'Fallen Angels' movie poster  Michelle Reis deep in thought in 'Fallen Angels'

Fallen Angels


Director: Wong Kar-Wai

Stars: Michelle Reis, Karen Mok, Leon Lai, Takeshi Kaneshiro

A tale (or rather two) of small-time criminals in Hong Kong. One concerns a disenchanted hitman (Lai) and his agent (Reis) whose relationship falls apart after Lai meets an old flame (Mok). The other centers around a mute (Kaneshiro), who spends his time breaking into stores at night and running them as if they were his.

Wong Kar-Wai's films have always divided audiences. Many people in Hong Kong hate his films -- there have been tales of audiences booing and throwing things at the screen during showings of his films. On the other hand, Wong's films have found a rabid cult following around the world, mostly because of Wong's masterful use of filmic narrative devices as a method of character study. Sadly, though, Fallen Angels really isn't "masterful" in any way. It comes off as unfocused, rambling, and perhaps more than a little self-indulgent.

Perhaps the biggest detriment to Fallen Angels are the characters themselves. There's really nothing of interest about them. Originally, this movie was supposed to be part of Wong's excellent Chungking Express and the characters, while they might have worked in a smaller role, are too empty to be of interest for two hours. Wong and his cinematographer Christopher Doyle pull out all the stops to make a nice-looking movie. The images of Michelle Reis caught in deep thought are some of the most striking put to celluoid. But when the characters are so vapid and ultimately devoid of humanity, it's hard to care about anything in the film. There's a bit of John Woo-inspired gunplay, complete with dual handguns and slow motion, but it comes off as hollow and maybe a bit exploitative. Maybe that's the point that Wong was trying to make. I don't care. There comes a point where the medium tends to overpower the message and I think Wong crossed the line here. If I want to look at "striking" images, I'd rather look through a book of photography or go to a museum rather than sit through a two-hour movie.

The only parts of the movie I really enjoyed were the segments with Kaneshiro, which were quite funny and touching. There's a part where he hijacks an ice cream truck and takes a family along for a joyride that is almost sublime and shows how much promise this film had. If Wong could have reigned in his creative energy and focused a bit more, this could have been another of Wong's classic films. As such, hardcore Wong Kar-Wai fans might enjoy this movie, but most others will most likely be bored and/or confused.


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