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Extremely bleak and savage gangster film from Hong Kong
Requital (1992) by Hong Kong filmmaker Jue Yin Ping (Island of Fire) is incredibly violent and convincing Triad (Chinese mafia) gangster film, which really is one unique experience. It stars Alan Tang as Tung, a young Taiwanese guy who was sentenced to prison when he was just a kid, and after returning from there, he began his life as a gangster as he had great potential to it since most of his relatives were gangsters, too. He has some friends from his childhood and also the girl he loves. He goes to Hong Kong in order to make business with the local Triad, but soon he has to return back to Taiwan, and by this point, it is clear that most of his friends and people he trusted have turned against him, and all there is is requital and wait for final showdown in this violence infested and ugly world which isn't any cleaner or peaceful in this movie than it is in real life.
This film is very remarkable piece of Hong Kong crime/action drama film making, and this reminded me pretty much of Martin Scorsese's brilliant Goodfellas (1990), but not in a way Requital was any rip off of Scorsese's film. There are some similar scenes in these films, like the brutal beating in the bar at the beginning, but one thing differentiates these films: Requital is far more fierce film, and in fact, it is perhaps the most brutally fierce film I've ever seen, and thus the kind of film that can come out from Hong Kong or some other Asian country only. These filmmakers have free hands for their visions and they don't have to follow some regulations or restrictions like R rating or commercial potential.
Requital is very pessimistic and bleak look of life as there are not any humoristic touches in the film, and that is a great thing since too many Hong Kong films are irritating due to their slapstick humor and stupid efforts to entertain the viewers. There are these very serious, honest and gritty films which are classics already in their own genre (The Big Heat, Bullet in the Head, Long Arm of the Law saga etc.) and they are exactly the movies which make this Orient film industry so unique and effective. Requital is also pretty close to Japanese Takashi Miike's fantastic masterpiece Fudoh (1995) which also has this lonely gangster/anti hero who is very powerful in the crime world and is very interesting person without being 'cool' in a way in some stupid Hollywood mainstream production, in which hero criminals say 'funny' one liners and try to look as cool and stylish as possible, but are in fact just irritating pieces of modern film making which is mainly about entertainment and getting as many bucks as possible. Requital and Fudoh lack all these elements, and thus they become so important pieces of the 1990's fierce and personal world cinema.
Requital is about revenge, violence and how power corrupts and how everything that can be reached by using violence is just more violence until every part has been eliminated and killed. Tung in Requital is willing to take his revenge to the end no matter what happens to himself and his friends, and the final shoot out in the bar is effective and 'heroic' battle between these two characters turned against each other, as either of them cannot finish until it's too late. What makes Requital so impressive in my opinion is not only that it lacks all humoristic and lightening elements, but that it has also great use of music (another similar element with Goodfellas, and many other great Hollywood gangster films, like De Palma's Scarface (Giorgio Moroder) and The Untouchables (Ennio Morricone) among many others) and brilliant cinematography and atmospheric settings and scenery, which still isn't as great as in the greatest cases, like To Be Number One by Poon Man Kit and City on Fire by Ringo Lam. Requital has plenty of action and mayhem, but since it takes itself very seriously all the time and never becomes unintentionally comic or somehow non-believable, I really find this among the greatest achievements in Triad genre.
Then there is this another element, which is very important in Requital. In fact, it is perhaps the strongest of its kind I've seen in very long time, if ever. I mean the violence during the shoot outs. The gun battles and violence in Requital are so incredibly brutal and savage their power cannot be fully described with words, since I hadn't seen quite anything like this before. At one point, after the first scenes of gory brutality one might ask, is this really necessary and doesn't this all become little too gratuitous and exploitative? I started to think that the violence in Requital is like in the mentioned Goodfellas and some other films in which the violence bursts very suddenly and is very strong because it's realistic and it's not been moralized nor underlined and it's all left to the viewer's mind to be solved. There are no good guys in here. All the characters which have some positive sides in them get killed or turn more evil themselves, and thus destroy themselves sooner or later. Doesn't this sound a little bit like human psyche and persona in general, if thought very pessimistically, but still realistically? That is exactly the thing which makes these films so important and also difficult. They demand the viewer very often to watch to mirror of our very own souls and its different, active or in-active sides.
I think the violence in Requital is just another, very effective, element to depict the world the film tells about and to show once again what kind of a tool violence really is. It is not like in some disgusting Hollywood pieces like Payback (1999) or other films which are meant to be entertainment and are filled with one liners, jokes during violence and overall praising of violence and acts the characters (in Payback's case, Mel Gibson) commit without any morality or meaning, and thus those films are just junk and pieces of pop corn cinema which have nothing really significant to give and they are meant to be just entertaining and 'cool' in a way an average cinema goer usually likes it. Violence never is pleasant, positive or funny in Requital or other of its kind, and everytime it explodes, the results are equally horrific and as brute as the characters who commit the acts. There is plenty of very extreme and graphic, horrific violence in Requital, and as it becomes one important element for the film, I concentrate on it in this writing as much as on the other elements in this film.
Another important side of this film is that how females are treated in the film. Females are treated very badly by most of the characters and the film criticizes this sex discrimination and position of females in some cultures. The film's conclusion is that females are equal with men which is of course the truth. The abuse of females by males in this film is just one aspect about the dark sides of human psyche this film tells about.
Requital is very rare film, but if you really love this unique Eastern cinema and happen to find this film, then I recommend to get it and watch it reserved, since some viewers (even the jaded Asian cinema fans) will most likely to be offended and repulsed by the extreme nature and imagery of this film, which was originally rated CAT 3 for brutal violence and some scenes of sexual violence and rape. Requital is among the most interesting films I've managed to see for long time and now afterwards I understand that I didn't have a clue what was I going to see once I started to watch the film. The other film I find among the most fierce and powerful Hong Kong productions is The Big Heat (1988) by Andrew Kam and Johnnie To but even after seeing that film for many times before, Requital was very powerful and paralyzing punch to my nerves and mind. It is that powerful film, and lovers of Eastern cinema will without a doubt be more willing to come to that conclusion than others.
Requital gets 9/10 rating from me and the reason I don't give it (at least yet, after first viewing) full ten stars is that the story is again often confusing and characters plenty, so some segments are hard to follow and understand, but that is the case which seems confusing only for Western viewer and so the films need to be viewed couple of times in order to fully understand them and find all aspects of them. Requital was far more than I managed to expect, and now after seeing this, I can just wonder how many other films manage to come close to this film and its incredible rage and mayhem, both mental and physical.
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