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©] (2004)
One Nite in Mongkok

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/03/2011
Summary: brought together by sin...

tim (suen lik-man) and carl (fong ping) are friends and gangsters. when tiger (eddie pang), tim's son, is killed after a run in with franky (sam lee), one of carl's underlings, their relationship sours. so much so, that tim gives liu (lam suet) a call, hiring someone to kill carl. liu puts in a call to the village he grew up in, back in the mainland, and it isn't long before lai fu (daniel wu) steps off the boat and arrives in hong kong, heading for mong kok.

it is christmas eve and things are not going to go smoothly. officer milo (alex fong) and his team are looking for tiger's killer and seem to be making very little progress. however, when a tip about a hired gun comes their way, a change in tact sees their efforts directed towards finding him and they're not pulling their punches. and so, lai fu finds his job becoming more difficult and, somehow, he seems to have gained a side-kick, dan dan (cecelia cheung); a prostitute he saved from a beating, who happens to be from a village near to his...

i remember being really impressed with this when it came out and i'm happy to say that it has dated very well, losing little of what makes it such a good film. for me, derek yee is a bit of an enigma: i find some of his films, or parts of them, to veer between being great and being dreadful. with 'one nite in mongkok', of all his films which i've watched, this is the one which hits its marks with the greatest consistency and misses very rarely.

the film is a really engaging affair, pulling you in and keeping you hooked with its swift pacing, which is more frequently punctuated by scenes of violence, than laboured exposition. sure there's moments where liberties are taken, both with characters and the narrative, but there's a really nice sense of plausibility to everything, for which yee and his ensemble cast all have to be given credit for.

daniel wu puts in a strong performance that adds depth, making lai fu more rounded and not just a thoughtful country bumpkin. cecilia cheung is also very good, with a role which could've easily been another "happy hooker": she's perky, but quite regularly just playing "perky", only revealing her character's depth as she grows to trust lai fu. alongside these two, are strong performances from alex fong, lam suet and paul che, who plays milo's junkie informant.

any how, not much more to say apart from that i also really quite like peter kam's score; the main incidental theme is really rather good. kinda has a bit of a angelo badalamenti quality to it...

a really good film.

Reviewed by: adamas85
Date: 01/10/2007
Summary: Great!

I got this film as a 19th birthday present and my main reason for wanting the movie is for Chin Kar-Lok, I was familiar with Cecilia & Daniel at the time but not with Alex Fong.

Anyway I was stunned by the films darker tones, the violence, the brutality and the ending.

It's an amazing film! Well worth a watch!!

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 07/09/2006
Summary: action scenes are riveting.

Is it really likely that a bunch of people from the same mainland village can come to Hong Kong and cross paths in a deadly triad intrigue? Certainly, it is likely and no matter what evil and dastardly things you may have to do to survive in the city, don't let the folks back home find out.

Award winning writer and director Derek Yee Tung-Sing spins a nightmarish scenario of deadly events days before the Christmas holiday. Feuding triad bosses foster murder and mayhem while conflicted police officers try to broker a peaceful resolution.

One Nite in Mongkok held my interest and was very entertaining. Production values are high and the action scenes are riveting. The cast is outstanding, all around. The film is probably fifteen minutes too long.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 01/02/2006
Summary: Excellent crime drama

“Pay me a bit more so I feel better,” said the hooker Dan Dan, played by Cecilia Cheung, summarizing just about everything this “One Nite in Mongkok” has to say about life in Hong Kong in the 21st century. Liu, in a brilliantly odious performance by Lam Suet, conveys the same feeling when he tells a caller inquiring about having someone killed that “Money makes anything possible”. While they two of them—the immigrant prostitute and the well-heeled fixer—don’t seem to be in the same universe, the movie makes it clear early on that both of them as well as the rest of the characters are trapped in the urban jungle of Hong Kong. And the most dangerous part of that jungle is Mongkok. While money can act as a temporary cushion against the blows of life in Mongkok it is only a temporary respite—no one gets out unharmed and not many get out alive.

