GANGSTER PAY DAY
Directed by Lee Po-cheung
Closing Night Film, 2014 Busan International Film Festival
For lovers of 90s Hong Kong films, consider GANGSTER PAYDAY to be Lee Po-cheung’s gift to you. It does what many of those Hong Kong gangster films did: mash up genres, seamlessly kneading the pleasures of a triad film, food movie, and rom-com into a sweet, blood-splattered pineapple bun.
Iconic actor Anthony Wong plays Kwai, an older, bemused, but still ferocious ex-triad boss trying to protect and enjoy his few investments in dated karaoke lounges and massage parlors. Unfortunately for Kwai, a newer brand of thug will use any means necessary to force him to sell his properties, including leveraging a struggling teashop whose wily shop owner (Charlene Choi) has captured the heart of both Kwai and the youngest baby-faced member of his crew, Leung (Cantopop star Wong You Nam).
GANGSTER PAYDAY’s throwback opening sequences, so common in films a decade ago, now feel charming. Yet the film never gives way to nostalgia. Wong (Hard Boiled, Infernal Affairs, The Mission) is at his most playful and relaxed, pursuing a last hope for love as far as it will take him. GANGSTER PAYDAY evokes romantic sweetness and so much warmth in the world it creates without ever forgetting what every triad film promises: a complicated showdown with tragedy lining the edges. Just don’t expect an operatic power ballad. GANGSTER PAYDAY is the filmic equivalent of the neighborhood haunts it holds dear – intimately scaled, layered with memory, and utterly satisfying. –Christina Ree
Cast: Anthony Wong, Charlene Choi, Won You Nam