ZѨ (1995)
Fallen Angels


Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 01/01/2009
Summary: The night's full of weirdos

FALLEN ANGELS is the third tale in the CHUNGKING EXPRESS set of stories, and has no plot as such other than that of hitman Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai) wanting to give up his profession. The rest is just an assortment of characters that are bruised, broken, lovelorn or just plain crazy. And that, as everyone knows, is just what makes Wong Kar-Wai’s films from this period so damn great.

Wong populates the film with the denizens of the night in this strictly nocturnal film. We get the aforementioned hitman, his desperately lonely partner (Michelle Reis), a mute shop worker (Kaneshiro Takeshi – in a different role from the one he played in CHUNGKING EXPRESS) who takes over and runs other people’s businesses while they sleep, a kooky blonde (Karen Mok) who used to date Wong Chi-Ming but was so unspectacular as to be completely forgotten by him and a serial small-change thief (Charlie Yeung) who makes constant phone calls trying desperately to rekindle her love affair with the never-seen Johnny.

The characters cross at various points with different degrees of success, and watching them is a delight. It’s hard to convey to someone who hasn’t seen the film just how brilliant it is to see a hitman coming off his last job, taking the bus home and running into an old school friend who tries to sell him insurance. Or when the blonde Karen Mok sits next to Chi-Ming in McDonalds and asks if it’s OK to sit there, when the huge restaurant is ENTIRELY empty. Or when He Qiwu starts giving people shampoos against their will. It’s the mute He Qiwu (he lost his voice after eating a can of out-of-date pineapples – further deepening the canned pineapple conspiracy in Wong Kar-Wai’s films) who says it best in one of his voice-overs: “The night’s full of weirdos”. Elsewhere, we see the futility of trying to dry clothes by flashlight, extreme violence to a blow-up sex doll, the massaging of a dead pig and other weird and wonderful things you’d never expect to see in a movie – including the much talked about (at the time) fully-clothed masturbation sequences of Michelle Reis’s hyper-sexed but unfulfilled femme fatale.

It’s a bittersweet pop-art film noir with chunks of whimsy set against some fantastically placed pieces of music and filmed to perfection, as ever, by Christopher Doyle. The Teresa Teng song “Mong-kei Ta” (“Forget Him”) by Shirley Kwan must get special mention as the mood-setter on the soundtrack, but the use of the faux a cappella hit “Only You” by British group The Flying Pickets also gets the little hairs rising on the back of your neck.

The only real criticism you can make about FALLEN ANGELS is that it’s not quite as good as CHUNGKING EXPRESS, and as it is so close stylistically and thematically (He Qiwu’s “proper” job is working in the Midnight Express, just like the characters from the previous film) it is hard not to compare the two. The resolution of the Karen Mok character seemed a little anti-climactic and the voice over by Chi-Ming in this scene seemed a bit contrived and corny to me, but that’s the only thing that didn’t seem right in the film. While it may not be as good as CHUNGKING EXPRESS, the fact is that very little IS. And I’d take ten FALLEN ANGELS over one IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE any day and I strongly suspect I’m not the only one.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: pat00139
Date: 03/04/2007
Summary: Another great movie by Wong Kar-Wai

This movie ends what I call director Wong Kar-Wai’s prolific period. It only spanned 2 years and included 3 movies, but a quick glance at his sparse filmography will prove my point. In the ‘Chungking Express’ DVD, here, Mr. Tarentino says this movie would be like the 3rd story to the movie. Mr. Wong just decided to make a whole other movie instead. It certainly has the same elements, but is far more experimental and creative. As with his other movies, the plot is only incidental to what the movie means. Also like in his other movies, this movie has the themes of dreams and failure to be able to talk to other people.

