-crossed by Judge and his lunkhead henchman, Deano. Jeff gets a bunch of his fingers cut off by Judge, and retreats into a shanty, which then gets torched...Judge forces Sam to go in a make sure of Jeff; Sam shoots him the shoulder and says that he finished him...a propane tank blows the shanty up, and a young girl gets horribly burned in the blast. Jeff saves her, sees to her treatment, and goes on the vengeance trail, off to Hong Kong, where Judge and Sam (and Jeff's girlfriend Mona, played by Anne Bridgewater) have established themselves. Jeff contacts Sam, plays on his guilt to secure his aid, and proceeds to wreak havoc on Judge's arms dealing operation. There's a whole lot of slaughter with knives, icehouse tools, and guns...bullet-squibs and exit wounds abound...plenty of moments from FC got ripped off in western movies, such as the bit with the bullets meeting tip-to-tip that showed up in The Shadow. I don't think there's a dull moment in the whole damn picture. Interestingly, it wasn't a hit in Hong Kong...apparently your average Hongkie prefers much blander entertainment than Yours Truly..

14.True Romance 1993
Not entirely sure if this should be classed as a gangster movie, but it sure is full of gangsters, and has a lot of definitive gangster stuff...our protagonists have it out with gangsters every step of the way, and become drug-dealers themselves...I'm going to bite the bullet and include it.

I'd already had my introduction to Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs before I saw True Romance...I was very impressed with RD, but I didn't fall in love with it. For one thing, I thought the robbery should've been on-screen, and I can't think of any good reason for not depicting's rather like the climax of No Country for Old Men, the shootout between Brolin, Bardem, and the Mexicans, taking place off-stage. That being said, RD's quite a directorial debut...Tarantino's got a great, classic, simple directorial style...he appreciates the value of a long take, particularly in an action scene...I like the way he picks out the optimum camera angle and just sticks with it. Michael Bay he ain't...just watch the build-up and climax in RD. That's movie-making.

He didn't direct True Romance, and his vision was tampered with quite a bit. In the original script, the scenes were pretty much the same, but presented in a different order...Tony Scott, the director, decided to scrap that structure. I'm not sure if that was a good idea...guess I'd have to see it actually put together the other way. Moreover, Scott, softy that he is, decided to let Clarence(Christian Slater) live at the end...well, I guess I'm a softy too, and I'm glad Clarence survived, although the original ending might've been really cool also. On the other hand, maybe I'd have wanted to throw my shoe at the screen. Certainly it would've injected a moralistic note, whether Tarantino intended that or not.

But I still really love True Romance, and it's my favorite Tarantino film...even if he isn't the director, it's hard not to view him as the auteur. Even though Tony Scott's shooting style couldn't be more different from Tarantino's, he still puts the writing front and center, and the writing is balls-out great. It comes across immediately in the "I'd fuck Elvis" discussion in the bar at the beginning...if you're not completely sold after Clarence's encounter with Drexel (a very vile dread-lock'd Gary Oldman), you're an asshole. That scene is followed hard upon by Dennis Hopper's "Sicilians spawned by niggers" disquisition,which is totally classic...the stuff with Clarence's dimwit buddies in Hollywood is pretty fabulous too, as is the vicious confrontation between Patricia Arquette and James Gandolfini, the scene that completely made his career. All the movie-producer stuff is particularly hilarious and well-observed. I think Tarantino would've done a better job than Scott if he'd been behind the camera, but Scott didn't give him too much to complain about...Tarantino was willing to work for him in a script doctor capacity on Crimson Tide, I understand.

The romance between Clarence and Alabama is particularly sweet and affecting...all the principals knock it out of the park, and so do the supporting's full of great character actors, such as Ed Lauter, Tom Sizemore, Chris Penn, Bronson Pinchot, Michael Rapaport, and Saul also have cameos by Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt ("get products").Tony Scott followed all the musical selections that Tarantino suggested in his script, and that was an extremely wise approach. Scott likes to shoot things rather too close for my money, but his compositions are's a handsome film, I will concede.

Get the director's cut. In the theatrical version, all the violence is clipped, and the climax suffers very's censored to the point of being incoherent.

