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b (1999)
Metade Fumaca

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 10/31/2007
Summary: Exploring human qualities

I agree with the first review that this is a small gem. Backed by competent acting, it's a story that explores our human qualities. It's about the things in our mind that we like to hold on to - memories, faith, hope, and imagination. The best things take place in these states of mind, where we go to escape reality.

This film has a special place in my cinematic experience. I watched it at the time of my adolescence, and it was one of the films that matured my understanding of films as well as life in general. It was the right film at the right time for me.

The acting is generally competent. Eric Tsang is fantastic as usual. He is very human in this film, engaging the audience through his imperfections, despite which we can't help but root for him. Sandra Ng, Anthony Wong, and others make welcoming cameos. Nicholas Tse proves he's more than the typical bubblegum pop star in interesting films like this and Time and Tide (1999), though he pales against Uncle Fatty.

The film gets dreamy and enigmatic in the climax. It's also the scene I remember the most. It has become a piece of my own memory to treasure. Another highlight is the flashback with Sam Lee (badass to the bone) and Stephen Fung (what's the hell is this pretty boy doing here?). The way they make their can't-take-my-eyes-off-you gaze upon each other is more badass than romantic. The low point of the movie is the shooting star scene, which feels contrived and cheesy.

I've seen 2 films from director Riley Yip: this one and Just One Look. Both are very good. It's regrettable that he's no longer active in filmmaking.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 10/19/2006

It is surprising that the director of “Lavender” was also able to make a film with lively characters in believable settings that the audience could care about but that what Riley Yip has done with “Metade Fumaca”. While doing so he managed to turn a few film conventions upside down—Mountain Leopard, well played by Eric Tsang, is insanely obsessed with a person who no longer exists. He is a coward, a liar and a cheat, has tried to commit murder and has stolen from his friends. Yet by the end of the movie we are moved by his plight and feel sorry for him.

Generally a filmmaker who uses Alzheimer’s disease or catastrophic memory loss as a theme will go out of his way to make the victim of the disease loveable—someone whose descent into the darkness we mourn. In this case Mountain Leopard has no redeeming characteristics at all. Even when he is telling the story of his flight from Hong Kong to Brazil, thirty year exile and subsequent return something seems a bit off in the telling. Later on we get the same story told from a more objective or at least more believable point of view. Where he was the hero Mountain Leopard is now the villain of the piece—and worse, until he does become the bad guy he is of no importance at all. That we are quick to believe the second version of the (seemingly) fatal encounter shows that the audience is not taken in by Mountain Leopard’s fantastic story.

Nicholas Tse is quite good as Smokey a young tough guy who we find out almost immediately is more than a little unhinged. Smokey, accompanied by a young woman, bursts into a second floor bookstore carrying a chopper. The woman identifies the clerk as someone who had molested her on the subway. Smokey slashes him with his chopper and he and the girl take off down the stairs where he literally runs into Mountain Leopard who is on his way to what he thinks is a massage parlor where his long ago triad enemy hangs out. Smokey drops his knife, Mountain Leopard drops his gun and they are both shocked to have encountered another armed hoodlum.

Smokey’s mother is a former hooker who spends all of her time sitting in a doorway in the red light district looking at passing men, trying to recognize the customer who, eighteen years ago, conceived Smokey during a very quick assignation. She could be yet another colorfully deranged character but is underplayed to perfection by Elaine Kam.

Both Terence Yin and Anthony Wong have extended, two scene cameos and both look like they are having a lot of fun. Yin is Brother Chai, a loan shark and crew boss who is just back in town from Los Angeles. He slips from Cantonese to English when shouting threats and is dressed in really outlandish costumes. Wong is Brother Kei, a retired triad who spends his days in a restaurant spinning tales of past glories to an appreciative audience of other old triad guys and some very young up and comers. Brother Kei is the benevolent side of the Hong Kong gangs, a respected and no longer dangerous elder, the person that Brother Chai could be if he survives (doubtful) and that Mountain Leopard never would be.