Nobody can say Wong Kar-Wai doesn’t have a sense of humour, though. Even the few seconds of Mr. Kaneshiro doing the Faye Wong-dance from ‘Chunking Express’ makes this movie worth watching. Mr. Kaneshiro plays a mute person. It’s a story involving a can of pinapples. Anyway, in his interior monologe, he says ‘you need to talk face to face’. He can’t talk. He can’t say what he wants. If that’s not being trapped in your own little world and not being able to communicate with others, then I don’t know what is. His partner for a nice part of the movie is the lovely Charlie Yeung, who played the girl with the eggs and donkey in ‘Ashes of Time’, who always talks but never listens to anybody. Isn’t that just the perfect microcosm for Wong Kar-Wai?

Then you have Leon Lai, a person who kills other people for a living. He doesn’t want to listen to other people. Just wants to do as he pleases, he doesn’t want to make any decisions, just wander through life, oblivious to the people he’s met in the past. Not wanting to have a past. One girl he meets is Karen Mok, a girl who changed her hair colour to blonde because she wants people to remember her. Even after she reveals that to Mr. Lai, she says she has a mole on her face, and that’s how he can remember her this time. The other girl is his handler who’s obsessed with him. Her hair always covers her eyes, she can’t see anything. She cleans his apartment, she’s good for him, but he doesn’t want to make any sort of commitment because, you see, that would involve a decision. The one time he does decide something, well…

I can spend another few paragraphs talking about the style of the movie, but I’ll try to restrict myself to just one. The first thing you see in the movie is a black and white shot, by a fish-eye lens, at a strange angle. That about sums up the movie. Throughout the movie, you’ll be assaulted by blurred action, strange angles, unusual film choices and time-lapse photography. It’s so different and your attention is always on screen. You never know what’s coming next. My favorite shot of the movie is the black and white time-lapse shot through a rainy window of Takashi Kaneshiro and Charlie Yeung. It’s very simple but it grabs your attention and stays in your mind.

This was the second Wong Kar-Wai movie I saw and I knew I found something good. After seeing ‘In the Mood for Love’, this movie showed me the kind of range Wong Kar-Wai had. It prepared me for ‘As Tears Go By’ and ‘Days of Being Wild’. I did not, however, fully appreciate Mr. Wong’s talent until I had seen the DJ Shadow music video ‘Six Days’, which Mr. Wong directed. This movie, however, really cemented my impression that Wong Kar-Wai is talented, and even after seeing all his movies, I don’t douby my impression one bit.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 08/30/2005
Summary: Stylistic and very enjoyable

Made soon after and running along the same lines, Fallen Angels is a sort of sequel to Chungking Express. Starring Leon Lai as an uninspired assassin, Michele Reis as his "agent", Takeshi Kaneshiro as a mute ex-con, Fallen Angels intertwines thier individual stories in a very stylized film. The assassin and his agent have never net, but after each time she cleans his apartment and leaves his assignment for him, she becomes more and more attracted to him. However, being lethargic, he instead hooks up with an exuberant street girl named Baby (Karen Mok), and only later decides to take a different path in life (one that includes Michele Reis) after taking a final, fateful assignment.

Reis (the agent) lives in an apartment complex run by father of the mute He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a former convict. A restless soul, Qiwu breaks into businesses late at night and forces passersby into paying for his services. He ends up falling for a distraught girl (Charlie Yeung), but she eventually leaves him after the initial attraction wears off. Through it all, Wong Kar Wai weaves the story around the character's interactions.

Very similar to Chungking Express in its style and storytelling, Fallen Angels is another very entertaining movie from Kar Wai. The performances from the actors are great, especially those from Takeshi Kaneshiro, Leon Lai and Karen Mok. Kar Wai is truly a master of introducing you to characters and then revealing aspects of their personalities through their interactions with the other few key roles in the movie. He doesn't overdo the cast size, but keeps it to the most important participants in the story, allowing the viewer to get a much better feeling for who the characters are. Combine this with his incredible use of music (everything from reggae to traditional Chinese) and you have a very stylized and enjoyable movie. Completely recommended for those who loved Chungking Express, and a great movie for newcomers to Wong Kar Wai's groundbreaking films.
8/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/16/2005
Summary: Love it or hate it, but be sure to see it

FALLEN ANGELS was a first for me in many ways... my first non-action HK film, my first Wong Kar-Wai film, my first Christopher Doyle film, my first Leon Lai and Karen Mok film, my first Michelle Reis masturbating in fishnet stockings film... needless to say it made an impression, and left me wanting more of all the above. In most respects I have been satisfied, though Leon Lai only ever looked as cool in one other film (A HERO NEVER DIES) and Michelle has stubbornly refused to respond to my pleas for a repeat show.

