One Night in Mongkok (2004)

Rating: B+

Dir: Derek Yee
Star: Daniel Wu, Cecilia Cheung, Alex Fong, Chin Kar-Lok

I suppose it’s a bit too late to include this in the Best Films list for 2004? That’ll teach me to leave it on the shelf for…several years, I guess. I think I was put off by Yee’s name in the title, having been forced at gunpoint by Miles Wood to watch his earlier, interminable Full Throttle. Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but since it was the same Mr. Wood who provided Night, you’ll understand why precedence was given to other titles. Such as John Tucker Must Die. 🙁 This won Hong Kong Film Awards for Yee’s direction and script, and I can see why, as he expertly weaves together a series of threads, centered around a rookie killer, Lai Fu (Wu), brought in from Mainland China to settle a gang score.

He ends up rescuing a hooker, Dan Dan (Cheung), and is being hunted by the cops under Officer Milo (Fong). And they’re none too pleased to have their Christmas Eve interrupted, all leave being cancelled to track down their man. The beauty of this is, the shades of grey with which Yee paints most of the characters; they may do bad things, yet you understand the reasons why. For example, Milo gets an erroneous tip, which leads to an accidental shooting; he immediately starts a cover-up, with such slickness, you have to suspect it’s not the first time this has happened. Similarly, despite Lai Fu’s mission, he has a well-developed sense of right and wrong, and is more in Hong Kong to look for a friend…who happens to be involved in the incident that sparked the whole gang-war.

It is, no doubt, far tidier than it should be, and the ending is something of a leap, requiring the cops to have dinner just down the street from where their target is lying-up. However, by that stage, you are so engaged by the plot and the character development that you are prepared to forgive the movie, just as you forgive it for casting the model-like Cheung as a low-rent whore [if that’s unrealistic, the HK tourist industry has a huge, untapped target market…]. There’s no denying the film’s flaws, yet what it does well, it does incredibly well. I’ll happily settle for that.