Dan Dan further drives home this loathing of the city when she twice asks why the SAR is called “Fragrant Harbor” when the air stinks so badly. The second time is the last line of the movie, when she is standing in line at Immigration telling the officers that she doesn’t plan to return. This is followed by a caption, dripping in irony, that the then Crown Colony was called Fragrant Harbor because it was a port that shipped incense to the West. This juxtaposition of disgusted rhetorical question with disingenuous, matter of fact answer points to a number of statements, some contradictory that the film might be making:

>>The entire concept of Hong Kong, even as a Special Administrative District of the People’s Republic, is a colonial anachronism that no longer has any relevance;

>>The degrading, crime-ridden existence that characterizes life in mega-cities like Hong Kong is caused by the cities as such and is unavoidable—it is as much a part of city life as its name;

>>To survive in Hong Kong it is necessary to adopt a persona, a protective shell. The cops must pretend to enforce the law, the prostitute must pretend to like her customers--—what something is named has no affect on what it actually is;

>>No matter what it is called or who rules it, Hong Kong will continue to survive and prosper, even if outsiders can’t understand it.

Or it could be a combination of any of the above or something else entirely. Another juxtaposition, this of images instead of words, makes it clear that it is up to the audience to make their own choice. This contrast is of two identical shots of the Hong Kong skyline. One is shrouded in smog, colored grey, black and white—it has the caption concerning the name “Fragrant Harbor” beneath it and looks ugly and forbidding. The other shot, which occurs earlier in the film, features fireworks bursting above the buildings which are bathed in color and light, a delightful, inviting shot. So, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

There is much to like about “One Nite in Mongkok, beginning with Daniel Wu’s characterization of Lin Lai Fu, the not completely bumpkinish hitman from a squalid village in the PRC. Wu reminds me of a young Michael Caine—especially early on in the movie while he was still wearing his horn rimmed glasses, he seemed to be channeling Caine as Harry Palmer in “The Icpress File”. One of Caine’s most effective characteristics is his stillness, an ability to convey a lot with very little effort or even movement. Wu is able to do this as well, moving through the teeming warrens of the city without doing much but seeming to take in everything that is happening around him. This was an outstanding if understated performance.

Lam Suet could not have been better as the repellent yet somehow likeable Liu. Objectively Liu is a complete scoundrel, willing to recruit young men from his village on the mainland as hired killers and then abandon them to their fate—the most recent one got a sentence of 22 years. He is a deadly go-between loyal only to himself, available to arrange the murder of someone from any side of a gang war. He even deals in counterfeit luxury goods and cheats others who do so, being yelled at for the shoddy work on the logos of the last batch of Louis Vuitton handbags. Part of the movie could be used as a Public Service Announcement for the Chinese Quality Brands Protection Committee, showing the thuggishness and criminal connections of those who manufacture and sell pirated goods.

But even though Liu lives a disgusting life, Lam Suet still makes him a character we find it difficult to hate. Part of this comes from the excellent script, of course—Liu is a cur but he loves his seemingly unlovable wife and is as much a victim of Mongkok as anyone. He is victimized by the police who know that since he operates outside of the protection of the triads they can threaten him with impunity, rough him up as much as they want and humiliate him in front of friends and enemies alike. Ultimately the only characters we really care about are Liu, Lin Lai Fu and Dan Dan.

Dan Dan is not a hooker with a heart of gold. She is a hooker with an upbeat attitude and a realistic, if not enthusiastic, view of her profession. She hates what she does but is from the same poor village as Liu and Lin and is one of fourteen in her family. Making $8,000 in three weeks at $130 a trick—her cut after the pimp and room are paid for—she obviously pays very dearly for her family loyalty. One of the few upbeat moments in the film comes at the very end when the audience realizes that Dan Dan really won’t be returning to Hong Kong—or if so, at not as a Mongkok prostitute.

The portrayal of prostitutes in movies is a part of how the image of the prostitute functions as part of society as a whole. In Hollywood movies the scarlet woman must almost always come to a bad (or at least extremely ironic) end. Some of the iconic roles, taking one per decade, include Donna Reed in “From Here to Eternity”, Elizabeth Taylor in “Butterfield 8”, Jodie Foster in “Taxi Driver”, Jennifer Jason Leigh “Last Exit to Brooklyn” and Elizabeth Shue “Leaving Las Vegas”. These actresses not only played the role as written but also were part of the underlying moral subtext of the times. This seemed to be less the case with Cecilia Cheung’s role—the life of a prostitute wasn’t sugar coated (as in, for example, “Pretty Woman” or “Trading Places”) but shown to be a tough, dangerous and demeaning way to make money. Dan Dan’s reaction to the first confrontation with Walter, a most memorably thuggish Chan Mong-Wa, is very telling. She is done for the day—actually as we find out later, is done for her current three week stay in Hong Kong—and just wants to leave. Neither she nor the audience is surprised when Walter starts slapping her around—this is just part of the cost of doing business and isn’t anything remarkable. Cecilia Cheung is just slightly too elegant in the hair and makeup department for this role, although she does an excellent job. But she is a bit of a swan compared to almost all of the other working girls, who are less stylish birds. She has a more luridly written role than does Lin and comes across very well as a person who is being pulled in several directions at the same time.

