Director: Johnny To
Starring: Johnny Hallyday, Antony Wong, Sylvie Testud, Simon Yam
The veteran French rocker Hallyday was an incongruous but inspired choice to star in this superior Hong Kong crime thriller. The craggy singer plays Costello, a former professional hitman now working as a chef, until a lethal attack on his daughter's family in Macau persuades him to pick up his gun again.
Enlisting a trio of local gangsters for his righteous rampage of revenge, Costello is also battling sporadic amnesia caused by a bullet lodged in his brain. A prolific director and producer, To is sometimes described as Hong Kong's answer to the Hollywood action mogul Jerry Bruckheimer, but that doesn't take into account his subtle and sharply tailored style. After all, Vengeance contains plenty of hushed, poetic understatement and sly homages to European art-house cinema - it is no coincidence that Hallyday's ravaged anti-hero shares his surname with Alain Delon's brooding hitman in Jean-Pierre Melville's cult 1967 thriller Le Samourai.
That said, To's dynamic skills come to the fore most obviously during the superbly orchestrated action sequences, including bravura gun battles staged in a moonlit park and a giant landfill dump. Vengeance is essentially an upscale genre piece, neither deep nor original but beautifully filmed, solidly acted and achingly stylish.