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The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Zhou chu chu san hai

Taiwan 2023

Crime, Drama

Wong Ching-Po

Ethan Juan
Ben Yuan
Chen Yi-wen
Gingle Wang
Lee Lee-zen
Hsieh Chiung-Hsuan
Chen Ping-yu

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The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon

The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Chen Gui-lin (Ethan Juan) is an assassin who kills rival bosses on behalf of a gangster boss. The police almost managed to arrest him on his last assignment, and so Gui-lin has to go into hiding for a while. Four years later, he finds out that his grandmother is dying. She was the only reason he continued to keep a low profile as he didn't want her to see him get caught on the news. However, his grandmother dies during a necessary operation, and he also finds out that he has lung cancer and only six months left to live at best. Hsieh (Chang Kuei-ching) is a doctor, she has not only taken care of his grandmother, but also repeatedly patches up gangsters, and she asks him to turn himself in now. Gui-lin finally decides to go to a police station, but there he sees a list of Taiwan's most wanted criminals - and he is only in third place. Before Gui-lin steps down, he wants to become number one, so that no one will ever forget him. Therefore, he goes to see Hongkie (Ben Yuen) from the list. An unscrupulous gangster who mercilessly exploits the addiction of the girl Hsiao-mei (Gingle Wang) and otherwise gives Gui-lin no reason to spare him either. While Gui-lin follows him to find a suitable opportunity to take him out, the police are tailing Gui-lin too.

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The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon - Film Screenshot 4

Review: It's not often that you're immediately drawn into a movie, but the first chase scene on foot in "The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon" instantly gets your adrenaline pumping thanks to the dynamic camera work. We don't even have an overview of the exact background of the events yet, all we know is that Gui-lin is the villain who is being chased by a detective, the supposed hero of the story. But the exciting thing is that the killer is actually the anti-hero who leads us through further events. If the flick was a typical thriller set in the gangster milieu, this might not seem unusual, but "The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon" has some aces up its sleeve. The outstanding thing about the story is that we truly care about Gui-lin. We slowly get to know his motives, and even though his reason for hunting the other two criminals from the list may seem trivial at first, there is an understandable fear behind his desire to become number one. He has nothing and no one in life, and he is afraid of not leaving any marks once he's left this world. In the further course of the movie, the motif of atonement also finds its way into the story, though.

The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon - Film Screenshot 5

The title already hints at the fact that the movie is divided into three parts, although perhaps it's more like two. After all, Gui-lin is chasing two criminals, and while the first one provides the framework for a well-done gangster atmosphere, the second one creates room for ... something completely different. Without giving too much away, Gui-lin is confronted with a religious community that makes him think about whether there might not be another way in life for him. So Gui-lin continues to develop as a character, but there is always something unapproachable about him. In addition, we find out that he is not entirely merciless, e.g. when he wants to free Hsiao-mei from the clutches of Hongkie, even though it's only a by-product of his actual goal. Managing the balancing act of unquestionably presenting Gui-lin as a gangster who has no problem taking lives and at the same time giving him a real human side, is an extraordinary achievement for which both actor Ethan Juan and director Wong Ching-Po ("Jiang Hu") deserve praise.

The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon - Film Screenshot 6

Director Wong brings a good dose of Hong Kong thriller atmosphere to Taiwan, and Hongkie works well as a hateful gangster against whom Gui-lin looks like one of the good guys. The sets and the neon-lit streets as well as some nail-biting confrontations - especially one where a beard gets trimmed with a razor blade - make you sit at the edge of your seat. And as soon as there are violent confrontations, we get a lot of kinetic energy. At first glance they seem very natural, brutal, and not as if there were a sophisticated choreography behind them, but in fact, everything here is brilliantly composed. Hsiao-mei, played by Gingle Wang ("Detention"), could have ended up as the stereotypical damsel in distress who just becomes Gui-lin's love interest, but that's not the case, and towards the end the two have a strong scene that shows us that we do care about both of them. Something that might surprise you. Strictly speaking, we try not to establish too much of an emotional bond to the characters, because things looks like they are bound to go down the drain in the end. As mentioned before, there is certainly a good deal of Hong Kong cinema in this Taiwan production.

The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon - Film Screenshot 7

The basic structure of the story is based on an old folk tale about the scoundrel Zhou Chu, who has to eliminate three evils in his village. The tale itself is even mentioned in the movie, and when the anti-hero then becomes acquainted with a religious community that is clearly a cult, but doesn't appear to pressure people to join and instead really seems help them, there is a new path for Gui-lin. Atonement and forgiveness become the center of the story and we get a glimpse of some new sides of the criminal. The tone should stand in stark contrast to the other half of the movie, but with a WTF-moment that is second to none, the story manages to re-establish a coherent tone after all. The fact that the movie doesn't feel torn apart is actually a miracle, instead "The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon" even gets epic proportions because we get a look into various stages of Gui-lin's life. And despite its running time of 134 minutes, you wouldn't have minded staying on this rollercoaster ride for a little longer. The violence and ruthlessness also fit perfectly into the overall tone of the movie, and you even catch yourself cheering for Gui-lin from time to time, as his opponents get what they deserve. And other than him, they are beyond any help.

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But of course, not everything is perfect. The detective, for example, takes too much of a back seat, and that's frustrating, because there seems to have been an interesting relationship between him and Gui-lin planned. At least towards the end it seems as if the script could have had more in store for the two. The spiritual diversion also slows down the movie's pacing quite a bit, but you can forgive that once you realize what the intention behind it was. Unfortunately, there are also some plot holes, especially a scene in which the other party isn't making sure that Gui-lin really bites the dust. It may be a typical genre or action movie cliché, but it doesn't fit here, because "The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon" is anything but generic. The ending also comes along with a surprise, which - even though it's quite predictable - gives the story some depth. At the end of the day, all that's left to say is that this gangster drama does not only manage to entertain in an extremely gripping way, but it also gets you invested emotionally, so that the drama towards the end also hits the mark. A great movie, that you shouldn't miss out on.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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