"Chungking Express" (1994) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #132 Gem Mint 10.0
“Chungking Express“ (1994)
Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Writer: Wong Kar-Wai
Starring: Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valeri Chow, Jinquan Chen, Lee-Na Kwan
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, sexuality and drug content
Runtime: 1h 42min
Genre: Comedy | Crime | Drama | Mystery | Romance
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese | English | Japanese | Hindi | Mandarin | Punjabi | Urdu
Available on: Various VOD platforms including The Criterion Collection
"Two melancholy Hong Kong policemen fall in love: one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal waitress at a late-night restaurant he frequents."
You might like this if you like: Wong Kar-Wai, Comedies, Crime Movies, Dramas, Mysteries, Romance, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valeri Chow, Jinquan Chen, Lee-Na Kwan
Brigitte Lin in "Chungking Express" (1994)
This film has fought and continued to fight for first place in my list of favorite films of all time.. It’s such a hard call. Between this, “Funny People” (2009) and “The Piano” (1994), those three always seem to come back to mind when people ask me what my favorite film is! They all have their own flavors, but “Chungking Express” (1994) is certainly unique in its own! As are each of them honestly.
My very first time hearing about writer/director Wong Kar-Wai and “Chungking Express” (1994), was on a featurette with Quentin Tarantino talking about Wong Kar-Wai and essentially recommending his work and ever since then I’ve consumed Wong Kar-Wai’s films like a wildfire! In fact, Tarantino's production company "Rolling Thunder" was its North American distributer!
Takeshi Kaneshiro in "Chungking Express" (1994)
The music was an immediate draw and just a wonderful way to pull me in! The opening sequence with Brigitte Lin is so eye popping with the camera shutter play and strange location they’re in.. you can’t help but be intrigued with what’s going on.
I did feel it had some Tarantino flavor or familiarity that I enjoyed as the film went on, it felt much more relaxed though and in some ways, not saying isn't capable of creating these types of moments too, but more poetic. I just fell so in love with it's love story.
I'd been a long time fine of Hong Kong / Asian cinema, but in particular Hong Kong action films, so this was a wonderful change of pace for me in terms of tone and pacing! A completely different beast than martial arts movies but still had the some Hong Kong flavor that I'd recognize here or there. I really do love a lot of the work Hong Kong puts out there!
Faye Wong in in "Chungking Express" (1994)
Like I mentioned before, the love story (or stories), were what I fell in love with. The mystery of it all. The strangeness and creepiness to it, yet I just wanted to know more and see what would happen. Without even realizing it, I fell more and more in love with the characters as the film went on, no matter what they did! I was fascinated and lost with them! In particular Faye Wong and Tony Leung's characters. It was really interesting to see the change in the story structure that we may get used to in the US. I'd seen this one years ago, but had seen Tarantino's work first, so watching this sort of, non-linear storytelling was clear to me where he had gotten SOME of that inspiration, I know he also credits novels for doing that as well.
Tony Leung had been the only familiar face for me going into this film. I'd been a fan of his for awhile like "Infernal Affairs" (2003), "A Better Tomorrow" (1986), "The Lover" (1992), "Hard Boiled" (1992) and many others, but his work has been truly prominent in Wong Kar-Wai's. Especially his "In the Mood for Love" (2000). He's also fantastic in the latest Marvel film; "Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (2021).
Tony Leung in "Chungking Express" (1994)
Faye Wong was a new face AND voice who I fell in love with! I mean, her character was the oddest, but also the most complex and fascinating to me. Brigitte Lin was so great in this! I loved how much she just took over every scene and was bossing around the boys!
I loved all the locations and set designs! From Tony Leung's apartment details to the colors of the bar with Brigitte Lin and Takeshi Kaneshiro! Just so well made, on what seemed like, a fairly small budget! The way the camera captured it all and playing with the camera shutter only added to the chaos and mystery going on with our characters, in particular, Brigitte Lin's.
Tony Leung (left) & Faye Wong (right) in "Chungking Express" (1994)
It remains to be one of my favorite films of all time and what lead Wong Kar-Wai to be one of my most beloved directors in cinema!
Written by Sam Gall on 09/04/21
CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0
"The masterful Wong Kar-wai crafts this exquisitely shot film - two films in one, really - into a meditation on love. Along the way, he uses music as only he can..." - Kanishk Devgan, Film Companion
"A lyrical and delightfully goofy study in romantic longing." - Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
"This is the kind of movie you'll relate to if you love film itself, rather than its surface aspects such as story and stars." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express is as fresh as falling rain, a pair of love stories full of pain and humor." - Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
"A near-perfect fusion of form and style, content and substance. One of the great movies of its decade." - Dan Jardine, Apollo Guide
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