Unlike other recent Hong Kong police dramas, the cops in this movie have no real resonance—the audience simply doesn’t care about them in the same way they do about the criminals. Officer Milo, the depressed squad leader and Brandon, the headstrong rookie are the only cop characters with any real screen time but they remain no more than types. Even Shitty Kong, the cop turned drug addicted informer, has more of an individual identity than Milo and his bunch.

There are a few direct quotes from other movies, most memorably when Lin, having been brutally beaten by Walter and his gang, follows them into the street, recovers his gun and shoots Walter in the hand. He holds up his bloody, deformed stump of a hand and stares at it in the same way that the “The John” did in “Taxi Driver”, although not in extreme close up.

“One Nite in Mongkok” has a few loose ends and one gaping hole in the plot but nothing that degrades the overall impact of this fine film.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 10/21/2005
Summary: Instant classic


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)
Sound format: Dolby Digital
(Color & black and white)

A frazzled police squad searches the Mongkok district of Kowloon for a hired killer (Daniel Wu) whose latest assignment - the targeting of a drug lord responsible for another criminal's death - could ignite a horrendous Triad turf war.

Terrific crime drama, filmed in near-documentary style by director Derek Yee (PEOPLE'S HERO, LOST IN TIME), and featuring Alex Fong (FULL THROTTLE) and Wu (ENTER THE PHOENIX) as characters on opposite sides of the law, each drawn in shades of grey by Yee's gritty script. In something of an ironic twist, Yee paints a remarkably humane picture of villains and good guys alike, using Wu's sympathetic character (and his fraught relationship with Cecilia Cheung's unlikely 'tart with a heart') to portray a world in which people are driven to dark acts by circumstances beyond their control, an approach which serves to highlight the thin veneer of 'respectability' separating the police from those they pursue on a daily basis. This being a HK film, however, tragedy is never far away: Fong pursues his quarry with relentless dedication and Wu flees for his life, but Fate throws them together for one of the most devastating finales in recent memory.

Combining action, drama and character development in equal measure, the narrative moves at a rapid clip (except for a brief lag in the middle) and explodes into frenzied activity at regular intervals. Production values are immaculate, and there's a stunning transition from black and white to color during the first ten minutes. Yee draws strong performances from a superb supporting cast, including Chin Kar-lok (the film's action director) as Fong's right-hand man, and Anson Leung (AB-NORMAL BEAUTY) as a trigger-happy rookie whose inexperience leads to a terrible disaster.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/22/2005
Summary: Whats with the hype

I do agree with the many below me that this is one of the better movies of 2004. The story is limited but its the character focus is what makes the movie good.

Daniel Wu gives a better than expected performance!! Alex Fong looks like a walking zombie. Cecila Cheung breezes through her role Chin Kar Lok's character was actually what i was most impressed about.Sam Lee as a triad does work, hes just too skinny to scary anyone!!

Not much action until the bloody end,though i didnt find this a great movie i did find it quite enjoyable!!


Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 05/19/2005
Summary: Very highly recommended.

I won't go into the plot because it's been described here by others, but want to add my voice to those who found this to be an excellent film.

Daniel Wu was perfect as the country bumpkin from the Mainland; a very strong performance, even moving like a rube. My respect for him as an actor keeps growing.

Unlike others, I didn't find CC too perky, though I'll admit I wouldn't be so upbeat if I lived the way her character does. But that is her character's personality, she's so grounded that she's truly dumbfounded to witness (a) someone pass up free cash and (b) someone pass up free sex. There is a contradiction in her character though, because while she decries the way people cheat each other in HK, she shows that she's an opportunist who won't hesitate to cheat others herself. The only problem I had with her character was that she was perfectly made up throughout the film; I don't think small time street "chickens" in Mongkok would look like they just stepped out of a Cosmo photo shoot.

But that's a minor deficiency in an otherwise perfect film.