15.Pulp Fiction 1994
I like this one less than True Romance, although I think the direction is better. I think it gets off to an amazing start and sustains itself very nicely for a while, although it drops the ball after the Bruce Willis sequence...but more about that later.

Also, I think Mr. Tarantino should go back to working with Roger Avary, especially now that Roger has gotten out of prison. Avary worked with him on Dogs, Romance, and this, and Tarantino's stuff post-Avary has simply been nowhere near as good as the pre-stuff. I suspect a situation along the lines of the relationship between Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman. I suppose I could be mistaken, though...there hasn't been anything remarkable about Avary's work since PF.

Movie breaks down into a series of stories, structured elliptically. For example, Travolta's character gets killed about midway through, but he's present at the beginning, and via flashback, at the end. The original True Romance script featured similar shenanigans, as I've already mentioned...I'd be curious to see what Tarantino's rationale is. He tends to think in long sections, big chunks of dialogue, and he seems to think they're a lot more modular and interchangeable than they are...the individual sequences are frequently very cool, although his movies generally have a jerky stop-and-start quality, with no narrative flow...Inglorious Basterds was like that in spades.

Much of Pulp Fiction works really well, however. It's four-fifths of a perfect flick, and that's something...but the movie peaks with the Bruce Willis sequence, which is genuinely harrowing, and following that with the cleaning-products blood-and-brains thing is a terrible mistake. Moreover, once you start to notice how  Tarantino's characters all sound exactly the same, you never forget it. If you see that Grindhouse Deathproof flick, everyone, Russell, the girls, Tarantino himself..sounds like Tarantino. And maybe, just maybe, it would be better if someone sounded, occasionally...

Like Roget Avary.

16.A Hero Never Dies 1998
Along with Stephen Chow, Johnny To is my favorite Hong Kong Film-maker, and unlike Stephen Chow, whose output these days has slowed to a crawl, To just keeps pumping 'em out. He also works in just about every Hong Kong genre you can think of. He does ghost stuff, martial arts, romances, comedies, police thrillers, and last but not least, gangster movies, for which, I guess, he's principally known in the west. Well, A Hero never Dies is tied with Heroic Trio for my number one Johnny To movie; it's a nifty, fast paced hybrid of Spaghetti Western and Hong Kong crime flick...I'm amazed that no one's ever done an American remake.

Story centers on Jack (Leon Lai) and Martin(Lau Ching-Wan), two hit men who work for rival HK triads, really respect each other's work, but don't care too much for their own bosses. Flick begins in Thailand, where Jack's boss has gone to seek advice from "Mr. Fortune Teller," who berates him for not following previous counsel, and whacks him with a stick...watching the humiliation of his boss in utter disgust, Jack pulls a gun, shoots up the place, then asks the seer if he's going to get shot today.

The oracle winds up taking one through the ankle.

On the way home, the motorcade is ambushed by Martin, who raises hell with a sniper-rifle, but doesn't quite manage to kill Jack's boss... returning to HK, Jack rips up Martin's apartment, whereupon the two wind up at the same bar, and engage in a bunch of weird one-upsmanship with coins and wine-bottles before settling into some comfortable noble-adversary male bonding, "Sukiyaki" playing in the background. Outside, afterwards, Martin's girlfriend (Fiona Leung) dispenses advice to Jack's (Yoyo Mung) on how to be a better gangster moll.

From there it's back to Thailand, where the gangs are hunting each other and trying to locate a drug warlord, and Martin is dispatched to ask advice from Mr. Fortune-teller...having heard about Jack's ankle-shooting activities, Martin cracks up at the sight of the old man's bandage, and can't help asking him is he's going to be shot today. Bang, Mr. Fortune Teller takes one in his good foot.

Martin hits the rival gang in a nasty shootout at a jungle roadhouse...Jack's boss acts in a very cowardly way, totally humiliating himself, accidentally killing one of his own men as Jack watches. Martin slaughters just about everybody, but he and Jack wind up filling each other full of bullets...Jack's boss abandons him in a Thai hospital, and Martin winds up having his legs amputated, his boss abandoning him too. Jack's girlfriend gets hideously burned protecting him from his boss's henchmen...Martin's girlfriend gets him back to Hong Kong, where the two bosses have reconciled...when she berates them for the way they treat their henchmen, Martin's boss blows her away.

