Thinking clearly that Tsui Hark's Once Upon A Time In China needed that esthetic plus swords and guns, out of Taiwan Chong Yan-Gin's Revanchist brings decent production values and storytelling with its gravity-defying action.
Longtime brothers Fay (Chang Jian-Li) and Fong (Lau Sek-Ming) come to Shanghai dreaming of a future. Ending up in the Horng Men gang, Fong is eventually sentenced to prison while his brother rises through the ranks. On an undercover mission in rival gang run by Shu (Wang Hsieh), Fay is killed and his brother seeks revenge once out on mainly Ti Chi (Zhang Feng-Yi - Farewell My Concubine)...
With its 1920s-1930s setting, director Chong (also the film's cinematographer) is working with a familiar template of bloody brotherhood but with a few surprising narrative beats signaling a maturity, Revanchist is also a film with a focused purpose. Running through its beats (taking the leads from kids to adults in a few minutes is an example of this) and featuring no padding in the form of comedy for instance, instead it's a well-costumed, fairly big production with an outrageous, not too common twist of treating action in like it belonged to the high flying genre of the Wuxia pian. Meaning the action directing team of Wong Sai-Goon, Chan Yue-Ching and Alexander Lo (who also appears briefly) and their wire-crew are put on high alert as this is about flying and flying through layers upon layers of the sets.
Giving us glimpses of this high flying action concept mostly during the first half and the ending, the crew deliver incredibly sharply performed feats and concepts where dual guns, bamboo poles, swords and superhero style jumps of the ground is simply common place. What Revanchist presents is not only of high class but it STILL evokes a reaction hundreds of Hong Kong and Taiwanese movies into a film fandom.
Using the Category III rating to feature elaborate gore even during suicides, Zhang Feng-Yi brings and carries the color white incredibly well, gets to bed Tsui Man-Wah and is the resident dick of this movie. The costume designers wisely let him stay in white for the high flying gunplay and swordplay ending and simply put, Revanchist is a gem that can push a little extra in the drama department (mainly Wang Hsieh's boss Shu showing signs of regretting his choices and being stuck in the gangster spiral which then directly affects his daughter played by Ng San-San), knows audience pleasing elements within the Category III rating but mainly has a team of creative action directors and stunt men that pushes characters high in the air as they unleash dual gun fury. We may have seen it in some shape or form but never this honed.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson