Fallen Angels could have been so named due to its dropped origin as part of director Wong Kar Wai's previous film Chunking Express, emerging afterwards as a follow up. To hear the critics tell it, 'Express' is his masterpiece, regularly making the 'best movies ever made' lists along side such exalted company as your Citizens Kane's and Casablanca's. But for me Fallen Angels is, to date, the daddy of the Wong Kar Wai canon.
Fallen Angel tells of a not quite burnt-out hit man, Leon, who begins to tire of the whole 'gun for hire' malarkey and decides to quit on account of his burgeoning feelings for the female operative who he has never met, but who plans his jobs for him. The female operative, Michelle, also emotes for our existential assassin but somehow they both realise that if they ever did come face to face the fantasy would evaporate. The unrequited love thing is Kar Wai's forte but here it is more a case of "As long as you don't look at it, it won't disappear." So their love continues on the basis of ensuring that it never really exists. Anxious to avoid an inevitable unprofessional encounter, our navel gazing killer goes off on an adventure into the Kowloon night where he crosses paths with a series of likable reprobates before embarking on that fatal "one last job." This takes us not so neatly into a 'mad as a hatter' subplot about a petty criminal who was rendered mute as a boy by a can of 'out of date' pineapples. He goes out at night and gets up to a range of activities such as massaging a dead pig and kidnapping a family and forcing them to eat ice cream. He too falls in love, with a girl who believes she has been beaten to the altar by someone called Blondie. He helps her go in search of the usurper of her affections resulting in a hilarious beating up of a blow up doll! Cinematographer and Kar Wai regular Christopher Doyle engages a warped and gaudy neon look throughout; something of a trade mark in Kar Wai films. This is the world from inside a Wurlitzer juke box or, at least, through the eyes of a tranquilised goldfish and this, incidentally, is not a complaint. The other thing I like about this film is that it walks the line between the art house 'heart warmers' of the best of European cinema and the 'Glock Opera' pyrotechnics of John Woo and Ringo Lam.
Genre clash it's the future.
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