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Original Title:
Aau dut

Hong Kong 1997


Patrick Yau

Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Lau Ching Wan
Maggie Siu
Fong Lung
Mark Cheng
Sunny Fang
Bun Yuen

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The Longest Nite

Story: A bloody gang warfare is prevailing in Macau. When the rumor makes its rounds, that legendary boss Mr. Hung is coming back to Macau and wants to regain his power, the bosses of two rivalling gangs, Mr. K and Lung, decide to lay their difficulties aside and work together.
In order to prevent the initial negotiations to end in a bloody battle, Sam (Tony Leung), who is a cop, but actually works for Mr. K, is entrusted to protect Lung from any harm. This task doesn't prove to be as easy as thought, since there is a 5 million bounty on Lung's head. Furthermore, according to the rumors, Mr. K himself is said to have put the money on Lung's head. The whole affair is soon going to escalate and even Sam has his problems to change anything about it.
Things get even more complicated when a bald-headed stranger (Lau Ching Wan) appears, who somehow seems to be involved in this whole affair. While Sam is putting the blame of certain unfortunate conincidences on the bald-headed newcomer, he has to find out that there is someone trying to frame him, too...

Review: "The Longest Nite" is a nihilistic, disturbingly brutal and atmospherically depressing cop thriller, that gets right under your skin. However, I can't agree with the many critics who see this film as one hell of a masterpiece, as this thriller has way too many flaws to be called extraordinarily impressive. For once, there is the slow opening, which would be easy to overlook, if the pacing wouldn't still drag down later on. Moreover, it has to be criticized that the side characters are all pretty flat and seem to be merely tools for the mind game of the two main protagonists.
Also, the ending comes along with a small irritating breach of style, when suddenly an unnecessary showdown complete with lots of shooting in best Hong Kong manner takes place.
Nonetheless, I don't want to give you a false impression, as that's it about the negative aspects of the film. "The Longest Nite" in fact is a well-done and genuine movie, with a well-elaborated story and two main actors in the prime of their life.

Tony Leung as the corrupt cop Sam outshadows his colleague Lau Ching Wan at any time, and that's not an easy thing to do. Being the brutal and merciless gangster he is, covering crimes with the help of his police badge, beating up people, blackmailing and torturing them, it becomes a pain for the audience to watch Sam do his evil deeds. He isn't only an antihero, but the viewer soon learns to hate him just a few minutes into the movie.

Sam's opponent, the bald-headed newcomer, is embodied by Lau Ching Wan, who with seemingly no effort depicts this mysterious character without a name. Always being calm and reflecting, he only uses violence when he is forced to do so. Although it's easy for us to figure out that this enigmatic stranger surely is no one of the good guys, we can't help but to be on his side, first. However, Tony Leung and Lau Ching Wan succeed in making us refrain from sympathizing with either one of them, although we are still hanging on the edge of our seat when their mind game unfolds. Sure, as you cannot connect to any of the protagonists it may be difficult for some people to get access to this movie, yet I for my part found it to be very refreshing.

Patrick Yau puts a lot of focus on the atmosphere of his work, which is why it's no wonder that the end product is a very stylish and somber piece of work. Macau is a boiling pot, that could explode at any time and this tension is present at any time throughout the movie.
Being told in colorless and blurry pictures, not only the brutality does reach a new level, but the psychological terror also becomes more and more gripping. While the story develops only slowly at the beginning, and you still might have your problems to relate the several characters to the groups involved in this deadly game, director Yau does a great job in telling a story that becomes more and more complex and tangled up, so that it's still possible for the viewer to keep track of events. Even if you miss certain details, at the end things will still make for a comprehensible whole.

The story is one of the biggest strengths of "The Longest Nite". When the second half kicks in we are already totally captured by the thrilling mind game between Sam and the mysterious stranger, and the tension reaches its peak on several occasions. Numerous twists and certain aha-moments make this film a great watch and make up for the slow opening.
It may not happen that often anymore, but here we see why Hong Kong cinema had such a good reputation during the glorious days, as there is always emerging a small gem, that offers something new we never have seen before.
The tense atmosphere and thrilling factor, the nihilistic, gloomy pictures and two great actors make this movie an extraordinary and rewarding experience, despite some flaws.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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