Philip Yung delivers an ambitious decade-spanning true crime thriller with Where The Wind Blows, Hong Kong’s entry for the International Feature Oscar. Previously known as Theory of Ambitions, it’s a technically impressive feat with an equally impressive cast lead by Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Fast-paced and dense with detail, it challenges the audience to keep up with its complex story of two cops rising up the ranks in Hong Kong in the 1960s and beyond.
Kwok plays Lui Lok, an initially sympathetic character whose principles set him apart from other policemen. His reluctance to accept bribes means he’s despised and even attacked, so he tries to find a way of surviving while doing some kind of good. Nam Kong (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) also wants to shake things up in a corrupt force, but may be more susceptible to temptation. While the two men are ostensibly in business together, strains begin to show amid the tumultuous backdrop of Hong Kong under British colonial rule.
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Writer-director Yung undertook extensive research into the period and characters, and the details he’s uncovered are fascinating and often disturbing, showing a dark, dog-eat-dog world. The cinematography is always interesting, and the tone seems to purposefully vary from scene to scene, paying tribute to other genres and filmmakers.
There’s a dance number paying homage to Singin’ in the Rain, a romance that recalls the work of Wong Kar-Wai and many gangster episodes in the vein of Goodfellas. While most of these tonal shifts work, a few take perplexing turns: on one occasion what begins like a classic romance morphs into something resembling a karaoke video.
While the performances from the leads are terrific, the few scenes in the English language may sound stilted to a Western ear. But Where The Wind Blows succeeds in creating a vivid, stylish picture of two complicated men – and it is certainly never dull.
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