Sandra Ng is Third Sister, a tough-as-nails triad boss who controls her territory with unrelenting and bloody vigor but who has a soft spot for cute and well read young men. Third Sister is the twinned opposite of Sap Saam Mooi, the gang leader so memorably impersonated by Ng in “Portland Street Blues”. Shu Qi, beautiful and smoldering, (as usual) and Kelly Chan, beautiful and glacial, (as usual) play gorgeous young women.

Mountain Leopard growing disassociation from everyday life is telegraphed in a number of ways. While none of them were particularly subtle I missed the first several—he forgot “kung fu” moves he had known for years, turned the wrong way on a familiar street and bungled some routine tasks. By the time that Yip pulls out the sledge hammer and starts pounding home the point we have already learned that Mountain Leopard’s entire life is built on a lie and that he has been nothing but a treacherous lout. It is a tribute to Yip’s writing and directing and to Tsang’s acting that we feel sorry for the wreck that was formerly Mountain Leopard.

The score is terrific—not sure of its source but it sounds Afro-Brazilian with a pop sheen. It doesn’t underline the action or even really accompany it but works well as a sparkling and bright counterpoint to the darkness and mendacity that is on the screen.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 06/01/2006
Summary: Excellent moviemaking

I like this movie and keep coming back to it. It's very well made, Eric Tsang and Nic Tse are excellent. The woman who plays Smokey's mother is incredibly effective without saying a word. Sanda Ng only had a cameo but just about stole the show with it; what a treasure she is! Another highlight was the soundtrack with its Brazilian (I assume, though the vocals were in English) music.

Recommended to those who are not in a hurry.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: another one from my pile of eric tsang films...

well, it's a bit hard to say what genre this film falls into, but i suppose that could be said for a lot of hong kong's output...

it's a part drama, part comedy and part triad film, but it kinda works.

eric tsang returns from brasil after 30 years to seek revenge on an old triad brother and find his lost love. to do this, he teams up with nicholas tse, a young triad, hoping that this could be his ticket to notoriety, but all may not be quite as it seems...

it's an enjoyable film with good performances throughout, it get's away with it's genre changing as it manages to be funny when it needed, dramatic when needed and there's even some good triad action.

it's also worth watching for it's all-star cast; kelly chen, anthony wong (who is very funny), sandra ng (who looks amazing as an ultra-cool triad boss), stephen fung, sam lee etc etc etc...

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 09/21/2004
Summary: Complex, expressive, evocative...

...sometimes a bit ponderous and overdone. It's not always clear whether this is trying to be an art flick, or whether it's trying to be a morality play, an unrequited love fantasy, a buddy story, all of the above, or none of the above...yet it's always moving and never overly trite or simplistic. Whatever the case, this is a worthwhile and enjoyable adventure into several dark and disturbing realms all at once, and ends on a particularly satisfying note. Overall, a flawed gem.

Some random thoughts: I find Eric Tsang is perfectly suited for this particular role. Nicolas Tse is well cast and shows he is quite a capable actor. The Chinese name of the movie seems more suitable: half-cigarette. Note the symbolism and significance of the half-cigarette in the movie. Kelly has only a cameo, unfortunately. Listen to the most interesting soundtrack and the odd pitch changes.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: IIIJoNIII
Date: 05/11/2004

Despite the fact that this was a slow and semi-boring movie, i found it pretty enjoyable. The movie starts off with a retired triad, Mountain Leopard( Eric Tsang), returning to Hong Kong from Brazil to get revenge on a former rival who stole his woman. On his quest he meets Smokey(Nicholas Tse), a young street hustler who helps him find the rival. Through various events the viewer begins to learn secrets about Leopard and finds out that things may not be as they seem... Sam Lee, Stephen Fung, Shu Qi,Kelly Chen, along with many other famous names play cameos in this drama.

As i mentioned earlier, this movie had an interesting story, but it starts off so slow that you'll get bored before the actual story develops. I thought Eric Tsang did a great job of being a triad oldtimer, especially when he started showing the symptoms of Alzheimers. Nick Tse did an decent job of playing the big time gangster wannabe. There was some action in the movie, and the cameos did make it easier to watch, for example, Sandra Ng as Sister Thirteen gave me a chuckle or two.

