Angelica Lee

The Thieves (2012, Choi Dong-hoon)

The Thieves doesn’t try to redefine the heist genre. Instead, it shows the genre’s possibilities. The film has the traditional flashbacks, double crosses, triple crosses and so on, but it also brings a tenderness. And it’s a sincere tenderness; the film resonates because of its characters, not its spectacles. However, director Choi does everything he can to make the film viewing experience spectacular. When the film achieves its singular successes, it’s because how of he mixes the ingredients.

There are a lot of characters in the film. Ten thieves and some (mostly) comic relief supporting cast. Choi opens establishing the Korean thieves–they team up with a Chinese crew for the heist–before moving into the film’s central heist. And it’s a central sequence. The Thieves is a never boring 136 minutes and the heist sequences come relatively early. Once it’s done, Choi then moves into the film’s most surprising turn. It becomes an urban adventure thriller. There’s some astounding sequences, which shouldn’t work because of tone, but Choi and his actors bind the everything together seamlessly.

There are showy performances–Kim Yun-seok, Lee Jung-jae and especially Oh Dal-su–and there are quiet performances– Kim Hye-su, Kim Soo-hyun and Simon Yam–and there are quiet performances masquerading as showy ones–Jun Ji-hyun and Kim Hae-suk. They quietly collide and create wonderful energy.

The Thieves isn’t perfect–Choi never finds the right way to end it–but it’s excellent and a lot of fun.



Directed by Choi Dong-hoon; written by Choi and Lee Gi-cheol; director of photography, Choi Yeong-hwan; edited by Shin Min-kyung; music by Jang Young-gyu; produced by Ahn Soo-hyun; released by Showbox.

Starring Kim Yun-seok (Macau Park), Lee Jung-jae (Popeye), Kim Hye-su (Pepsi), Jun Ji-hyun (Yanicall), Kim Hae-suk (Chewing Gum), Oh Dal-su (Andrew), Kim Soo-hyun (Jampano), Simon Yam (Chen), Angelica Lee (Julie), Tsang Kwok Cheung (Johnny), Ju Jin-mo (the chief inspector), Choi Deok-mun (the casino manager), Yee Soo-jung (Tiffany) and Shin Ha-kyun (the art gallery director).

Missing (2008, Tsui Hark)

As Missing‘s end credits rolled, I could only think one thing–this movie is actually going to end. After the two dozen false endings in the third act, it really does feel like it’s never going to stop. There’s probably a post-credits tag, but I’ll never know.

Missing is a mix of Harry Potter, The Sixth Sense and Vanilla Sky. I don’t know why it’s got Harry Potter in there, but it does. There’s some stupid mysticism somewhere in it. Maybe a fight between ghosts or the promise of one. Whatever.

Strangely, until the last act–the big Vanilla Sky reveal (and I’m not feeling bad about spoiling this movie, because even after I say Vanilla Sky, I’m not even getting into those twelve false endings and the final twist)–Missing is completely watchable. The psychologist who sees ghosts following some kind of hypnosis drug? It’s kind of a good time killer. But Missing doesn’t just kill time, it somehow becomes light itself–infinitely long. Even when the movie isn’t bad, it’s long.

Some of the problem–well, technically, all of the problem, but I’m only going to cover some of it here–is how much Tsui Hark loves this movie. There are inexplicable voiceovers about the importance of the sea–both for environmental reasons and experimental psychotherapy. Or something along those lines. It all sounds like bull, so it’s hard to keep track.

His composition is fantastic and he has some great camera moves, but his script is something else. It’s not even neat in the way it all ties together. There are loose ends and the entire, end of the second act twist only works because he’s been deceiving the viewer the entire time. For one of the first times, I finally understood what Leonard Maltin meant when he complained about The Usual Suspects–you get to the end of the movie and it’s clear there wasn’t any reason to watch it. At the end of Missing, there’s this strange third act attempt to slap a big melodramatic romance onto the movie, but it doesn’t matter anymore… the dumb thing is almost over (finally). And it’s turned the protagonist into a brain-damaged simpleton and took the focus away from her, so what’s the point?

The acting in Missing is mediocre. Again, Tsui’s fault. Angelica Lee is never believable as a someone holding an MD, but she does the terrified thing pretty well. Once she turns into the simpleton… it gets painful. Isabella Leong is unimpressive throughout (occasionally, she has eyeshadow to act for her). Chang Chen is good, as is Tony Leung Ka Fai in a too small part.

Missing‘s such a good looking film, such a well-made one, there’s probably some argument for watching it–at least until the end of the second act. Then with the first big twist… well, I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t stop it. But I wasn’t expecting the third act to last three hundred minutes of the film’s two hour running time.



Written and directed by Tsui Hark; director of photography, Sakamoto Yoshitaka; edited by Yau Chi Wai; music by Ricky Ho; production designer, Kenneth Mak; produced by Tsui and Peter Chan; released by Mandarin Films Distribution Co.

Starring Angelica Lee (Dr. Gao Jing), Isabella Leong (Chen Xiao Kai), Chang Chen (Simon), Guo Xiaodong (Dave Chen Guo Dong), Tony Leung Ka Fai (Dr. Edward Tong) and Zhang Zhen-yue (Haiya Amu).

A-1 Headline (2004, Gordon Chan and Chung Kai-cheong)

A-1 Headline is a good, old fashioned newspaper movie. There’s the conflicted editor, the smarter than he gets credit for photographer, the amusing guys around the office. Even the newspaper office looks like a good movie newspaper office: rows of desks, yellowing fluorescents, and antiquated computers. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have a particularly interesting mystery. The actual investigation, once underway, is the least compelling part of the film, but A-1 still manages to be compelling. However, the characters are compelling. The story is not engaging at all. A handful of important questions go unanswered and I could tell early on there’d be no satisfactory answers to them. It’s just constructed wrong. What starts as a workplace conspiracy mystery ends as a nice little newspaper film, with a little romance no less.

Besides that lack of an engaging plot, there’s little wrong with A-1 (except a lot of the music, which sounds like something from a 1980s commercial). It’s funny, the character relationships develop in interesting ways… It’s a little short in some parts, but overall it’s a fine length since that lack of engagement would get tiring. The acting is particularly good, especially Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, who gives a deep performance. A-1’s borderline cutesy in many ways (mostly because the lead character, Angelica Lee, is a fashion reporter and the introduction to the character requires it) and the film has a fanciful air to it, which the intrusive music doesn’t help, but Wong really brings something to it. It’s not quite his film, but he’s the whole reason to watch it. The rest of the cast is good, with Lee turning in a really nice performance, even when she stops being the center of the film.

Nice is an odd adjective for A-1, but it seems to fit. While the film doesn’t work out well–it’s still all right, but doesn’t decide its thesis until… I don’t know, the last scene–it’s well-made and full of characters who are worth spending a boring ninety-five minutes watching.



Directed and written by Gordon Chan and Chung Kai-cheong; director of photography, Nau Yee-shun; edited by Cheung Ka-fai; music by Johnny Njo; produced by Allan Fung; released by Panorama Distribution Co.

Starring Anthony Wong (Fei), Angelica Lee (Ling), Edison Chen (Kei), Tony Leung Ka-fai (Tsang Tat-si), Eric Kot (Ma) and Lam Ka-tung (Tong).

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