The Odd One Dies
Director: Patrick Yau
Stars: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Carman Lee, Bin Yue, Ken Choi, Lam Suet
Kaneshiro plays a somewhat dim-witted Triad wannabe who takes a low-paying hit job to make a name for himself. However, after winning a lot of money at a casino, he wants to get out of the job, so he hires a Mainlander (Lee) to finish it. While planning the job (which seems like suicide), they of course fall in love and must decide who is going to complete the kamikazi hit.
The Odd One Dies, like most Milkyway productions, has a group of dedicated fans who swear by this movie. While I agree there are some good things about the film, it's ultimately more than a bit too quirky and indulgent for its own sake. There is a certain feeling of coolness running through the movie, brought on by the inventive cinematography, eclectic soundtrack, dramatic lighting and withdrawn performances of the actors. There's a nice look and feel to the film; it's certainly a pretty one to watch. I also enjoyed the circular nature of the story, which seems to be a common thread in Milkyway productions. At first, at least. Eventually, this leads to what I feel is The Odd One Dies' biggest fault. It feels like it goes nowhere.
To a certain extent I can understand that this might be the point of the movie (whatever we might do in life ultimately doesn't matter much), as hammered home in a scene where Kaneshiro attempts to flush the money from the job down the toilet. There's also the theme of loneliness and isolation in crowded Hong Kong. Again, this is hammered home in a scene where Kaneshiro and Lee miss each other from a few feet away while being engulfed by a New Year's crowd. But there have been other films (most notably Chungking Express) which have dealt with these themes and presented them better -- or at least not as annoyingly.
I may not agree with HK film critic Paul Foronoff much, but I will side with him in that I am so sick of cigarette smoking denoting cool in HK cinema. Enough with the five-minute long shots of a character looking forlornly into space while being encircled by a ring of smoke already. It makes for an interesting visual diversion once in a while, but when you try to build your film around them (and similar shots or gimmicky plot devices or scenes), you're going to run into trouble, and that's what happens here. The Odd One Dies is an interesting -- but ultimately pretty boring -- look into the underworld of Hong Kong that's worth a look if you're really into the "new" New Wave movies, but holds little interest for those who are in the market for a hardcore action movie or riveting Triad drama.
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