I would recommend this movie to people who are bored, or those who jus enjoy lighthearted dramas. This movie is ok, but it still lacks some essential elements that keep the viewer in tune with the characters. I give it a [2.5/5]


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 05/02/2002
Summary: Average

Well, apart from it being a bit boring, apart from it having very lifeless acting from Nicholas Tse & Shu Qi, and apart from the poor story, it is actually reasonably entertaining. Not that I suggest people rushing out to get to see this, but if you get the opportunity, there are plenty worst films you could come across.

Rating: [2.5/5]

Reviewed by: Blue_Shadow
Date: 02/05/2002
Summary: Depthful Film....

Personally, I found Metade Fumaca to be a delightful film and were surprised by the depth of the story that it had displayed.

Eric Tsang played his character, Mountain Leopard, rather well and at times you come to the point of feeling sorry for his character. An ex-triad, Mountain Leopard comes back to Hong Kong to settle the score with an old rival, Nine Dragons, after living in Brazil for 30 years. Reason being that Nine Dragons stole his girl 30 years ago, someone who he only exchanged eyesights with in a club.

Mountain Leopard runs into a youngster, Smokey (Nic Tse), whom he believed could do his job. The two gets to know each other well and unnoticingly build a strong relationship, almost father-son like since Smokey grew up not knowing who his father was. The story turns out to be an unexpecting twist which shows the importance and the beauty of memories. Leopard was desperate to find his dream girl for the past 30 years for he was running out of time. He had Alzheimer's Disease and was afraid he'll never be able to remember that girl's face. That girl was Ah Nam (Shu Qi). It was this part of the story which brings a common point in Tsang and Tse's characters. Smokey secretly films an older policewoman everyday in order just to keep a memory of her, for he liked her but was afraid of confronting her.

This film were in some ways touching. Eric Tsang were reluctantly running out of time and his character draws great sympathy. Whereas for Nic Tse, I found this to be one of his best two performances. The other being in Young And Dangerous: The Prequel. The film also produces many cameos which adds to the film's shine. There was Kelly Chen as the policewoman, Stephen Fung as the young Mountain Leopard, Sam Lee as the young Nine Dragons, Sandra Ng as triad leader Third Sister, Anthony Wong as a bragging out-dated triad, and Vincent Kok as a triad boss.

I definitely recommend this film to anyone who likes something a little touchy or just simply meaningful and light-hearted. My rating, 9/10...yea, I really liked it!

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

This is a well-made, intelligent drama about yearning, regret and memory, set in the seedy parts of Hong Kong populated by prostitues and small-time crooks. It stars Eric Tsang as a former Triad who returns to HK after 30 years of exile in Brazil to take revenge against his former triad rival and find and reunite with the love of his life (whom he had to abandon when he left). After all these years, he still carries with him a half-smoked cigaratte she gave him during their last encounter (hence the title, which means "half-smoked"). He runs into a street hustler called "Smokey" played by Nic Tse and hires him to help him find and kill his former rival.

The movie looks gorgeous and portrays a beautiful-looking, romanticized image of Hong Kong. Through flashbacks, we slowly learn the background story, only to then find out that some of the characters may not be what they seem...

There are a lot of cameos: Stephen Fung and Sam Lee play the young triads, Shu Qi is the object of beauty Eric Tsang tried to relocate, Kelly Chan is a police woman that Nic Tse is in love with, Anthony Wong features as a triad old-timer, and Sandra Ng plays a triad boss. All of these characters are lovingly portrayed, and the film weaves an interesting tapestry of human relationships that sucks you into this world. There's some action, but that's not the focus of the movie. If you like Peter Chan's moves, for example, like Comrades, then I would strongly recommend giving this one a try.

Reviewed by: runo_jp
Date: 06/02/2001
Summary: metade fumaca

Good story. I enjoyed it better than I thought. The only flaw to me was at the beginning, concerning the making of the drawing, completely unbelievable. Anyway, I did read very good reviews about this movie in the HKMD, therefore I will just put my mark.
Good movie : 7/10

Reviewed by: lordmanji
Date: 12/07/2000
Summary: A story on the beauty of memory

Metade Fumaca is a story on the beauty of passing moments in time captured as memories. Metade Fumaca has many similarities to Wong Kar Wai’s film, Fallen Angels, in that the characters attempt to capture specific, and brief happy memories in life.

