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    Runaway Pistol

    Guns kill people

    If that's what you want to see, go ahead and watch the Hong Kong film "The Runaway Pistol," but don't go looking for any further significance in its story of a gun's journey from one owner to another.


    There's a saying in screenwriting, as in life, to the effect that you don't pull out a gun unless you plan to use it. That's pretty much the only idea in "The Runaway Pistol," a low-budget movie produced by Hong Kong heartthrob Andy Lau that follows an illicit firearm from one temporary owner to the next.

    Original title: Zouhuo Qiang.
    Written and directed by: Wah-Chuen Lam.
    Produced by: Andy Lau.
    Cast: Kenneth Bi, Crystal Lui, Chun-Chun Wong, Wilson Yip.
    In Cantonese with English subtitles.
    Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. (at Second Street) Thurs., May 15, 2003, 9 p.m. Tues., May 20, 2003, 6:30 p.m.

    Asian Films Are Go! 2003
  • Overview
  • Double Agent
  • Double Vision
  • Out

  • Ping Pong
  • Runaway Pistol
  • So Close
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

  • Previous years' festivals
  • When Korean Cinema Attacks! (2001)
  • Asian Films Are Go! (2002)

  • Official site
  • The gun speaks to us from time to time in flawless Cantonese, telling us that it's a dangerous gun and it goes off a little too easily. Naturally, it goes off plenty in the movie as it passes from hand to hotheaded hand.

    If there were more to it than that, there might be something to recommend "The Runaway Pistol," but the film tries to impress us with the grittiness of its hardened street punks and hookers rather than explore any actual stories. (Can a movie that jumps from character to character have at least a little depth? Yes — a much better effort was the American film "Twenty Bucks," which followed a $20 bill from person to person.)

    In fact, you'd think every woman in Hong Kong was a prostitute, from the one shot through the mouth while giving a john a barrel job for a porn magazine, to the one who accidentally picks the gun up from under a car and uses it to ward off an attack from her pimp boyfriend, to the immigrant mom who turns tricks while her puzzled young son peeks through a doorway at her.

    The men are no prize either, models of hollow movie machismo. As one young hoodlum — fresh from bumping off a hooker, naturally — hands off his gun to a crime boss, the mob elder asks him out of the blue if he's ever killed anyone with a cleaver. He hasn't.

    "You're missing the most exciting thing in a gangster's life," the older man tells him. "You know, when you're holding a sharp cleaver and you chop it into real flesh, it feels so good. Like sex without a condom."

    The Chinese have discovered pop Freudianism. I'm so impressed.

    Somebody out there is going to think of this movie as terribly avant-garde, but it's really a set of empty scenes with emotionless violence and posing actors. Check out how depraved we are, is all the film has to say.

    MAY 15, 2003

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