A veteran of Hong Kong’s film industry, Johnnie To has spent his career making all kinds of movies: romantic comedies, family melodramas, martial-arts fantasies. His true métier, however, is the kind of male-bonding action flicks that you buy your dad for Father’s Day—the ones that fit nicely on the he-man DVD shelf between The Dirty Dozen collector’s edition and “The Man with No Name” trilogy. Pops would probably get a kick out of Exiled’s opening sequence, an inspired riff on Once Upon a Time in the West’s preamble, in which two sets of hired killers (albeit with very different agendas) quietly wait for the same target to come home. Once the mark arrives, the borrowed spaghetti-Western score twangs loudly and the gunfighting begins in earnest. The director then interrupts the carnage before it’s really begun—turns out that all five are old friends from the same criminal fraternity—so the quintet sits down for a jovial dinner. Fanboys shouldn’t fret, however; the director has several more elaborate bullet-ridden set pieces up his sleeve.
Coming after his sociological gangster epic, Election (2005), and its equally brilliant sequel, Triad Election (2006), To’s latest feels like a baby step backward. But few filmmakers working in this genre can choreograph mayhem with such singular flair, and his knack for getting great performances out of action-film ensemble casts remains peerless. By the time this particular wild bunch heads to its Peckinpah-esque date with destiny, you’ll feel like Hong Kong’s golden age of ballistic cinema never really ended.
Cast and crew