The Odd One Dies (1997)

Directed by: Patrick Yau
Written by: Wai Ka-Fai
Producers: Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Carman Lee, Byun Woo Nin, & Kenneth Choi

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Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1998:
Best Costume & Make Up Design (Silver Cheung)

Suitably name for a Milkyway Image production and for Patrick Yau's debut film under the guidance of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai. Outside of their first feature Beyond Hypothermia, Milkyway instantly began injecting welcome quality and versatility into Hong Kong cinema during the latter half of the 90s. Though box office was a harder goal to reach, eventually coming through efforts such as Running Out Of Time and Needing You. As previously mentioned on the site, the chapter in Milkyway's history concerning Patrick Yau is a standout. Credited with 3 classic films (yes, including this one), Yau reportedly in some shape or form clashed with Johnnie To, leading to speculations that To ghost-directed most of The Longest Nite, Expect The Unexpected and replaced Yau on the set of Where A Good Man Goes.

Despite the nihilistic aura of Yau's subsequent works, The Odd One Dies comes with nothing of the kind whatsoever. It's also harder to determine whether actually Yau did have control as this flick is so wild it's more in tune with the mindset of Milkyway overall. Wai Ka-Fai might as well helmed this one! Regardless, it's the credited parties that should be acknowledged in absence of the truth and the credited parties have churned out a roller coaster-like gem.

Triad Mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) unexpectedly wins a fortune at the gambling tables and instead of fulfilling the task of murdering a Thailand triad boss, he hires a Mainland woman (Carman Lee) to perform the task for him. A woman with a torn past and scores to settle with profiles in the triad world. As the date draws closer, so does Mo and the employed murderer...

Hong Kong cinema was well into the triad boom in movies by this point in time and had even begun deconstructing it through efforts such as Once Upon A Time In Triad Society. Yau and company furthers that but puts Milkyway's trademark spins to everything within The Odd One Dies. Presenting Takeshi Kaneshiro's Brother Mo as a persistent and probably stupid Forrest Gump-esque triad initially, the image of him almost resembles a robot with many wires lose or crossed. Hardly a guy of multiple words and whose only knowledge is the requisite triad look, Mo's apparent lack of braincells still gets him far in this world. A world with gun dealers that look like walking health hazards to low-life triad bosses and their silly henchmen. It's suitably far away from the glossy world that Ekin Cheng runs in Young And Dangerous.

This atmosphere, as always competently lensed by Cheng Siu-Keung, is overblown visually and comes with Milkyway's real first attempt at subdued quirkiness. An aspect that always makes it with certain viewers to the max and thoroughly annoys others. By not focusing on a traditional narrative either and frankly going frustratingly slow at points, Yau challenges us to sit tight to get our rewards. And they do come. Enter Carman Lee and while the bonding between her and Takeshi seem shallow, Yau, To and Wai have aces up their sleeve. Namely laser sharp instincts to deliver affecting, albeit temporary romance and comedy.

Yes, The Odd One Dies, despite its sporadic but graphic violence, is a Milkyway production that thoroughly can be classified as a comedy/drama despite its stuffed generic gangster content. Shot in 1997 and set around the New Year, the other overblown theme of the handover crawls to the surface as our main characters are looking for a way out. Not redemption but a flight path after fulfilling a last duty to the jiang hu. Yau continues to jump freely between drawn out (sometimes borderlining on arthouse) sequences of insanely funny, subdued comedy and going the emotional route with our romantic angle. Dialogue is also used sparsely but Wai Ka-Fai's script delivers poignancy and the performers takes the film to unexpected affecting places.

The Odd One Dies proves that you need subtext and characterdepth to achieve substance but also that you don't really need to go overboard with backstory. It's the classic example of suitable weight for 90 minutes (a running time that feels just right despite plenty of content), directed and produced by sharp minds of the Hong Kong movie industry. Milkyway again were amongst the few in town who simply decided to produce gems.

The DVD:

Mei Ah presents the film in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio approximately. Moderate print damage turn up and while contrast is boosted, the transfer look pleasing enough.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track sounds a bit harsh at times and merely stays in the center channel. Serviceable. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.

The English subtitles suffer from a few spelling errors but in general seem like a fine translation. A single set of Chinese subtitles are also included. There are no extras.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson