& directed by: Riley Yip
Producers: John Chong, Solon So & Claudie Chung
Starring: Eric Tsang, Nicholas Tse, Shu Qi, Jo Kuk, Michael
Chan & Sandra Ng
the DVD at:
at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2000:
Best Screenplay (Riley Yip)
Best Actor (Eric Tsang)
Best Supporting Actress (Elaine Kam)
Best Cinematography (Peter Pau)
Best Art Direction (Wong Bing Yiu)
Best Costume & Make Up Design (Dora Ng)
Best Original Film Song: Oi hau yu sun (Life after love)
Music: Ng Kwok Sing
Lyrics: Lin Xi
Performed by: Nicholas Tse
In Portuguese Metade Fumaca means 'half smoked' and in this
movie that is a reference to the cigarette Eric Tsang's character
carries with him since one, for him, magical night 30 years
Mountain Leopard (Eric Tsang from Gen-X Cops) is a triad
who has spent the last 30 years of his life living in Brazil.
He now returns to Hong Kong to kill his long time rival Nine
Dragons (Michael Chan) who stole the woman Mountain Leopard
was in love with. He enlists the help of small time hoodlum
Smokey (Nicholas Tse from 2002) who more than willingly
is ready to kill for money. Smokey also knows the present Hong
Kong which Mountain Leopard is not really familiar with and
the two slowly begin the search for Nine Dragons. During this
time they develop an almost father-son like relationship but
along the way the real truth about Mountain Leopard is revealed....
Yip's drama really shines from the beginning frame both visually
and sound wise. The starting scenes show Mountain Leopard
leaving Brazil and the score of course has a Brazilian flavour
to it. The camera catches some beautiful location work which
I guess is in Macau where the architecture can create the
illusion of being in Brazil. Already a few minutes in, Metade
Fumaca felt different and it sure didn't look like any
Hong Kong film I've seen recently. This was just the beginning
of a magnificent tale of the beauty of memories.
The direction Riley chooses here can probably be compared
to many directors but I kept thinking of the way Wilson Yip
directs. The camera doesn't move more than it has to for this
kind of story and I've said it before; let the actors and
the settings push the story forward! All this has been captured
beautifully by Peter Pau's excellent eye. You could heap loads
and loads of well deserved praise over his cinematography
work thanks to movies like Anna Magdalena and Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon and now Metade Fumaca. Many
scenes take place out on the streets of Hong Kong and the
screen looks like it's lit by the city itself. This means
a very varied colour scheme but at the same time Peter manages
to create an almost perfect natural light that I've rarely
seen on film. If you see Peter Pau's or Arthur Wong's name
in the credits of a movie, you will pretty much be guaranteed
that it will look good at least.
The music by Lau Cho-Tak and Chiu Tsang-Hei really stands
out since it features a lot of Brazilian flavoured tunes.
At some points in the movie it even combines these elements
with techno beats, which makes for an interesting experience.
I have to say that I thought the score was overused in certain
places and could've been lower in volume while still working
with the scene.
lies on the two characters of Mountain Leopard and Smokey
and they, despite the age difference both share things in
life. The screenplay by Riley Yip deliberately chooses to
put the main plot second or rather delays it in order to flesh
out the characters even more. It's a good choice since the
lives of Mountain Leopard and Smokey are fascinating to watch
and follow. We don't know how the plot is going to unfold
around them but we're not anxious to get to the next step
in the story. We're willing to invest a lot of the running
time to get to know them even better and all this is a testament
to Rileys great script and direction.
Mountain Leopard has a behaviour that feels old and Smokey
even comments that his way of speaking is kind of old fashioned.
To spend a significant time of your life on a whole different
continent must change you in many ways and coming back to
your native land sure must feel confusing at first. Mountain
Leopard observes the changes in the triad way of life while
he's guided by Smokey who himself isn't all that fascinated
with that world. He merely sees it as a chance to provide
money for him and his mother (played by Elaine Kam). As the
movie progresses the real truth slowly gets revealed and we
as an audience have time to consume and ponder about it without
feeling like the movie is going to fast.
