As an exercise in silky formal elegance, it’s hard to fault this flighty crime caper from Hong Kong stalwart Johnnie To (‘Election’, ‘Mad Detective’). A fraternity of gentleman pickpockets led by charismatic To regular Simon Yam meet their match in enigmatic Chung Lei (Kelly Lin). But her femme fatale games lead them to ailing master pickpocket, Mr Fu (Lo Hoi-pang), and a slo-mo, sleight-of-hand showdown on a rainswept road crossing. It’s tempting to see the film as a neo-noir, with its cocky and conflicted ‘hero’ burrowing heedlessly into a shady criminal underworld. But To’s underworld is a place of soft-tone lights, Western food franchises and comfortable bourgeois affluence. In terms of atmosphere, it’s more like a Jacques Demy musical. Sure, the conceptually eccentric grifts don’t hold much water in the logic department, and To is far more interested in emphasising the seismic erotic charge of sharing a lipstick-stained cigarette than he is feeding neat little fragments of exposition. But the best reason to see this film is – simply – because it’s so damn cool.
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