All this is just the setup. Martin rises from his sweaty torpor and stages a sniper-attack against the bosses...fatally wounded, he gets in touch with Jack, telling him to come back and avenge him...then Martin drags himself right back to the same rooftop try to another attack! Some time later, we see him poised to shoot, then realize he's dead when a fly lands on his face. After mercy-killing his girlfriend, Jack returns, collects Martin's body, and rolls him, like a wheelchair-mounted El Cid, into the final confrontation with the bosses and their horde of lackeys...the sight of gloriously dead Martin in his white cowboy hat being knocked about by bullets as the impacts cause the guns in either hand to discharge is truly jaw-droppingly something, primo Hong Kong cinema. Eventually, once all the spear-carriers are finished, and the bosses are down, Jack, a human sieve by this point, shoots Martin's boss in the head with a gun in Martin's dead fist. Jack collapses...end titles...


This thing just left me grinning. Lau Ching Wan and Leon Lai are superb, the story is first packs a huge amount of stuff into a very concise 85 minutes. This was the first Milkyway Image movie, and there have been a lot of good ones since. If you're a gangster movie fan, you should watch this, then pick up every other Johnny To gangster movie....some are less good than others, but all of them serve up some remarkable stuff. My only caveat is that To's been putting long stretches of English dialogue into his movies lately, and his ostensible English speakers really aren't up to it. But other than that, his work is really cool. He's always coming up with fresh variations on gun-battles, and that goes a long way with me.

17.Sexy Beast 2000
I already discussed this over on the Villains list, but I don't mind talking about it again. This is another England-is-shitty gangster go-round, although most of it takes place in sunny Spain, which just makes the English stuff look shittier. The protagonist, Gel(Ray Winstone) even describes England as a "real shithole," "every cunt walking around with a long face." There is liberal, liberal use of the cunt-word, if that's your cup of tea, but---I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Gel is a retired English heistmeister who's retired to Al-Andalus. He's got a gorgeous ex-porn star wife, DeeDee (Amanda Redman) who he loves "like a leopard loves his mate in the jungle." They pal around with Aitch (Cavan Kendall) a hilarious but nearly unintelligible cockney, and Aitch's wife Jacky, (Julianne White)...among other things, this movie is a wonderful argument for sexy middle-aged women. The quartet cooks out (big fat juicy sausages), they eat out, they guzzle champagne...whenever they're not dodging boulders that roll downhill and fall into their azure swimming-pools, they're just "fan-debbidozy-tastic."

But Gel's past catches up to him in the person of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), a vile emissary from the London gangster Teddy Bess (Ian McShane, in a role which did wonderful things for his career). Bess is mounting a safe-deposit robbery (which seems to be based on the real-life caper that inspired The Bank Job), and he wants to recruit Gel. Logan, whom Kingsley claims is based on his grandmother (!), uses every kind of threat and obscene browbeating to try to persuade Gel to join up, but Gel has no intention of returning to his dank cunt-filled homeland, and he just hunkers down and endures the storm, finally seeing an opening when Logan reveals that he's still got a thing for Jacky, who he had an affair with long ago. Gel uses this on him, and Logan retreats, only to get incredibly pissed off while his plane's on the tarmac, and come roaring back to Gel's place...

The direction, by Brian Glazer, just crackles...the movie's started making lists of best British films ever, and it should. Kingsley is simply hellish, and if indeed Logan is based on his granny, I'm glad I didn't grow up Kingsley. Ian McShane is, in some respects, even scarier than Kingsley, although in a totally different way...he isn't in the movie as much. Ray Winstone holds his own in the middle of all this sound and fury with a wonderful rumbly teddy bear laid-back performance that's an excellent counterpoint to the heavies. Moreover, I love Amanda Redman. Movie ends with a perfectly-chosen Dean Martin cunts really need to catch this one.