Being quite a cinema neophyte before HK film caught my eye, it's fair to say I'd never seen anything remotely like FALLEN ANGELS before. A decade later and a few more films under my belt, it's fair to stay I've still seen very few films like FALLEN ANGELS, and most of those were either by Wong Kar-Wai or clearly influenced by him. With the double-whammy of CHUNGKING EXPRESS and sister-film FALLEN ANGELS, Wong could quite convincingly be said to have invented a new form of cinema. And that's pretty cool, when you think about it.

I don't really know much about Wong Kar-Wai's history, where he learnt his trade etc (I know that he was mentored by Patrick Tam in his early days, and served time as a script writer on films that didn't give the slightest clue what he'd be like as a director (the dire ROSA and the great but completely different SAVIOUR OF THE SOUL for instance). His debut film, AS TEARS GO BY, didn't give that much of a clue how radically he would alter the cinematic landscape of Hong Kong either, though it was notable for being technically sophisticated and somewhat more philosophical than the average HK gangster film. His second film, DAYS OF BEING WILD, showed major leaps forward in his style, and his epic wu xia pian ASHES OF TIME confirmed that something very different and very special was happening in Hong Kong. The troubled production almost broke the bank and was greeted with confusion and indifference by the Hong Kong audience when it was released. It was certainly not what people were expecting, and nobody quite new what to make of it. Though it's widely recognised as a classic outside Hong Kong, the cost of the production was in no way matched by box office returns, and it probably came very close to ending Wong Kar-Wai's career. Luckily, sometime during the post-production of AOT he had knocked together a little film called CHUNGKING EXPRESS, the debut of super-star singer Faye Wong and an entirely more accessable film full of pop culture and visual energy. This film was a much bigger success, especially overseas, and was enough to guarantee that Wong would get to make more films in future. Phew!

The next film was this film, FALLEN ANGELS, originally intended to be a third story woven into CHUNGKING EXPRESS but probably judged to be too different in tone to be integrated into it. Evidently another story came from somewhere and FALLEN ANGELS also features two intertwined tales, but even though it touches on similar themes it's a much darker experience. Comparing The Mamas & Papas CALIFORNIA DREAMING from CE and Laurie Anderson's SPEAK MY LANGUAGE in FA is a good illustration of the difference between the films. CHUNGKING features lonely characters struggling to make connections in a modern urban society, and it's got a bit of sadness but ultimately puts on a brave face and finds itself in the chaos of its surroundings. FALLEN ANGELS features similar characters in similar circumstances, but acknowledges that some people are going to stay lost. It's interesting to note that Wong's films have generally been more popular outside Hong Kong than with the local audiences, despite the fact that his films feature a special awareness and honesty about Hong Kong itself. CE and FA show many sides of Hong Kong at night, featuring images that capture the feel of the city and its people in a way that somebody who hasn't spent time there can't possibly appreciate. The city is almost one of the characters, maybe even the main character in some respects - somehow the films achieve a universal appeal anyway. Not to say that everyone in the world loves FALLEN ANGELS - it's his most divisive film after ASHES OF TIME, dividing even people who consider themselves WKW fans into love/hate camps who are eternally baffled as to why the other group loves or hates it.