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 04/22/2005
Summary: Intense

[originally written 1-13-05, updated 4-22-05]

I watched this movie and spent the next few days thinking about its significance and messages. I really think a lot can, and will, be written about this movie. While I do not think this is an instant and timeless classic, I think it will be considered a significant contribution to HK cinema--most especially the screenplay.

As for the writer and director Derek Yee, this man is a gift to HK cinema, and cinema in general. From his excellent early Shaw Brothers performances, to his modern B-movie performances, to his direction and production, I have never seen anything involving his creative talent that I did not like. This movie is no exception.

As for the film itself, in noir fashion you are made to care quite a bit more for the supposed bad guys more than the supposed good guys: in this case, strikingly so. The cops are corrupt criminals with badges and the criminals are actually good people in very bad circumstances. In other words quite true to reality...

In general, of all things, ironically, I thought the performances were slightly weak. The weakest of which was Alex Fong's performance. I have never considered him more than a second tier actor in HK, and I think this movie will not help his cause much. The rest of the supporting actors playing cop roles were OK. Chin Kar Lok's performance stood out, however. The scene between him and Alex Fong in the room after the shooting was quite intense (you'll see what I mean).

Pay close attention to the under appreciated Lam Suet. His performance here was not only thoroughly convincing but also, what I hope will be, award winning. He's really the movie's top performer.

This leaves Danny Wu and Cecilia. Cecilia is now considered among the top, if not the very topmost, actress in HK. Thus, this particular role is an important one for her that could continue to answer the question as to whether that title is deserved. Unfortunately I think this role proved either too big for her, or not suitable for her. I always felt she was a half step off in playing this character.

As for Danny Wu: well I am really a huge admirer of his, and I wish him all the luck in the world. As an ABC who speaks perfect English and pretty good Cantonese, he represents a cultural bridge between east and west (somewhat like this website); and despite not being there yet, he is working his way into hopefully becoming a serious actor in HK cinema. His performance in this movie was very good, although his Mandarin (ironically he plays a Mandarin speaking mainland Chinese who does not understand Cantonese) has an American accent (so he sounds a lot like me speaking Mandarin). And unlike Cecilia, I think this was truly was a good role for him, and it may allow him to at least be considered for serious roles in the future.

Cultural issues are abundant here and while my significant other grew up in HK, I did not, so I cannot completely understand the depths to which recent cultural changes in HK (SAR) are part of the public consciousness there. But I think that may have gotten to the heart of the (or at least one of the) message(s) here.

In summation, I think this may be the most believable movie I have seen in recent memory. It is not the most exciting, most emotional, or most <anything>, I have ever seen. It is just a truly believable story that draws you inexorably in.

Lastly, I really want to reserve final judgment on the performances in this movie until I watch the Cantonese version. I saw the Mandarin version, and while some of the voices (Danny Wu in particular) were certainly real, some were done by other voice actors which always seems to dull the performances a bit.

[UPDATE: Derek Yee went on to win Best Director and Best Screen Play at the 24th annual Hong Kong Film Awards.]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/19/2004

From the moment it starts, One Nite in Mongkok presents itself as a solid, gritty and hard-hitting drama that marks itself as one of the best films of the year from anywhere in the world with its' unflinching portrayal of both sides of Hong Kong's crime underworld. This type of movie is especially appreciated in this day and age, since Hong Kong films lately seem to be more concerned with stuffing as many pop stars in a picture as the producers can, rather than concentrating on the actual output. In One Nite in Mongkok, there's no slow-motion soft-focus over-filtered shots of people kissing while a Cantopop ballad blares in the background -- and I, for one, am very thankful for that.

In the movie, Daniel Wu plays a mainlander hired by Lam Suet to settle the score between two competing street gangs by knocking off one of the "big brothers". However, a team of cops led by Alex Fong knows what's going on, and look to put a stop to the planned killing -- after all, no one wants a gang war on Christmas Eve. During the course of the night, loyalities on both sides of the law are put to the test as the assassin tries to carry out his job while staying one step ahead of the cops and the Triads.

As with one of his previous movies Task Force, director Derek Yee shows a great touch for fleshing out the characters in what some might see as a standard Hong Kong crime drama. There are really no scenes which scream "exposition", yet Yee manages to tell us a lot about the characters in a relatively small amount of time. I especially liked the way the interaction between Daniel Wu and Cecilia Cheung (who plays a sympathetic hooker) was handled. Enough was done to show their deepening relationship, but there wasn't any out-and-out "I love you" types of moments.