18. Way of the Gun 2000
This was Christopher McQuarrie's follow-up to The Usual Suspects, and it's a very different kettle of fish. McQuarrie's primary lookout was complete creative control, he got what he wanted, and a lot of people were unhappy with him. The movie was way under appreciated when it first came out, although it's been gaining a reputation since then....the dialogue ("I can promise you a day of reckoning that you will not live long enough to never forget") gets in your head and stays there, but a lot of the critics were put off by the tone, which is extremely brutal. Everybody was expecting a Tarantino-esque piece, and boy they sure didn't get it. Among other things, the movie's a meditation on sperm-merchandising, abortionists, child-molesters, old age, Divine Justice, and the Natural Law, and it really doesn't give a fuck if you like the characters.

I loved it.

Two guys calling themselves Parker and Longbaugh (the actual names of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) played by Ryan Phillipe and Benicio Del Toro, are bopping about the southwest doing really rotten things. The film's sunniest bit comes right at the beginning, in which they slug the crap out of trash-talking Sarah Silverman outside a nightclub, then laugh as they absorb a mass beating from a huge crowd of her friends...I really appreciated this scene because I'm sick and tired of movie tough chicks. I know it's impolitic to say so, but tough guys really are tougher than tough chicks. As Aristotle says, the truth must be preferred.

Anyway, our boys are between crimes at the moment, and selling shots of cum to get by...when they're in a clinic, they overhear a conversation about a pregnant woman (Juliette Lewis) who's a surrogate for a rich childless couple called the Chidducks (shitticks?). Deciding to hold her for ransom, Parker and Longbaugh snatch her out from under the noses of her not particularly competent bodyguards.

But Mr. Chidduck is a gangster, and has much more dangerous retainers than those clowns, and in comes old, fucked-up, crick-necked Joe Sarno, (James Caan, in one of his best performances), who puts the guards---whom he calls cufflinks--- repeatedly in their crappy places. Saying things like "ajudicate" a lot, he locates Parker and Longbaugh down in Mehico pretty damn quick, and in his capacity as a bagman, offers a deal, which they refuse. The cufflinks arrive on the scene soon afterwards, and after a shootout with some Mexican cops, take the girl to a brothel to deliver her baby. Parker and Longbaugh follow; Sarno whistles up a squad of suicidal ex-cops to settle the kidnappers' hash....

The final gunfight, staged by MacQuarrie's ex-Seal brother, is a fine example of American action film-making. It's plausible, you can follow everybody's movements, and you get a good grasp of the geography....there's mucho shooting through walls and a scene with a bunch of broken bottles which will simply make you cringe. A gun nut philosophy professor colleague of my wife's judged it the best gunfight since the climax of the Wild the very least, it's on a par with the final leadfest in LA Confidential, although that's still pretty high praise.

Nifty score by Joe Kraemer, by the way.

Until that day...

19.Company 2002
When most people hear Bollywood, they think of silly musical romances with song-and-dance numbers that go on for ever and women with screechy voices; but all sorts of movies get made over there, and a lot of the very best Hindi films are gangster flicks,which can stand comparison with gangster movies from anywhere, American, British, HK, you name it. Fact is, India has a major and long-established gangster culture...I might point out that the Thuggee cult was a spectacular example of organized crime. Gangsters are heavily intertwined with many big aspects of Indian life...there are mobs based on ethnic and religious identity, and they're heavily, heavily involved in politics and terrorism. The gangsters themselves frequently run for office...sometimes they have to, because it's the only way they can stay out of jail---members of Parliament can't be arrested. Take Phoolan Devi for instance, the so-called "Bandit Queen." After being raped by Indian troops, she organized a ferocious dacoit insurgency, murdered scads of people, ran for office, served in the parliament for twelve years, then left and was blown to bits.

People who complain about US politicians should take a squint at Mother India.

Anyway, Company is based loosely on the life of Daud Ibrahim, an actual gangster, and the most feared member of the Indian underworld...he fled to Dubai a while ago, although he's still running the rackets from there, and is tied in to all sorts of Muslim-Pakistani terrorism. His gang is called D-Company, D standing for Daud; he made most of his money by shaking down wealthy contractors. In the movie, he's called Malik, and is well played with smoldering somnolent menace by Ajay Devgan. We see him rising through the ranks in the Mumbai mob; once he's on top, he takes young Chandu, (Vivek Oberoi,) under his wing. Soon, Malik is forced to flee to Hong Kong, where he intends to keep administering his Indian concerns...but back home in Mumbai, Chandu is getting too big for his britches, and the two are soon at loggerheads, partially because of a lethal misunderstanding. Before long Chandu is on the run all over the place, and winds in Kenya, where we get a beautifully staged rooftop chase, vastly better than your typical Indian action sequence. Ultimately Chandu surrenders to Indian cops, winds up in prison back home, and he and Malik are reconciled, sort of, but it doesn't end there...