The movie has elements we've seen done in a similar way before
and at first the dialogue isn't all that original but it all
comes together thanks to the chemistry between Eric Tsang
and Nicholas Tse. The way these characters are played means
that neither actor dominates the other. It's old vs. young
but it's not a battle, it's a learning experience for the
primarily seen Eric Tsang in comedy roles and the thought
that he could carry a heavy drama has never struck me before
but Eric quickly showcases a huge talent for the genre. We
think we know his character but, as mentioned, he does have
secrets regarding his return to Hong Kong. Mountain Leopard
can come off as goofy at times but in dangerous situations
he quickly becomes huge and the triad in him shines through.
Riley have written a complex character but his arc is never
unclear or hard to follow. Eric Tsang's performance is one
of those where you will discover new things in either the
character or the acting, that's how good Eric Tsang is in
Nicholas Tse isn't really a veteran actor as such and I've
mostly seen him act in lighter action films such as Gen-X
Cops. He and Eric Tsang actually played against each other
in that movie but now that they're reunited, the pressure
and demand on Nicholas is much greater. He has shown signs
of screen presence but really nothing else and this kind of
part almost feels like the ultimate test in the quest for
respect as an actor. It's also the more complicated character
in Metade Fumaca but Nicholas seems to have no problem
acting alongside veterans and in a drama. With writer/director
Riley Yip's talent backing him up, Nicholas displays a confidence
in his acting and great focus on the character. Both he and
Eric Tsang gets better and better with every scene that they're
in and highlights include the scene under the piano as well
as the shooting star moment amidst the triad confrontation.
In those scenes all the elements of filmmaking comes together
and they're perfect examples of why I love movies so much.
Nicholas now has my respect and I hope he chooses to venture
into these kind of movies again in the future.
In supporting parts we see a whole slew of familiar faces,
many whom were in Gen-X Cops. Stephen Fung and Sam
Lee plays the younger versions of Mountain Leopard and Nine
Dragons and Terence Yin turns up as one of many young and
silly dressed triads. Other players include a very funny Anthony
Wong, Shu Qi as Eric Tsang's dreamwoman and Sandra Ng as the
female triadboss with an interest leaned more towards good
Now that we're approaching the end I want to talk about Riley's
little twist towards the end of the movie. It's one where
I really don't know if it's completely silly or a stroke of
genius. It kind of throws logic out the window but scenes
prior to this one are cinematic masterpieces so I'm willing
to let that one go. I guess it's a case of 'you figure it
movies I've seen this year, both old and new, Metade Fumaca comes out as the best alongside Juliet In Love.
It's a masterpiece that shows a great directing talent in
Riley Yip and I hope he has saved some good things for future
movies. Metade Fumaca is a movie that Hong Kong movie
fans should watch but also fans of world cinema should give
it a chance.
This is probably the best letterboxed transfer I've seen from
Universe. There's hardly any damage to the 1.85:1 framed print
and it's crisp and sharp with no obvious sings of bleeding
or edge enhancement.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese sync sound track sounds wonderful
also. This is a movie that is dialogue heave but perfectly
uses the other speakers for music and ambience. I noticed
some slight distortion in the dialogue at times but that's
being picky. A Mandarin 5.1 track is also included.
The English subtitles are very good with minimal spelling
errors and such. Shame though that they're placed partly on
the widescreen frame. That's really annoying for us widescreen
TV owners! Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are
Extras consists of two quite good trailers for this movie
and the theatrical trailers for Purple Storm and Gen-X
Cops (with the anti piracy message at the end).
There's also fairly good biographies for actors Eric Tsang,
Nicholas Tse, Kelly Chen, Shu Qi, Stephen Fung and Sam Lee.
I was kind of disappointed that director Riley Yip didn't
get a biography though.
As a final note I just wanted to say that Universe should
put the language and subtitle menus on the main menu, not
the special features one.
Thanks to dleedlee for providing the Best Original Film Song
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
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