In the lulling haze of Macau, the Portuguese colony on the cusp of handover to the Chinese in 1998, four men gather outside the apartment of Wo, his wife Jin and their infant child. The men move in grim, graceful silence, and though two have come to kill Wo, the other two to protect his life, tension and hostility seem strangely absent. Wo returns. A man from each of the pairs of criminals enters his home with him. Words and glances are exchanged, an unspoken agreement is reached, guns are drawn and the tiny home explodes with flying lead and clouds of gunsmoke. The battle results in a standoff, so what else is there to do but holster their weapons, roll up their sleeves and set to work moving in Wo’s new furniture and patching the bullet holes in the doors. Then it’s time for a peaceful home-cooked meal and happy reminiscences between old friends.
Many have mistaken Exiled for a direct sequel to Johnnie To’s 1999 gem The Mission, and it’s an understandable error. To, Hong Kong’s master of the gritty and unflinching yet compassionate and even playful crime drama, has reassembled his core cast from that film, a rogue’s gallery of To’s iconic regulars that includes the great Anthony Wong and Simon Yam as well as Francis Ng, Roy Cheung and of course Lam Suet (Richie Ren and Nicky Cheung will also be instantly familiar to fans of To’s films). Moreover, he’s dropped them into a scenario not entirely unlike that of The Mission, and adopted a comparable tone, amplifying the sense of déja-vu. But Exiled focuses on a particular facet of the situation, elevates it and perfects it. As much as anything, it’s a study of the way old and intimate friends interact, brought to resonant life by a cast that’s precisely that –- old friends and colleagues, almost psychically in tune with one another’s nature. And as this study is of hard, tough men of violence, whose inner softness they guard with great care, silence is necessarily the key component of the dialogue -- Exiled recalls Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch in its banter as well as bullet storms. Oh yes, Exiled is an exciting gangster flick, as one should expect from To. But it’s also a masterpiece of collective storytelling in which every player, from To through his cast to his technical crew, unwrap with uncanny cool, confidence and clarity.
“A remarkably spry thriller... excellent action setpieces” - Jason Alexander, EYE WEEKLY
“Johnnie To is the epitome of the word ‘cool’... one serious powerhouse of a cast. It’s truly a beautiful thing. ” - Daniel Lee Fullmer, KFCCINEMA.com
WINNER: Public Prize, Silver Fantasia, Best Asian Film, Fantasia 2007
Director: Johnnie To
Screenplay: Szeto Kam-Yuen, Yip Tin-Shing
Cast: Anthony Wong,
Producers: Johnnie To, John Chong
Distributor: Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm