One Nite in Mongkok
Tai Seng // R // $19.95 // February 28, 2006
Review by Matt Langdon | posted April 5, 2006
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One Nite in Mongkok is the kind of film that has been done so often that a viewer could probably write most of the scenario themselves.

After an opening couple of scenes that set up a police versus street gang scenario there is a car crash. This crash leads to an assassin (Daniel Wu) being hired to come to Hong Kong to do a hit. The assassin, however, is set up by a greedy crook who gets caught and strikes a deal with the cops. The cops follow every lead but the assassin is too smart. He has also hooked up with a local prostitute (Cecilia Cheung) [with a heart of gold] who escorts him around the densely populated area known as Mongkok.

The assassin knows what he has to do but - it turns out - he's an okay guy. He's actually more interested in finding his girlfriend - who unbeknownst to him - has been in a terrible car crash that opens the film.

The cops, in turn, are not all good guys. They sometimes play dirty and have shady methods. One (Alex Fong Chung-Sun) is tired of his job but he knows how to play the opportunist game; at one point he sets up a cop murder to look like an accident. Another (Anson Leung) is an new cop who is quick on the draw and would rather shoot first and ask questions later. But he's such an innocent looking guy you can't fault him.

In fact, pretty much everybody is okay. And, or course, the assassin and the cops are basically one in the same. It's just a matter of time before their paths cross.

One Nite in Mongkok has a high production value, is well paced and has a lot of quality actors. But it is also manages to be uniquely convoluted and predictable. It's as if director Derek Lee - in trying to fashion something new out of a formula - decided to throw a bunch of wrinkles into the mix with the hope that by the end everything will have more power and meaning. Some of those interesting wrinkles include taking the overall story of a bunch of cops chasing a bunch of crooks and narrowing it down to being just about three or four characters, giving us a mainland versus city theme and making the assassin so nice it turns out he is doing his first and last job.

Lucky for him. Or maybe not....

While the film does become more engaging as the subplots develop it still treads ground that has been tread often and much better. It does have a dark gritty side, which is welcome. But the production value actually undermines this a bit. Despite all of this the film garnered 12 Hong Kong nominations. It won for Best Screenplay and Best Director.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 the film looks great. Much of it was shot at night or in dark areas around Mongkok. The blacks are deep and dark but there is good contrast with the various colors that make up the film's pastiche and design. The image is sharp and clean. The film's first few minutes is shot in black and white monochrome the rest in color.

The film is in Cantonese/Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and the DVD features three tracks. Besides the dolby digital one there is a Cantonese/Mandarin DTS 5.1 and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin dub as well. The sound is strong thoughout. There are not as many explosions as one might expect. But there is a lot of dialogue and good foley sound, atmosphere and a fair soundtrack.

The DVD is presented on two discs. On the first disc is a commentary track that features director Derek Yee, actor Daniel Wu, cinematographer Kam Sing and some stunt people all moderated by Lee Kwon-Tung. On Disc two there is a Making Of... featuerette that is more promo piece than anything in-depth or revealing. There are also about half-a-dozen deleted scenes that last for 27 minutes. One scene is simply the film's first 6 minutes shot in color rather than monochrome. A couple others are just extended scenes and a couple are redundant and needed to be cut. The deleted scenes have a commentary track that explains why the scenes were cut. Then there are two promotional highlight shorts that show the cast at the Hong Kong walk of fame [or something] entering on motorcycles and being interviewed about the film. The other is an opening night promotional piece. There are also three different trailers. For the most part the extras will only be appreciated by fans of the film and or fans of the actors. I cannot imagine anyone watching disc two a second time. However, the commentary track is good and reveals a lot about the filmmaking process as well as the film's narrative.

One Nite in Mongkok is an average Hong Kong policier film with above average production value. What it lacks in originality is makes up for with top notch quality look and sound. The film does reveal more on a second viewing due to the fact that is has so many characters and plots going through it. The DVD is recommended for those interested.

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