I'm definitely in the "Loves It" camp, but I'd have a hard time trying to explain to a "Hate It" why that is. The easiest thing to grab onto is the visuals... Wong and maverick DP Christopher Doyle try every trick in the book (and some that are only in the book because they scribbled them on beermats and used them as bookmarks) to create some of the most memorable images ever put on screen. Different film stocks and lenses are brought into service almost shot to shot, and cameras are placed in locations that would probably get you kicked out of cinematography school. Colours are mostly over-saturated and lights are bloomed to create a sense of hyper-realism that has provoked comparisons with MTV music videos. The mise-en-scene is very modernist, using wide angles and depths of field to detach the characters from their environment (symbolising their alienation). If they can film somebody in reflection they rarely miss the chance to do so. Its probably this overdose of style that puts off most of those that dislike the film, as it's hard not to feel that you're watching a director playing with his toys rather than making a film for the audience's benefit. I would assert that there is almost always method to the madness though, and though Wong and Doyle were certainly having fun experimenting, it was all for the purpose of crafting a visual language that matched the themes of the film. Special mention should be made of the soundtrack, an eclectic mix of styles that are very well chosen as the foil for the visuals.

The other objection I imagine people have is that there's no story, which is fair. Well, there is a story in the sense that things happen to people in chronological order, and even that the characters follow some sort of narrative arc in the course of the film (pretty short arcs, admittedly). It's not really a story-driven film though, it's thematically driven and character-centric. The major theme of the film is summed up twice by Takeshi Kaneshiro, who notes that we pass by all sorts of people every day, and we never know which of those people might become our friends or lovers. Sometimes we think we've met the person who'll fill one of those roles, but statistics would suggest we're more likely to be wrong than right. The implication of this observation is that people are generally lonely and fed up most of the time, especially in today's fast-paced world where we might pass that person that's meant to be our closest friend on the street and never see them again. Again I assert that even if there's no story, it doesn't mean there's no purpose to the film, and the thing that's most likely to make a person love FALLEN ANGELS, even more than the visual opulence, is the way Wong captures these themes in the mini-stories of his characters. "Nobody ever made loneliness so sexy", I'm sure somebody said after watching this film.

Speaking of sexy, I'm sure nobody has watched FALLEN ANGELS and failed to notice Michelle Reis being extremely sexy - even obscenely so in a couple of scenes, it could be said. This reminds me of another of Wong Kar-Wai's great strengths, which is his ability to get career-defining performances out of his actors. For Michelle Reis he does this by casting her *extremely* out of type. The young actress was mostly known for flower-vase roles, typically playing a wide eyed innocent and typically the kind of "good girl" you'd take home to meet your mother. FALLEN ANGELS changes all that radically, casting her as the kind of sex-bomb bad-girl you'd sell your mother to take home. I'm not sure how Wong got her to look, dress or act how she does here, but thank the gods he did, because the world would be a lesser place if it had never happened :p

Another case of slightly perverse acting was the decision to cast polyglot Takeshi Kaneshiro as a mute. Although we get to hear his thoughts through the magic of voice-over, he is left to express himself on-camera in a more physical manner, which turns out to have been a genious decision as it brought out a wonderful performance from him. His character is quirky - well, mad really - but exceptionally charming in TK's hands, and his performance is probably the highlight of the film. Charlie Young and Karen Mok both get to be wacky too, but more verbally and less memorably.

That just leaves Leon Lai's performance to comment on, and I guess the fairest thing to say is that Wong knew how to use his lead actor well. Based on this film you'd be forgiven for thinking that Leon Lai was a great actor and a very cool dude indeed, but you don't have to see many films with him in to realise that he's actually a wooden actor and seems like rather a boring guy. The trick to getting a good performance out of him then is to [i]not require him to express any emotion[/i]. Or to speak, if possible. If you look closely in FALLEN ANGELS you'll notice that most of the acting is actually done by Leon's hair cut :p Still, it works :)

So, what have we got at the end of all that? Basically it's a visually stunning film that captures the feel of living in Hong Kong, and the more universal themes of alienation and loneliness, and the difficulty developing personal relationships in a big city. With a fantastic soundtrack. You're either going to like it or not, and that's really up to you, so I've nothing more to say on the subject!

