You Shoot, I Shoot (2001)
Directed by: Edmond Pang
Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2002:
Killing is my business and business is good! Well, not really for professional hitman Bart (Eric Kot). He finds very little work and when it does come along there's barely any money in it. After a job involving not only shooting but filming, Bart further expands the concept by having a director tag along as he can't do double duty. He picks avid movie fan and aspiring director Chuen (Cheung Tat-Ming) and their collaboration is an instant smash. They dub their service "You Shoot, I Shoot", creates merchandise for their well-paying clients and Chuen therefore closes in on his goal of directing his own indie feature, starring Japanese porn star Michiko (Higuchi Asaka) that he also has a crush on...
Far from a subtle filmmaker at this point, until he switched fun for drama instead (starting with Beyond Our Ken), Edmond Pang and for that matter cohort Vincent Kok either came up with an instant idea that meant a floodgate of clever creativity or ideas had been piling up inside for quite some time. No difference in effect. Clear is that they've echoed the mantra "write what you know" and being active in the business (1*), they've seen its decline and the real world around them crumbling financially too. So being movie fans and full of concerns, Pang opens You Shoot, I Shoot in tough, gritty, dark and flashy manners, having Eric Kot looking like Alain Delon and mechanically executing his victim. All's well in the killing business until Peter Kam's music stops dead and Eric Kot's Bart is faced with the prospect of not getting paid. Estate investment by his client has taken its toll and bizarre ideas such as having Bart kill the client instead or the client taking his life for the insurance money represents comforting signs for Pang's take on the material. First he's very able to switch gears but he awakens an audience that likes to be rewarded in comedies even! You Shoot, I Shoot indeed is local, black satire portrayed by a debut director out to pour his all onto the screen. Correctly so as he shouldn't have expected to make more movies after this. Taking your life matters for granted is a crime.
It's therefore no surprise then that Pang employs animation techniques, still montages to express character's current train of thoughts complete with Stereo sounds across the soundscape and while it may sound like headache-inducing overkill by someone who has no clue, much of the satire and comedic effect of the film stems from writers knowing not to obscure their message because they are good messengers in fact. Pang and Vincent Kok aim for deadpan absurdities within their love letter to a cinema that simply can be better and their love for the land they walk on is as evident. Drawing comparisons to the fact that actors have to treat this profession as a secondary one while branching into other areas, this is a notion Bart has to ponder if he wants to survive in his business. While he doesn't take on the offer to rape for money, bringing in another dimension to his killing via the use of a camera is representative of a creativity the Hong Kong people, within the cinema biz or not, must embrace. Simply embracing won't have you stand a chance. You must follow through on your dedication as best you can and yes indeed, it all forms a straight line to the modern state of Hong Kong cinema. A rushed schedule doesn't mean a rushed feel the character of Chuen argues and Pang proves (and has proven subsequently) to be a bit of a master working with time constraints of the grave kind. No different here.
Superbly delightful in the interaction between killer Bart and his repressed, aspiring director Chuen, Pang and Kok's style of humour lies in the off-beat situations, with reactions, big or small, clicking to terrific effect. There's highlight reel scenarios on display within just the right amount of exaggerated filmmaking and in particular the dark humour registers well. Especially the fact that the clients of Bart's are treating the murders as ordering a late night snack. It's THAT common but would these be citizens closing their eyes in front of the economic reality? Certainly and true for all classes even though Pang mostly communicates this desensitized behaviour via the upper class.
You Shoot, I Shoot is top notch, clever filmmaking from minds that hits a right mind (me being that particular subject) but some dips in quality sees Pang not being able to distribute his material evenly throughout the 90 minutes. While the film is adequately shot and scored, you do feel a lingering sense that fun ideas for instance by composer Peter Kam are merely touched upon due to the crammed schedule. Also not totally inspiring as it definitely feels low even for this new filmmakers is a scene where Bart's future mother- and father in-law gets high on weed. We're not talking a huge dip in quality and with sights of Lam Suet and Tats Lau as rival killer filmmakers offering discounts and free killings for every 30th, we're thankfully back in inspired territory. Inspired in the sense that few are actually making funny comedies and comedies that are clever to boot. We're not spoiled and thankfully Pang's final scenario at a restaurant begins adding upon what is very much universal truths about the nature of filmmaking.
Stuck with extras with their own idea of characters despite being just extras and multiple producers messing about with your vision, Pang puts forth a very fun but potentially dangerously stale joke involving pigeons. The producers not in tune with movies of today insist they have white doves (pigeons spray painted white) to enhance the climactic killing scene and it's really Pang's frustration out there. A frustration that never seemed to occur as soon as he got a chance to make films. You Shoot, I Shoot is therefore awfully well realized for a debut feature and bumps along the way (including a romance subplot that never is taken seriously anyway) doesn't greatly affect the final tally. As a bonus, Pang utilizes leads Eric Kot and Cheung Tat-Ming very well, creating a double act of stern, callous, bored killer vs. whiny film geek respectively. Bart symbolizes the quick shoot director who just wants a (killing) scene dealt with so he can claim his paycheck. Chuen on the other hands sees his chance to make a mark on the cinema map by being thorough when working underground and quick. It is the clearest line you can draw to director Edmond Pang and for good reasons as You Shoot, I Shoot ended up injecting Hong Kong cinema with something it needed. Fun with streaks of thought. No wonder the audiences passed but thank god Pang has remained in this climate, persevering movie after movie. It started here though and he's barely started.
