One Night in Mongkok Review

On paper One Night in Mongkok reads like just another unexceptional Hong Kong thriller. Seemingly dissatisfied with only having stock types with which to populate itself, the film also throws in some clichéd backstories and a ridiculous bundle of contrivances. Ostensibly the tale of an inexperienced hitman – the personification of the naïve young country boy coming to the big city – hired to wipe out a Triad gang boss, Mongkok also focuses some of its energies on the cops attempting to track him down, primarily a wiser, stoic type and the eager young buck. What’s more, there’s also room for a prostitute for whom the phrase “tart with a heart” could have been created.

Yet the reality of the situation is actually much, much better primarily because prolific director Derek Yee never feels the urge to overplay his hand. A few stylistic touches sneak in on rare occasions – an early black and white sequence; some split screen activity – but for the most part he keeps things simple. Whereas a lesser director would have attempted to disguise the narrative deficiencies by going all out and rendering the film a flashy mess, Yee goes in the opposite direction. He takes these various stock types (also present is a twitchy informant) and treats them with a little respect.

It helps that Mongkok has been so well cast, particularly in the smaller roles. The collection of low ranking gang members, middlemen (and women) and, in plot terms, minor police officers at the very least give the film an approximation of reality. Indeed, this would appear to be Yee’s aim, even if the clichés can’t quite be overridden. The opening sequence, in particular, demonstrates his skill as we witness the events which lead to the call for an assassination. Despite ending in a spectacular car chase, Yee merely follows the logic of each moment as an argument in the streets escalates into a brawl in a nightclub escalates into the drunken, and inevitably fatal, car chase. As such the sequence never feels like some ungainly, out of place set piece, but something more readily viable. Certainly, it is spectacularly done, but never at the expense of the rest of the picture.

In fact, the rest of the picture is really quite unspectacular in its staging. Yee sticks to a muted colour scheme, unobtrusive handheld camerawork and invisible editing. Even the scoring is subdued, whilst the onscreen violence seems to just happen. In spite of the clichés, such an atmosphere at the very least asks us to take proceedings seriously, and to a certain extent the plan works. We’re never quite able to ignore the familiarity of it all, but then we’re also never getting bored by it.

Surprisingly such mannerisms feel almost British in their attitude. It’s remarkably easy (with a few cultural switches, of course) to image Mongkok being transferred to these shores as a superior TV effort, perhaps with Ken Stott and Kelly MacDonald occupying the roles of chief detective and prostitute respectively. Indeed, like so many of our recent cop-centric teleplays it combines clichés and fine character work, whilst also demonstrating a fine level of overall professionalism. As said, the plotting undoubtedly hinders proceedings, but the in the general climate of so-so UK-imported Hong Kong thrillers, One Night in Mongkok makes for a refreshing change.

The Disc

Another Tartan “Asia Extreme” release, another NTSC-PAL transfer, though admittedly this is one of their better ones. Mongkok comes in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (anamorphically enhanced) and whilst the ghosting may distract, at least we haven’t seem too great a loss in clarity or a misrepresented colour scheme. Indeed, the film remains watchable throughout, even if we’d most definitely prefer not to have yet another standards conversion on our hands. As for the soundtrack, he we find the typical Tartan offering of DD2.0, DD5.1 and DTS mixes. In this particular case it’s the DD5.1 which is the original and as such represents the best one to go for. Certainly, it sounds absolutely fine and comes without any technical difficulties, whilst the other two choices either sound much less effective (DD2.0) or don’t offer that much of a difference (DTS). That said, all three options remains crisp and clear throughout.

Of the extras, the major attraction is the 28 minutes worth of deleted footage. Given the length this is something of a mixed bag (and disappointingly comes without chapter stops), but for the most part worth the effort. In some cases we’re merely seeing tiny snippets which were understandably cut as they add very little, yet hang in there and you’ll find a few a nice character touches or a couple of scenes which flesh out the odd moment. Also present is the entire opening sequence in colour as opposed to black and white.

Elsewhere the additions are less interesting, but welcome nonetheless. The premiere footage is an unusually flamboyant affair complete with revving motorcycles and autograph signings. The featurette seemingly wishes to be as flamboyant as the film itself was subdued (though it can’t quite cover the fact that it’s offering nothing more than the usual EPK nonsense). And then there’s the original theatrical trailer to round things off.

All extras, as with the main feature, come with optional English subtitling.

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Last updated: 24/04/2018 17:25:02

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