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/08/2003

A tale (or rather two) of small-time criminals in Hong Kong. One concerns a disenchanted hitman (Lai) and his agent (Reis) whose relationship falls apart after Lai meets an old flame (Mok). The other centers around a mute (Kaneshiro), who spends his time breaking into stores at night and running them as if they were his.

Wong Kar-Wai's films have always divided audiences. Many people in Hong Kong hate his films -- there have been tales of audiences booing and throwing things at the screen during showings of his films. On the other hand, Wong's films have found a rabid cult following around the world, mostly because of Wong's masterful use of filmic narrative devices as a method of character study. Sadly, though, Fallen Angels really isn't "masterful" in any way. It comes off as unfocused, rambling, and perhaps more than a little self-indulgent.

Perhaps the biggest detriment to Fallen Angels are the characters themselves. There's really nothing of interest about them. Originally, this movie was supposed to be part of Wong's excellent Chungking Express and the characters, while they might have worked in a smaller role, are too empty to be of interest for two hours. Wong and his cinematographer Christopher Doyle pull out all the stops to make a nice-looking movie. The images of Michelle Reis caught in deep thought are some of the most striking put to celluoid. But when the characters are so vapid and ultimately devoid of humanity, it's hard to care about anything in the film. There's a bit of John Woo-inspired gunplay, complete with dual handguns and slow motion, but it comes off as hollow and maybe a bit exploitative. Maybe that's the point that Wong was trying to make. I don't care. There comes a point where the medium tends to overpower the message and I think Wong crossed the line here. If I want to look at "striking" images, I'd rather look through a book of photography or go to a museum rather than sit through a two-hour movie.

The only parts of the movie I really enjoyed were the segments with Kaneshiro, which were quite funny and touching. There's a part where he hijacks an ice cream truck and takes a family along for a joyride that is almost sublime and shows how much promise this film had. If Wong could have reigned in his creative energy and focused a bit more, this could have been another of Wong's classic films. As such, hardcore Wong Kar-Wai fans might enjoy this movie, but most others will most likely be bored and/or confused.


Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 09/20/2003
Summary: Trys For the Extraordinary - Succeeds

I'm a relative late-comer to HK movies, so I've never gotten involved in the apparently on-going debate over Wong Kar Wai - Artiste or Pretender. I checked this movie out because (a) I liked Chungking Express (though it left me unfulfilled) and this was supposed to be in the same vein and (b) a movie with both Karen Mok and Michelle Reis demands to be watched, at least going by my superficial, chemistry-based standards. I was not disappointed. This one's better than Chungking Express.

One of the strongest elements of this movie and the first thing that jumped out and grabbed me is the music. I find movie soundtracks generally either annoying or forgetable. But this one was a major part of the film and could be considered another actor. Whoever picked these songs for this movie has shown genius.

As for the ladies, they did not disappoint. Karen Mok, who I've seen in diverse roles, was so different I didn't recognize her at first. Her maniacal screaming was annoying, but otherwise she gave a very strong performance (the only one on the same level was Takeshi Kaneshiro's, though she didn't have nearly as much screen
time). The way she challenges herself when picking roles to play, and the way she always comes through, makes it hard to believe she's not a full-time actor but also a successful singer. What a talented woman.

Michelle Reis's role didn't call on her to say much, her character being dark, lonely, brooding, and the victim of unrequitted love. So I guess it's a tribute to her that despite the lack of diologue I felt I knew her character. She's looking very beautiful here, as always, but if you think she's just good looks, you're wrong. Check out the scene where she's casing out the restaurant for Leon Lai - walking through cooly with predator eyes - she's the whole package.

Despite those two performances, and a good showing by Leon Lai and Charlie Yeung, Takeshi Kaneshiro steals the show. I'm a fan of his and I've never seen him better. He's funny, at times poignant, but always stops just short of being a clown. His scene with the pig's carcass is hilarious and has no doubt gotten him onto PETA's hit list.

