Dir: Max Makowski.Singapore. 2006. 100mins.
Here's a puzzle: Brazil-born film-maker Makowski (The PigeonEgg Strategy, Taboo) makes hisfirst film in Cantonese - a Singapore-set crime thriller which is soaked in thevisual stylistics and artificial dialogue one has come to expect from homages to Hong Kong action films.
But One Last Dance delivers an unexpected punch as its labyrinthineplot unfurls. Just as Makowski's sub-Woo,sub-Tarantino trickery starts to wear thin, the director ever-so-slowly sneaksup on his audience with the revelation that everything they have been watchingis a giant jigsaw of consequence and chronology.
By the time the final pieceis in place at the movie's end, the film bewilderingly feels like a trueoriginal - albeit dressed up in Asian movie conventions and myriad referencesto other films.
The Asian action movie hassuffered in export of late. Even the InfernalAffairs sequels have still to see the light of a projector in the US, forexample, and Jackie Chan's locally produced films rarely leave Asia anymore.
One Last Dance could nevertheless score theatrical sales based on its sheer ingenuity,and the specialised distributors who take it on will no doubt highlight thesurprises of the plot in their marketing campaigns. Critics will respond to afresh new voice in Makowski coming to an alien filmculture and turning it on its head. Nor is an English-language remake out ofthe question. The film screened in World Dramatic Competition at Sundance.
Makowski's clever screenplay appears to be as a chronologicalnarrative until we discover that everything we thought was in order was in factout of sync. In fact he relies on the fact that audiences are accustomed tobeing confused in these sparsely told style-fests to covertly spin his web.
It all starts with agangster called Mr Sa (Quan Xi) who, so furious thathis son has been kidnapped, calls out a laconic hitmanknown simply as T (Francis Ng) to find him and kill those responsible.
T is an intelligent man whoengages in an ongoing chess game with the local police captain (Ti Lung). Onenight sitting in a bar waiting to carry out a hit (the kidnappers'), he fallsfor a waitress called Mae (Vivian Hsu) who, it turns out, is the sister of hisloud-mouthed young friend Ko (Joseph Quek).
As the bodies pile up, itbecomes clear that not only is Koresponsible for the kidnappings, but that he has stolen some Italian mob moneytechnically owned by mob boss Terrtano (Keitel). As T gets hired from each side to kill eachother's rivals, the police captain gets onto his trail and Mae becomes involvedin unforeseen ways.
Justice cannot be done tothe plot here, since much of it is interlinked in ways that would give away thesurprises. Needless to say that the film's pleasure is as much derived from Makowski's ferociously assured execution as it is from thestory.
He also employs iconic facesfrom Asian cinema - Ng, a regular with Ringo Lam andJohnnie To, is the epitome of world-weary supercoolas T, Lung, a veteran star of Shaw Brothers action features, is the perfectfriend/enemy police chief, and Taiwanese beauty Tsuis suitably preoccupied as the mysterious Mae.
Mediacorp Raintree Pictures
Media Development Authority Of Singapore
The Film Bund & Ming Productions
San Fu Maltha