Odd One Dies, The (1997)

May 12, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Director: Patrick Yau Tat-Chi
Producers: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Wai Ka-Fai
Script: Wai Ka-Fai
Action Director: Yuen Bun

Takeshi Kaneshiro, Carman Lee Yeuk-Tung, Bin Yue, Choi Fung Wa

Cantonese: Leung Goh Chi Lang Wood Yat Goh
Mandarin: Liang3 Ge4 Zhi1 Neng2 Huo2 Yi1 Ge4
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Drama
Rating: II B (Hong Kong)
Theatrical Run: 05/10/1997

Language: Cantonese
Running Time: 93 min

oddone3Plot: The secret world of contract killing comes to focus in this dark comical tale of Hong Kong’s triad. A low-life gangster is offered a huge fee to commit murder. He accepts, but there’s a catch – he just won a huge fortune and wants to back out of his contract!

The sweetest, goofiest of Milkyway’s post-New Wave thematic series, this movie continues Milkyway’s ongoing attempt to question the validity of fate and prophecy. Set during the handover of Hong Kong to mainland China, the events of the time relate directly to the films theme.

oddone2It’s essentially a variation on that Hong Kong New Wave icon, the hired killer. This one is a gambling drifter, who uses the money from a contract to gamble for his pride. He ends up winning a lot of money, and then he tries to use the money to buy his way out of the contract. This involves subcontracting to Carmen Lee, who plays an even further down-on-her-luck drifter who the killer, half-Japanese film star Takeshi Kaneshiro, begins to fall in love with. They spend the handover celebration in innocent abandon, awash in feelings for each other. Unfortunately, one of them has to fulfill the contract, which means certain death.

Fate and chance get some heavy deliberation in this quirky comedy. Perhaps because of Takeshi’s involvement Patrick Yau attempts to make the film look a bit like a Wong Kar-Wai production and he passes so far away from doing it that he manages instead to make it thoroughly original in style. In spite of this, his style change completely a few months later when he made The Longest Nite, his second such collaboration with Milkyway auteurs Johnny To and Wa Kai Fai.




Part of a pair, with TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1. The two films share much of the same crew, style, and attitude. THE ODD ONE DIES is superb. A similar visual scheme (dazzling distortions of colour and point of view) supports a more conventional story: Takeshi Kaneshiro and Carman Lee (again) are ultra-scrungy hit-people (one imagines that their respective record company image consultants must have been a bit alarmed) who in the course of several comical and terrifying adventures, in and out of HK hotel rooms, gambling dens, and seedy bars, move towards something like romance. Think of FALLEN ANGELS, leavened with LOST AND FOUND, with a dash of Haruki Murakami. But these are just starting points: Wai Ka-fai and Patrick Yau have concocted a completely original entertainment/work of art that has my vote for best film of ’97 (so far…I haven’t seen Happy Together). Over-the-top humour (there are at least three finger-slicing episodes!!!), urban action (see TK do his own stunt-leaping through HK traffic), explosions of violence, some relatively grown-up sex (for a HK film)… Takeshi Kaneshiro and Carman Lee are exceptional, in roles that should have been really tough to bring off. Their characters are given very few actual lines; but they manage to communicate a world of feelings mostly through their gestures, postures, and expressions. Wong Ying-wah’s score is another star: action scenes set to ironic cha-cha’s; a nod to Leslie Cheung’s tropical music from DAYS OF BEING WILD; the sweet lyricism of the ‘paradise’ theme. OOD plays with dreams, how one survives by taking wild chances, escaping from (memory) traps; finding one’s own paradise.

—Shelly Kracier, Chinese Cinema

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