Day Off
Hong Kong 2001
Directed by Raymond Leung.

I feel like I know all the plot elements by heart, now, they are so familiar in Hong Kong cinema: the story of a hitman (Nick Cheung), a loner, who had a terrible childhood. He never sees the man who hires him to kill, he only kills people "who deserve killing," and before he does the killing he always visits the same prostitute. But then the script takes each of these conventions and turns them on their ear. He finds out he is going blind, and soon finds himself re-evaluating his life. He falls in with a quirky and charming girl (Yo Yo) he meets at a quicky mart, and their relationship slowly evolves. As he loses his vision, he begins seeing his life more clearly than he had ever before. I have never seen a film with so many genuinely surprising moments, all of which just flow naturally out of the story and never seem forced. It could have easily been played as a black comedy, since so much of the hitman's life turns out to be utterly different than what he thought he knew, but it's played straight -- a risky choice, which somehow works. Add absolutely inspired direction throughout by Raymond Leung, great cinematography, Spanish guitar on the soundtrack, and you end up with as unique and compelling a work as Wong Kar Wai's more famous FALLEN ANGELS. Just as good in its own way, DAY OFF will however languish in obscurity, having no big name director, nor big name actors, nor any foreign distributors even looking its way.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 08, 2004.

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