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A Taiwanese hit-man goes Japan to kill a man. But nothing turns out in the way he expected. He finds himself in a dumpster and with neighbors' helps he gets his own stall where he cooks delicious noodles. But his past won't leave him alone.Written by
Let's address the elephant in the room right away. Mr. Long is much too long for its own good, exaggeratedly plodding and frankly tedious throughout about two thirds of its running time. And yet, the opening twenty minutes and closing twenty minutes, the excellent actresses and actors and the unusual genre mixture make this movie still watchable. Sabu's greatest movie so far was intellectual horror movie Miss Zombie which was equally artistic, emotional and quiet as Mr. Long but the main difference was that Miss Zombie is only eighty-five minutes long while Mr. Long has a whopping running time of one hundred twenty-nine minutes. Less would have been so much more and if Mr. Long had been forty-five minutes shorter than it turns out to be, it would have deserved at least two extra points in the final rating.
Let's introduce the interesting plot. Our silent titular anti-hero is a professional Taiwanese hitman who is particularly handy with knives. He stabs six thugs in the first five minutes alone. He is then sent on a mission abroad in Japan which goes terribly wrong. He has to go into hiding and ends up in a filthy and poor neighbourhood. What started as an action-thriller now turns into an intellectual drama. The protagonist is nursed back to health by a young boy whose mother is a drug addict. The hitman feels obliged to help the boy but soon starts to befriend him and ultimately becomes his father figure. He cooks for him, helps his drug addict mother to come clean and even gives him baseball lessons. The neighbourhood also starts to accept, befriend and support the quiet stranger as people discover the hitman's talent as a cook. They help him start his own business with a food stand and the quiet anti-hero accepts in order to amass enough money to return to Taiwan before the thug he tried to kill might come back for revenge. The movie works like a circle in that regard as the final twenty minutes are as intense as the opening twenty minutes.
The greatest element about the movie are the stunning characters and the brilliant actresses and actors who play them. Chang Chen barely speaks in the movie and looks cool, indifferent and tough but he occasionally shows his affection for others in heart-warming ways. Yao Yi Ti plays a drug-addicted hooker who manages to turn her life around in an impressive way. Her character is emotionally fragile, meandering between timid joy and profound despair. One can't help but root for the unlucky outsider. The greatest performance however comes from child actor Bai Run-yin who is the element that links the other two protagonists. He plays a quiet child desiring to help his sick mother and the mysterious stranger in a selfless way. There are few films that include such a good-hearted, likable and pure character.
There are numerous little details that rate this movie up. The two main action scenes are quite iconic and make think of South Korean masterpiece Oldboy with the difference that a knife takes the place of a hammer. The camera work is calm and precise which is a rare treat in contemporary cinema. The locations are authentic and diverisfied. The soundtrack blends in perfectly and accentuates the emotivity of the different scenes. The movie avoids using flashy special effects which gives the movie a particularly realistic touch not a far cry from a documentary.
In the end, Mr. Long includes enough positive elements with outstanding actresses and actors portraying fascinating characters in a genre-bending plot to be watched at least once. The overlong story, slow pace and at times pointless slice of life elements prevent a good idea from coming to full fruition. Fans of action films should rather stay away as Mr. Long is rather a profound drama with some sudden brutal outbursts.
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