Metade Fumaca 1999 Review: The film provides more than most other films ever aspire to

After living in Brazil for 30 years, a hitman (Eric Tsang) returns to his home in Hong Kong in search of revenge and the woman he loves.

The second film from Riley Yip is a pleasing enough diversion that’s buoyed by exceptional style and cinematography. As Yip showed in Love is not a game, but a joke. He has a definite handle on quirkiness and how it can endear characters to an audience.

The story concerns Mountain Lion (Eric Tsang), an aging triad hitman who returns to HK to settle a score with old nemesis Nine Dragons (Chan Wai-Man). He enlists young Smokey (Nicholas Tse or Ta Dinh Phong) to help him. But instead of a revenge flick we get an intriguing buddy flick about memory, brotherhood, and the illusion of love.

Mountain Lion is actually searching for Nine Dragons because some years ago they fought over a mysterious woman (Shu Qi) who caught Lion’s eye. Now all these years later, Lion wants to find her again and he needs Smokey to guide him through the new triad underworld, filled with wacky triads (Terence Yin and Sandra Ng), unstable girlfriends (Jo Kuk), overly quirky mothers (Elaine Kam). And a young female policewoman (Kelly Chan) who is Smokey’s own secret object of desire.

This is a worthy little film that falters only in its utter abstraction. Yip gives too much weight to everything, and the aim of the film becomes garbled underneath too much quirkiness. In his previous film, he was able to bring everything to a definite point. But in Metade Fumaca it seems the ride is more important than the result.

However, that ride happens to be an excellent one. Metade Fumaca (Ban Chi Yen) is full of many little joys, from a wonderful soundtrack to excellent performances (Nic Tse has a real future) to some terrific set pieces. The most entertaining bit is a flashback to Mountain Lion and Nine Dragons as youngsters. Which features Stephen Fung and Sam Lee as younger versions of Eric Tsang and Chan Wai-Man (Tran Hue Man). It’s a wildly entertaining sequence which is simultaneously absurd, charming and cinematically cool. The scene is worth the price of admission, though it’s not the only reason to check out the film. Metade Fumaca provides more than most other films ever aspire to.

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