The story follows Mountain Leopard back from his 30 year absence from Hong Kong. Upon Mountain Leopard returns, he meets a young street hustler by the name of Smokey,
told in a scene where Smokey chops a man’s hand because of a hooker, since “hookers are people, too.” Upon seeing this, Leopard sees Smokey’s good nature and enlists Smokey’s aid to kill Nine Dragons, his rival and the one who stole his girl. Smokey accepts and explains that he does not wish to be a nobody forever.

In Metade Fumaca, it is told with a twist, a however since Leopard is losing his memory, he attempts to see the beautiful women/memory before he forgets so that he can take it to his grave. Smokey also attempts to capture memories, in his videotaping of a police woman (Kelly Chen). And like Leopard, Smokey is obsessed with her even though only meeting her once, in the event of his arrest by her. A notable similarity between FA and MF occurs when Smokey is videotaping Leopard cooking, much like when Takeshi was videotaping his dad cooking.

Smokey and Mountain Leopard have much in common. Where Mountain Leopard can’t let go of the bar girl he met once, carrying around her picture everywhere and a half-burnt cigarette she smoked, Smokey has a father he fantasizes about, and a mom whom sits outside looking at strangers hoping to find Smokey’s dad. But the reason why Smokey accepts he explains is to get famous, and although it is not stated, Smokey looks up to Mountain Leopard as a father figure, and in one case brings Leopard to his mom to see if he is his dad.

Another notable scene in which the beauty of memory, and its subsequent brevity are conveyed in the Shooting Star scene. Leopard and Smokey finally have found Nine Dragons and followed him to an observatory. Rival triad members also gather, and a huge rumble seems inevitable. Just as tensions are about to burst, shooting stars light the sky and everyone, choppers and all, rush to the beach front to watch. In that inspiringly beautiful scene, the two gang leaders unknowingly share the view side by side; Smokey and Leopard forget about killing Nine Dragons; it is a brief moment in time where all past thoughts were forgotten, and only present thoughts of shooting stars, of that beauty emanating. And just as quickly as the stars fell, the moment it was over the rumble did ensue.

Metade Fumaca does not offer any resolution to Leopard and Smokey’s “relationships,” as Leopard only dances with his dream girl once (Hsu Chi) and Smokey meets Kelly Chen once as well. However I believe this is done on purpose, reemphasizing the theme that the beauty of memory is permanent through their unconsummated relationships. An interesting side note is that MF ends with Kelly Chen noticing the camera which tapes her everyday, and smiling. This, I think means to imply that although they may never have a real relationship, she knows her image is being captured and gives satisfaction to Smokey’s idolization of her; her image; and the beauty of memory.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/17/2000
Summary: Above average

This is a light heart drama about a gangster returning from Brazil to seek revenge on the guy that took his woman. He recruits a young guy who he sees slash this guy with a machette who groped a prostitute. They become friends and they seek the
"Nine Dragon".........

I was quite entertained by this. Even though the version i saw was black and white (VERY poor qualitity in other words) and was dubbed in mandarin, so i think i lost a lot of the sounds in the background of the movie.

The ending is quite a suprise and the ending makes you think there could be a part 2!! I don't want to give too much away, just watch it yourself!!


Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 02/26/2000
Summary: Not earthshaking, but a small gem.

Ostensibly a story about an aged gangster returning to Hong Kong for revenge on an old rival, but that plot is really only an excuse to parade an odd assortment of characters and situations across the screen. I would liken this film to Wong Kar-Wai, but with the crucial difference that it actually tries and succeeds in entertaining the audience. I'll need another viewing to solidify my opinion and perhaps "get it," but my initial reaction is that this is a a good-looking, entertaining movie with a barely-restrained sense of the absurd. Eric Tsang's flashback in the middle of the film is a stylistic highlight.