Now we’ll have no nonsense about post-modern this or metaphors for urban that: for me, Fallen Angels is nothing more nor less than lush visual art set to a soundtrack that will send your cool meter spinning.
The saturated colour makes even an MTR station look exciting (I think it’s Mongkok, but I can’t be sure). Chris Doyle’s inimitable camerawork, combined with some of the most beautiful faces in the biz, should make everyone with a pulse want to down tools and rush off to Hong Kong to find this magical land populated apparently with gorgeous women and exotic locales. I can’t imagine any other combination of talents who could make us watch a woman going up an escalator for so long and still be rivetted.
The introduction of the main characters also deserves a mention. Michelle Reis and Leon Lai Ming both saunter into view to the hypnotic strains of “‘Cos I’m cool”, and man oh man, they certainly are. Lai’s hitman could easily be a gigolo with his boyish beauty and shy smile, while Reis’ agent character, who lines up hits for Lai, is the sort of mysterious creature who is never seen in the real world.
Meanwhile, Takeshi Kaneshiro makes an unusual entrance from a cupboard in the laundry, in which he’s hiding, smoke-wreathed, from police. His subsequent internal monologue, describing his unusual means of making a living, is delivered while massaging a pig carcase. Not the most common scene, I must say, and it delineates his character wonderfully. Karen Mok’s role, as a blonde, cheongsamed charmer who picks up Lai Ming in McDonalds, is very unlike Mok herself, but worked wonderfully well. I believe this garnered Mok a Best Supporting Actress award.
Charlie Yeung pops up as a shag-haired stranger who somehow attracts the attention of Kaneshiro, and fills her small role with a manic energy that leaps off the screen. The two manage to communicate despite the fact that Kaneshiro doesn’t speak, although Yeung does enough talking for any five other people, while our Takeshi simply shrugs and looks adorable, like a devoted border collie.
And while the plot doesn’t sound like much, there’s more to this film than plot. Indeed, in any other hands this film would not amount to much, but Wong, Doyle and company transform it into a work of rare beauty that should keep you transfixed.