The film centers around the shady goings-on at a Taiwanese bar, the kind of filthy establishment where even the dirt has dirt on it. Indeed, this is one of the grimiest, grungiest movies I've ever seen, which makes it all the more disappointing - all that dingy atmosphere is ripe for a gritty, slimy crime drama, yet all anybody can come up with is a bland, sloppy story about a couple of schmucks and their connection to a general with a political agenda.
The schmucks are Cheuk, who stumbles into this sleazy dive and lands a bodyguard job; Hai and Su, who are trying to make their way back to Hong Kong (something to do with them tracking down an uncle's killer or whatever); and Beauty, the transgender proprietor who found an abandoned baby and keeps the kid in the back, just next to the crack whores, to the left of the gunslingers. Hai lands the other bodyguard duty, and the two men both fall for the barkeep. Meanwhile, Eric Tsang is a powerful general who's very pissed all the time. Somehow, all of this adds up to many, many scenes of dudes pointing guns at each other.
Directed by Gregory Hatanaka and Gary Mak, "Bar Paradise" is one slick production. A few pretentiously jumpy edits aside, this duo knows how to work a camera to get the most from their visuals. You can feel the filth in the air as you watch, and the posing - lots of dudes pointing guns - catches the coolness of your typical Asian crime thriller.
And yet they spend so much time setting the mood that they don't do much with the uninvolving story (penned by Sam Long), which sputters along as it bounces from off-key melodrama to go-nowhere politicizing. (The general character feels less like a viable threat and more like a pasted-in place holder, an "insert villain here;" Tsang's usual flamboyance goes to waste in such a non-role.) The script takes too long getting where its going and spends too much time wandering aimlessly once it arrives. Only a few solid turns from the leading men (Gordon Lam Ka Tung and Julien Cheung Chi Lam) keeps things moving ably enough to get by.
Note: "Bar Paradise" is also known as "Back to 2160 Hours," and no, I don't know what that could mean either.
Pathfinder Home Entertainment presents "Bar Paradise" in its original widescreen (1.85:1) format with anamorphic enhancement. There's plenty of grain and softness in the image, but this seems to be quite intentional and not a flaw of the transfer or source print. Blacks stand out nicely in this rather dark picture.
The original soundtrack, in a mix of Cantonese and Thai, sounds decent in 2.0 stereo. Optional English subtitles are provided.
Just the film's trailer and a tacky still gallery, which uses awful checkerboard-flip transitions to go from shot to shot.
We also get trailers for six other Pathfinder releases, although oddly, they're buried in the DVD production credits page.
Unless you're a die hard Asian film buff desperate to seek out every possible option, there's just nothing in "Bar Paradise" to be worth your time. It's sleek, sure, but you can see the same slickness in hundreds of other Hong Kong productions. Skip It.