Too Many Ways to Be No. 1- -
This arty triad flick from Wai Ka-Fai and Johnnie To is as good as genre pictures get in this era. Lau Ching-Wan is Kau, a small potato in the triad world who must make a fateful decision to discover who he is. With that decision, his life can diverge in two paths, each leading to an ultimate fate.
It is no secret that many Cantonese movies derive their “inspiration” from Hollywood.
Anything hot on celluloid across the Pacific is sure to be imitated, emulated, and transformed into something that could happen only on Hong Kong celluloid.
Too Many Ways To Be No. 1is unique in its derivations, its first half a kind of Chinese Pulp Fiction, but by film’s end something more akin to It’s a Wonderful Lifeset amongst the dregs of society. Director Wai Ka-fai and his co-scriptwriters, Matthew Chow and Sze-to Kam-yun, play with notions of time and fate in a novel manner for local cinema. Lau Ching-wan gives his usual professional polish to the role of Dog, a petty gangster who comes to a fork in the road of life and is given the opportunity to traverse both avenues. In the movie’s first tale, he is very much a passive character, going along with triad brother Matt (Francis Ng) on a caper that goes terribly wrong. But the new trajectory of fate has Dog, Matt, and massage girl “#2” journeying to Taiwan where they get involved with rival gangs headed by bosses whose grotesqueness would be at home in a Fellini film. Too Many Ways To Be No. 1is a marked improvement from Wai’s directorial debut, the 1995 Peace Hotel. That “Chinese Western” was almost entirely style with not much substance to back it up, beautiful images telling a dull story with tedious characters. Too Many Ways To Be No. 1is equally flashy, and sometimes downright annoying. Still, the style for the most part compliments the movie’s offbeat notions of space, time, and destiny, and in this respect is one of the more interesting pictures so far this year.