The movie's directed by Ram Gopal Varma, who's the new-wavish bad-boy of modern Indian film...he really does work of a pretty high standard, and Company is hands down his best's a prime contender for best Bollywood film ever. He's also made some other very good gangster epics, notably Satya, and a quasi Godfather-remake called Sarkar, which spawned a sequel, Sarkar Raj, which was even better than its predecessor. Following in the footsteps of Mr. Coppola was an extremely ballsy thing to do, but Mr. Varma pulled it off. I've recommended the Sarkar movies to some pretty vehement Godfather freaks, and they've pronounced themselves impressed...

By the way, I really like Hindi musicals too, but that's outside the scope of this discussion.

20. Exiled 2006
This is another excellent Johnny To movie. It's not exactly a sequel to To's The Mission, but it comes pretty close, reuniting a lot of the same stars, and involving a plot that sure seems like a followup to the other movie. In The Mission, we had Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung, Francis Ng, and Lam Suet as a team of HK hitmen who become great friends while ferretting out and destroying the mysterious forces that are threatening their boss, Blacky Ko...once he's out of danger, it comes out that a junior member of their squad has been screwing the boss's wife, and the order comes down to kill the kid, occasioning much anguish.Ultimately, the kid winds up off the hooks, with orders from his buddies to skeedaddle and never show his face in HK again.

In Exiled, the setting is Macao...Nick Cheung (who used to be one of many replacement Stephen Chows for Wong Jing, and has now found a much cooler niche in crime flicks)plays a character who seems rather like the kid from The Mission...only he's come back from exile, most ill-advisedly, with a wife and kid in tow. The boss this go-round is played by Simon Yam, and he renews the contract on the kid...Wong, Roy Cheung, Ng, and Suet descend on Nick Cheung's apartment building, some willing to go through with the hit, others determined to protect him. Even though Anthony Wong means to pop him eventually, he agrees to a reprieve, so that the guys can make some money and provide for the wife and baby. They contact a middle man...he tells them about a job...but it turns out that the hit was ordered By Simon Yam, and when they arrive at a restaurant to do the wetwork, they find him conducting last-minute negotiations with their target. A series of highly original gun-battles erupt. Both sides bring their wounded to a underworld hospital...Yam's caught a slug in the nuts, and is in the process of having it removed when he learns Nick Cheung has been brought to the same hospital...Yam is such a fearsome son-of-a-bitch that he keeps on shooting even as the doctor is extracting the bullet! Nick Cheung winds up getting thrown out a window and dies pretty awfully...his buds decide to go ahead with the bullion heist, take care of wifey, and settle with their one-time boss. The closing kill-o-rama in the atrium of a big old Portuguese hotel is a real standout, luscious balletic slow-motion stuff, with great big bursts of scarlet vapor bursting out of the falling, twisting, turning, flipping bodies. I suspect the squibs were actually loaded with some sort of powder....the whole thing takes place while an empty soda-can our boys have kicking around is flying up and coming down.

I should add that there are a couple more To gangster flicks that nearly made the list, both of them good vehicles, among other things, for the totally reinvented Nick Cheung...Election 1 and 2 are excellent gangster fixes, revolving around Simon Yam as a boss who's trying to enlist other mobsters in his quest to become the HK Triad chairman of the board, partly by murder, partly by politicking, and partly by acquiring a ceremonial mob baton. The end of the first flick, where Yam's rival Tony Leung gets wiped out, is astonishingly shocking...the second movie has some stuff involving sledgehammers and feeding human meat to doggies that will have you squirming in your seat. In both films, Nick Cheung plays a consummate bonehead criminal whose sights are set really really low...marvellous characterization. These movies deserve to be on a list...I just don't like them quite as much as Exiled or Hero Never Dies. You might feel differently.

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