This movie isn't for everyone, but don't let the is-this-up-to-Wong-Kar-Wai's-previous-godlike-work debate ride you off. 8.5/10.


Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 05/02/2003
Summary: Not this one, see another Wong Kar Wai...

I didn't get on with this movie at all. Yes, Michelle Reis is gorgeous and very ranchy! However, you cannot get away from the story/script which has no impact. See Ashes of Time or In the Mood for Love instead.


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 03/04/2003
Summary: Mesmerizing material

As a HK cinema buff who don't care about Wong Kar Wai, I thoroughly enjoyed this follow-up to Chung King Express. Screwed up characters (and lives), infinite lonely sadness, ultra cool music, electrifying performances, and flashy/slow-mo cinematography at its best. This doesn't work in wuxia movies (a la Ashes of Time), but apply it over an all-random modern-day script and it becomes true art.

I should also mention that, to me, the stylish shootouts were more captivating than anything John Woo ever did.

[9/10]


Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 01/27/2003

"Fallen Angels" is one of Hong Kong's most disappointing art films directed by one of the genre's most incredible personalities.

Originally conceived as the third act to "Chungking Express" (1994) and later developed into a feature length film "Fallen Angels" is the alter ego of its predecessor, taking place exclusively at night in the slums of Hong Kong.

Where "Chungking Express" split the script between two cops "Fallen Angels" spends its time with a hit man (Leon Lai Ming) and an ex-con (Takeshi Kaneshiro).

Director Wong Kar-wai lets his own technique go bananas with self-indulgent voice-over narration, gaudy photography, a pretentious over use of jump cuts, and a fish bowl lens that induces just as many headaches as the Takeshi Kaneshiro character.

Still, well paced for a film as meandering as this one is; interesting when Lai is around; "Fallen Angels" is almost entertaining despite its assorted shortcomings.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Wu'xiaBadger
Date: 01/22/2003
Summary: WooHoo!

In my opinion, this is Wong Kar-Wai's best film to date. Although it's damned confusing at first, I thought it was on the same level as (and was reminiscent of) David Lynch's more recent films. Except I found this movie to be more satisfying on the whole.
I took it to be two things:
1. A spoof of the heroic bloodshed genre. The scenes of Leon killing a dozen people before they can get a single shot off are hilariously well-choreographed. While the action would be passable in a straight action film, as a parody it is even more effective.
2. An excellent character study. Takeshi Kaneshiro was fucking awesome, he deserves some award for his role. The last few scenes with him have some of the best acting I've yet seen in a HK movie.
So while Wong Kar-Wai's films aren't for everybody, this film would serve as a great introduction to his work. 9/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: degeneration
Date: 05/27/2002
Summary: I don't get it...

I watched this film on a recommendation. I was told it was excellent.

I don't know how anyone can find this film the slightest bit interesting at all. Initially, I turned it off half way through because I was as bored as hell, and the only reason I wathced the rest was just in case it got better... and it didn't. I personally think some people just like the film because it is a Wong Kar Wai film. If it was exactly the same but some other, unheard of, director, then people's opinions I think would be different, and Fallen Angels would not get anywhere near as good a write up as it does.

The two stories in this film, are uninteresting, and the camera work I think sucks. Leon Lai and Michelle Reis hardly stir up any emotions in the viewer, and I couldn't care less what happened to them, and Takeshi's character, the mute guy who is obsessed with making people buy things from him, in shops which aren't even his... I just could not wait for it to end. I found the whole thing very very slow, dull, uninteresting, and boring, with bad camera angles, dull colours and an unengaging and again boring story.

There is not a single thing to this film which I can recommend, and I would state that you should not waste the 2 hours of your life that it will take to watch this film.

And for the record I thought Chungking Express was good, I really liked it. This is utter drivel.

0/10


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 03/06/2002
Summary: Average

For a Wong Kar Wai film, I found it rather disapointing. Not to say it's that bad, but it just doesn't appeal to me, and can't see it appealing to anyone else either. I think he tried to make this more appealing to those who turned down his previous films, but it falls flat.

