The French actor Johnny Hallyday and actress Sylvie Testud star in the film as well as a number of repeat Johnnie To actors, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Ka Tung Lam, Suet Lam, Simon Yam, Siu-Fai Cheung, and Maggie Siu.
However he doesn't know Hong Kong and the only information he has to go on is the fact that one of the men had his ear shot off and there were three. The murderers could be anywhere and the police aren't very helpful or hopeful.
When he returns to the hotel he's staying at he recognises a sound from a room he's passing, silenced shots, and when three men exit he knows who they are, assassins. He walks away, but later, as he considers how he's going to get his revenge he realises he's going to have to track down these killers and hire them, for he's struggling with his own problems, problems that threaten to halt him in his tracks and stop any thought of revenge.
The film doesn’t feel as though it flows well, particularly at the beginning of the story, and it’s quite staccato at times. However it does deliver a good story. I can’t help but feel though that it could have delivered a little more by keeping an even flow and building a bit more on the main drive of the film, not the vengeance but the problems that the lead character is facing.
Now I won’t spoil things unnecessarily, for I do think that there’s something in seeing the underlying story revealed as you watch it. For me it was refreshing to start to gleam something was wrong and then understand a little later on what it was, looking back on some of the earlier scenes with an understanding of what is happening.
I found the story of the father, who just happened to be seeking revenge for his daughter, the most interesting and yet it isn’t explored nearly enough in the film itself. I really do love the way it dawns on you later on in the film and doesn’t make a big deal of going back through the events to remind you, but neither does it play too much on it until near the end.
Come the end the story takes a strong forward drive and really comes into its own, and its here that the vengeance thread comes full circle and the story of the Father comes to the fore. It’s cleverly played and laid out and is really enjoyable, especially when things seem to be going totally against the father.
To that point the character is quite weak, although seeing him discover and bond with the hit men is interesting and their relationship, or their brotherhood, develops well.
Johnny Hallyday looks good on screen and delivers some strong moments, as do the three hit men, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang the leader, Ka Tung Lam and Suet Lam. The three portray their characters as unemotional hard men from the beginning, but they and the script slowly open their characters to the Frenchman and his desire for revenge, at first through the horror of the children being murdered, and then through the connection and respect for the Frenchman himself. Before long they aren’t so concerned about carrying out the hit for money, but for as much as revenge as the Frenchman himself.
The hit men work well together and look damn cool, as do all the gangsters portrayed in the film, after all wouldn’t they being a Johnnie To film?
Speaking of which the action sequences are rather inventive, but a few of them suffer the same issue as the story itself does, they don’t flow well enough and feel a little over edited. However other sequences, such as the one escaping from the building, aren’t and deliver some strong tension and action.
There are some moments that appear out of nowhere and at times it seems that some smaller elements of the story or some of ancillary characters are handled rather heavy handed, however it doesn’t really affect the overall story which does bring an interesting turn or two and some well filmed sequences and powerful moments.
The picture is strong, dealing with a lot of darker scenes really well, just watch the scene of the moonlit gunfight to see how strong the picture looks. There's sometimes a lot of contrast in the shots. Johnnie To’s style is all apparent through the film, particularly during the action sequences and the scenes of the hit men facing off to each other, and the film looks all the better for it.
Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0
The audio is good although I've just watched the film and really don't remember it that much. Now with lots of gunfire I expected I might have to turn the volume up and down between the speaking parts and the action sequences, however I never did, mainly because there aren't lot's of scenes with dialogue, and the gunfire isn't that loud. I didn't actually notice a great deal of use of the multiple speakers, but I was enjoying the film, so at least the lack of audio punch wasn't distracting me from it.
This Making Of featurette is a pretty standard making of running to about ten minutes in length. It doesn’t deliver anything that exciting although we do get the stars talking about the film, the writer and the director and a little behind the scenes.
Vengeance is an enjoyable film with a rather cool story. It isn’t perfect and feels as though there could have been more made of the core themes, but it does deliver a good gangster action film. The combination of the story threads shows some clever writing, although I did feel that there could have been more made of the father character and his story, however it does turn around later in the film and deliver well.
The gangster threads of the film are the strongest part, the slow connection between the Frenchman and the three hit men, and how the story develops with them and the gangsters they intend to reach.
The big strength lies in the Frenchman’s story, which I didn’t think was made enough of but does really well, especially near the end.
For Johnnie To fans this is a must, and for gangster and action fans this is a film worth seeing. Could have been better, but still does really well.