After lying complete for quite some time, it took a few years before the dvd of the film found a distributor funnily enough. Kam & Ronson in association with Panasia Films Limited (a member of the Golden Harvest group who was the production company for the film) finally brought out a dvd in 2005, replicating most of the editions for Pang's films as it's very extras- and English language friendly.
The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.82:1 approximately. Free of wear, little stands out as truly good about detail and sharpness but at least on a smaller display you get yourself a sufficient looking transfer.
The Cantonese (with Japanese dialogue in a few scenes) Dolby Digital 2.0 track uses the frontstage for some fun channel separations at times but only a fair amount of it. Dialogue is clear sounding. A Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 dub is also included.
The English subtitles have a few slight errors but come off as strong otherwise. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available.
Packing a lot of heat in the extras department that contains English subtitles for all that's needed, we're firstly offered two separate Cantonese language audio commentaries. Director/co-producer/co-writer Edmond Pang is joined by co-producer/co-writer Vincent Kok on the first track and the light and breezy tone creates an enjoyable chat. Kok prods new director Pang with some appropriate questions at times, concerning leadership on the set and how he worked with budget restraints. In one case, he even teaches Pang that some of the camera- and editing techniques created in post-production added to the already tight budget so best be careful what you want to accomplish. Going through casting, design choices, inspirations, cameos by other directors (including Wilson Yip) and anecdotes, the duo explains the nods to Austin Powers, Boogie Nights as well as giving us a nice insight into working in their industry. Best parts come during their friendly ripping into the actors and the way you work an audience in Hong Kong. An audience that usually arrives late so don't blow your wad during the first 15 minutes. Few gaps occur and good notes about shooting the long ending pops up at that time, including how Jim Chim boosted morale on the set.
Actors Eric Kot and Cheung Tat-Ming yack on the second track, setting a tone early where they will just pull out anecdotes and scream whenever they see something on screen. It's very much a boy's tone and not unlike two friends watching the flick. Not a good thing that and even though the odd nugget turns up such as actor Wong Yat-Fei (Shaolin Soccer) not liking Cheung Tat-Ming's acting or when particular accents are used, the funny duo from the film provides a seriously lackluster commentary. The guys reveal the director is making his second film so it's safe to say the track was recorded sometime in 2003.
(a look at two of the deleted scenes, including director Pang's cameo)
Deleted scenes, complete with director's commentary (22 minutes, 33 seconds) presents a continuous reel of 15 mostly extended scenes, all introduced and given reason for cutting by director Pang. Almost nothing feels like it should've belonged but if any depth can be found, it is via more scenes with Eric Kot and his wife plus an entirely excised subplot concerning Mrs. Ma's (Miu Fei-Lam, the character that first hires Bart to shoot a murder) ill husband. An alternate ending is also included but it wouldn't have made sense with other scenes cut plus audiences wouldn't have had these characters still in mind anyway. Pang even shows he had the good sense to cut himself largely out of the movie.
Making Of "You Shoot, I Shoot" (21 minutes, 44 seconds) is actually specially produced for the dvd by the looks of it and presents a retrospective on the creation of the film. Key cast & crew are interviewed, talking about conception, design of the film (especially the apartment set we get a nice overview of), director Pang's insistence not to be known under his English name and the intent to make a movie with heart, not for money mainly. Best bits come from Pang himself who shares with us footage from his home action movies where he even edited in scenes from Chow Yun-Fat actioners and his short film Summer Exercise we get clips of as well. Cheung Tat-Ming's story about working with Jim Chim on stage also gets visual representation. A decent little look into a little film.
Music video for the original theme of course contains the silly but infectious song performed by leads Eric Kot and Cheung Tat-Ming, mostly involving movie clips but also some footage either cut or shot specifically as part of the promos. The amusing theatrical trailer uses English narration to promote the film in a tongue in cheek way ("Has more gunfights than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and much, much more Chinese than Pearl Harbour!")
(Vincent Kok and Edmond Pang interviews, from the Making Of)
Cast and filmmaker profiles includes biographies of director/co-producer/co-writer Edmond Pang, co-producer/co-writer Vincent Kok and actors Eric Kot, Cheung Tat-Ming, Jim Chim and Higuchi Asaka. Thorough on all accounts except Kok's and Higuchi Asaka's entries. Bloopers (6 minutes, 48 seconds) is the usual flubbed lines extravaganza without importance but admittedly it is a fun sight of seeing stoic triad-actor Michael Chan, break into laughter.
4 pieces of DV Footage contains this type of footage from the film but is included in full here. To explain, the first (2 minutes, 26 seconds) is the masterpiece edit of Bart and Chuen's first killing together (it's almost seen in full in the film too). Second (1 minute, 54 second) is the vcd of Mrs. Ma's sexual encounter with Ken Wong's Ray, where she earns the "dead as a fish" status. Bart's first attempt at shooting and killing (1 minute, 19 second) comes next and finally a montage of the victims with the Snorri Cam attached to them is played out. The sequence where a lot of Pang's directing friends came out. Highly amusing extra except for the long running 4th selection.
Two booklets can be found amongst physical extras, one featuring the chapter list and a short note from Pang where he expresses gratitude to see the dvd out and the chance they have as filmmakers to utilize the format. A thicker 24 page booklet contains the always open and often serious Director's Statement from Pang, a list of the awards and festival entries for the film, the original first draft (in Chinese only), a bio of Pang (same as on the dvd) and assorted movie stills on the last pages.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Pang mainly as a writer but also novelist. His Fulltime Killer was adapted into the 2001 Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai of the same name. Vincent Kok has directing, producing, writing and acting on his resume. Notables include helming Gorgeous with Jackie Chan and co-starring opposite Stephen Chow in The God Cookery.