Though saying that, it does have some very strong scenes which kept my attention, but only for a while (unlike his other films where I am not able to take my eyes off the screen as they are usually quite good).

Rating: 2/5

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/19/2001
Summary: OK-ish

You can tell by the style this is a Wong Kar Wai movie!!
Well it's 2 stories in one but the inter-twine together!!
Leon Lai is a hitman who doesn't seem to give a shit about too much while the better story belonged to Takeshi who is a person who can't talk yet forces people to buy things or do services off him!! Quite funny this part.

The problem with this is it is 2 movies in one. They only inter-twine at the end and you dont really care about Leon Lai's character at all. He seems so dull. Takeshi played his character well and the ending is a bit sad but you'll only need one or 2 tissues!!

6.5/10


Reviewed by: Hongkie
Date: 05/18/2001
Summary: What a scary movie...

Scary in how uneven in quality this movie is, which is quite normal for a Wong Kar-Wai movie. Wong Kar-Wai's films seem to be heavily washed in Sartre-like atmosphere. The only things reviving this often undead film are the surprisingly good performances by Michele Reis and Takeshi Kaneshiro. Don't be fooled by posters or the cover, this is not an action movie. Gunplay is done in the often annoying Wong Kar-Wai method of showing every 3 seconds in a freeze frame, and skipping everything in between those frames.


Reviewed by: alienlord
Date: 04/30/2001

Slick, second part of CHUNGKING EXPRESS, focuses on a group of young people living in Hong Kong who each love someone who doesn't love them back. So cool, that the plot holes are almost completely overlooked. Charismatic, and likeable performers strut their stuff in their strange but refreshing roles. Awesome visual design eventually becomes tedious and causes a strong sensation of sea sickness. ***/4

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/08/2000

When Wong Kar-Wai made Chungking Express, he originally intended that it contain three parts rather than the two it
ended up with. Instead, he expanded that third portion into Fallen Angels.

Like Chungking Express, Fallen Angels is a movie that follows the lives of several Hong Kong denizens who live in the
Chungking Mansions area of the city. Also like Chungking Express, Fallen Angels is filled with flashy camera work, a great
soundtrack, and a high profile cast (including Takeshi Kaneshiro in both). However, Fallen Angels is in many ways the dark
twin to Chungking Express, and is the more emotionally powerful of the two.

Fallen Angels also has two more or less distinct story threads running through it. In one, Michelle Reis is assassin Leon
Lai's agent. Though they almost never meet physically, she has fallen in love with him. When she goes to his apartment to
clean it (presumably to dispose of evidence) she masturbates on his bed. Then she brings the trash to her apartment and
sifts through in order to gain insight into his life. When Leon decides that he needs to get out of the business, she is
crushed, particularly when she realizes he has become involved with another woman (Karen Mok in a particularly squeaky
performance).

The other thread follows He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a mute. His muteness causes him difficulty in finding a job so his
solution is to break into businesses at night and force anyone walking by to be his customer. He lives in an apartment
complex where he shares an apartment with his father, who manages the building. Several times in the film, he runs into
Charlie Yeung (played by Charlie Yeung), who seems to always be getting her heart broken. He Qiwu is her shoulder to cry
on, though they don't know each other at first.

It may seem a bit crazy, but I think that in Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, Wong Kar-Wai has staked out a territory
as the Woody Allen of Hong Kong. Before you write me off as insane, consider this: Both directors have made movies which
are in part a tribute to the cities in which they are set. Both explore the way relationships and love happen in a city always
on the move. And both are able to get the absolute best out of their actors. The analogy doesn't continue on (Wong Kar-Wai
has yet to appear as a neurotic Jewish Hong Kong resident in any of his films) but there is something there.

As implied above, the performances in Fallen Angels are top notch. Seeing Charlie Yeung in this film makes me sad that she
recently retired (because of marriage). I can only hope that she and Brigitte Lin will return à la Michelle Yeoh.

