Peace Hotel (1995)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: Hong Kong
Director: Wai Ka-Fai
Producer: John Woo (Ng Yu-Sam)
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Cecilia Yip Tung, Chin Ho, Lau Shun, Wu Chien-Lien (Ng Sin-Lin)
Running Time: 86 min

Plot: Legend has it that a homicidal maniac massacred over 200 gangsters in a murderous spree and forced his sword onto a stone creating the Peace Hotel. Chow Yun Fat stars as the gate keeper of the Peace Hotel – a safe-haven for fugitives with an unspoken rule that the hotel would not help escapees flee. Cecila Yip plays Chow’s love interest as the girl for whom he breaks all the rules.

This film was Chow Yun-Fat’s last one in Hong Kong before emigrating to make bad movies in the U.S. It was also sort of a comeback for the star after a series of very bad movies for Wong Ching Jing (among the most conspicuous are God of Gamblers’ Return and the godawful debacle called Treasure Hunt). So, Chow came back. And he gives an excellent performance, reminiscent of one of his classic 80s films for Ringo Lam, Johnny To, and the like. New writer/director Wa Kai Fai gives the movie lustre to spare, combined with a restless camera and a fast pace. It’s pretty fun, in the traditional Chow Yun-Fat vein.
Chow plays a crazed killer who quite literally “sees the light” and makes the sight of his massacre a hotel. He reforms, and becomes the boss of the Peace Hotel, a barricaded establishment that offers sanctuary for anyone from their pursuers. No one who chases someone to Peace Hotel can enter the premises, and no one who takes refuge there will be protected when they leave; it’s basically a neutral zone, where Chow presides. But the order of things is disrupted when a mysterious, rather silly woman arrives at the hotel claiming to be the killer’s long-lost lover. She doesn’t seem to realize that the real lover was one of the killer’s victims years before.
The film plays and sounds a lot like a spaghetti western, specifically Sergio Corbucci’s Django films (though Wa Kai Fai is a far better cinematic technitian than Corbucci ever was). It’s never original and never inspired enough to succeed above the general it was built in homage to. But it plays well, thanks to Wa Kai Fai’s inspired camerawork and Chow Yun-Fat’s indefatigable charisma.

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