Along with the solid story-telling and acting, there's also some good action as well. It's nothing of the John Woo or Jackie Chan variety, but there are several brutal scenes -- especially towards the end, where some beatdowns on Daniel Wu frankly left me a bit unsettled. But that's one of the great things about One Nite in Mongkok. It doesn't try going for the easy way out or the happy ending. It's a complex and challenging film that should satify both new fans and long-time connoisseurs of Hong Kong crime pictures.

[review from]

Reviewed by: barrst
Date: 08/28/2004
Summary: Didn't quite gel

Maybe I was expecting too much, given all the glowing reviews.

I felt it was lacking in the following ways: Cecilia Cheung's character was too much a 'happy hooker' stereotype. Daniel Wu's character is brilliant at fighting and deduction, but can't read a newspaper. Also, his 'redhead' look late in the movie is just silly. Lam Suet's character and his character's wife are too naive/dumb to survive in their chosen profession.

Reviewed by: LisaM
Date: 08/23/2004
Summary: At last, one that lives up to the hype

Derek Yee's become Hong Kong's latest heavy hitter, following up the superb LOST IN TIME with this gritty, tense, melancholy thriller. Although it begins as a well-made triads-vs.-cops thriller, it ends as something akin to Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER, with ultra-violence, social commentary and tragedy all vying for top position. And this from the director of VIVA EROTICA and C'EST LA VIE, MON CHERI!

Yee's wonderful, twisty script and pitch-perfect direction are matched by great performances (despite some noticeable dubbing of the two leads). Particularly noteworthy is Lam Suet as the gleefully greedy and neurotic triad middleman.

ONE NITE IN MONGKOK is almost too good - it's one of those very rare films that makes everything else just look weak and dull by comparison.

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 08/11/2004
Summary: One of the Best of 2004

In “One Nite In Mongkok,” Derek Yee, takes us on a tour of the most densely populated part of Hong Kong. Mongkok is teaming with life. Two rival gangs take a spat to a deadly, unresolved level, which escalates to the hiring of an assassin from the mainland. The police get tipped off and attempt to locate that hitman, Daniel Wu. Wu meets up with Cecilia Cheung, a hooker with a generally sunny disposition, who guides Wu through the crowded streets. What ensues is the manhunt, as Alex Fong leads his police squad to search throughout Mongkok, tracking down stoolies and their leads.

Filmgoers get to see Derek Yee’s new flick soon after his previous effort, “Lost In Time.” Since Yee isn’t as prolific as some other Hong Kong directors, “One Nite In Mongkok,” also written and directed by Yee, is a pure treat. Yee uses Mongkok as another character in the movie, showing off the bright neon colors of the city and the teaming masses. Some of the handheld camerawork also helped to heighten the claustrophobically cramped streets and alleyways.

Yee does an excellent job with the actors, and especially Daniel Wu. Wu does some of his best work in this picture, and his performance rivals that in “Purple Storm.“ The ensemble cast hit all the right notes, with special mentions for Alex Fong and Chin Kar Lok. Cecilia Cheung was a bit too bubbly, but otherwise looked radiant for a prostitute in the slums of Hong Kong. There were moments when Yee's direction displayed the grittiness associated with Ringo Lam’s work, as the violence is, at times, quite jarring.

“One Nite In Mongkok” sucks you right in from the very beginning, as Yee grabs you by the throat with this tale and won’t let go until the very end. On the surface, the movie appears to be another conventional police, procedural thriller, but add in some very subtle character flaws while peeling back the layers for both the hunters and the hunted, and you get one of the best movies in 2004. Take the “One Nite In Mongkok” tour now. The ride may be bumpy but the payoff is well worth the time.

Reviewed by: Souxie
Date: 05/30/2004
Summary: Makes you think

I enjoyed this movie, but found it odd and unsettling. At times funny, at times dark and gruesome, it was many different styles thrown together. It didn't always work well, and I felt that Ceceila Cheung's character was too flippant in most situations. I'm not fluent in any Chinese but even I could spot the bad Mandarin being used - Danny Wu was great, but even he can't fake Mandarin that well. Overall the performances were good, except Cecelia's role of the mainland prostitute could have been played better by someone who isn't known for their silly rom-coms too.
I'd give this 8/10 - it loses 2 marks cos she wasn't convincing enough. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't been around Temple St at night though!

Reviewer Score: 8