Visually, this film has quite a bit of eye candy. Wong Kar-Wai really pulls out the stops in terms of visual effects, including
slow motion, fast motion, blurred double shots, and really strange color palettes. Fortunately he stops just short of being
distracting, though this style is definitely not for everyone.

As a bonus for those who have seen Chungking Express, there are quite a few references in Fallen Angels to characters and
locations in that movie. I recently had a chance to watch both films back to back and I would definitely recommend that
others do the same thing.

In so many ways, Fallen Angels is a beautiful film. The script is brilliant and touching (particularly He Qiwu's scenes with
his father), and contains some of my favorite movie scenes of all time. It may be my favorite Wong Kar-Wai film of all, though
when I consider just how fantastic his other films are, it becomes hard to decide.


Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

Wong Kar-Wai is getting dangerously close to becoming a self-parody. All of the self-conscious and silly conventions are here: the abundance of slow motion, the coffee house soundtrack, the disjointed plot, the overuse of narrative, the overt symbolism, and the long dramatic pauses (so that the audience has time to say "Wow, that Wong Kar-Wai sure is a genius!"). Basically, it has gotten to the point where you can't tell the difference between a Wong Kar-Wai movie and an all-out parody, such as that offered by Wong Jing in the hilarious WHATEVER YOU WANT. The one good thing about FALLEN ANGELS is that it showcases some of the up-and-coming talent in Hong Kong. Karen Mok and Charlie Yeung show real promise in their limited screen time, but it is Takeshi Kaneshiro who almost manages to make this movie watchable. He makes a sketchy character both pitiful and dignified. Unfortunately, Wong Kar-Wai continues to believe he can show up on a film set and shoot without a script. He thinks he can overcome his lack of preparation by having a running narrative throughout the movie. However, as someone once said, if you need to have the characters explain their actions to you, then you haven't done your job as a filmmaker. If you are insecure about your own intelligence and need to prove to yourself that you are smarter than those around you, then this film is for you. For the rest of us, just save your money. You can make your own Wong Kar-Wai movie by turning on MTV without the volume, playing a college radio station in the background, and rambling non-stop with some useless deep thoughts.


Reviewed by: hktopten
Date: 12/21/1999

As a companion piece to Wong Kar Wai's classic (and IMO best film to date) Chung King Express, Fallen Angels is flawlessly perfect. However, as a film standing alone, it lacks the elements that made Chung King Express a classic. Highlights of the film includes Michelle Reis masturbating on Leon's bed and Takeshi Kaneshiro massaging a whole pig at the butcher shop. Dragging on at times, especially when Leon is on scene, the best parts of the film are with Takeshi Kaneshiro, who continues to stand out among the new waves of pop idols. His relationship with his father is especially touching. Overall, though, unless you are a Wong Kar Wai freak, I don't recommend it. If you want to see Wong Kar Wai moving more toward Wong Jing's Category III directions, this film is it. Ha ha.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

My favourite Wrong Kar Wai picture. Wonderful performances all around, a super cool soundtrack and wonderful cinematography. Winner of three Hong Kong Film Awards... best supporting actress, soundtrack and (surprise surprise!) cinematography.

(10/10)

[Reviewed by Andrej Blazeka]


Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 12/09/1999

Well, this may be the Wong Kar-Wai movie for people who don'tespecially like WKW movies. For those like me who do, it's a disappointment. More than anything, Takeshi Kaneshiro's performance gives the movie its heart. He starts out buffoonish, playing hilariously against type, but deepens into the movie's most fascinating character, and the one we end up feeling for. Awards material. It's hard to get a handle on precisely what's gone wrong with _Fallen Angels_. It has the virtues of a WKW film, but they are skewed, out of balance. Sometimes its screenplay is upstaged by the score: more often it is overshadowed by the cinematography. I've enjoyed repeated viewings of WKW's other movies: they are so full of meaning, and yet elusive, that they reveal different facets each time you see them. But _Fallen Angels_ doesn't give much more the second time around. Which is telling, I fear.

Reviewer Score: 6