Chungking Express (1994)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Fun film with a good cast and look

Enjoyed the second half more

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Chungking Express

Studio:  Jet Tone Production

Genre(s):  Romance/Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  July 14, 1994 (Hong Kong)/March 8, 1996 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

chungking express 1994 pineapple takeshi kaneshiro

Man loves his pineapple

The Midnight Express gets a lot of customers…and two of the regulars happen to be police officers.  Cop 223 He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is an officer who can’t get a break.  He has just lost his girlfriend May and hopes a daily can of pineapple (a fruit she loved) to May 1 (his birthday) in the hopes that she will return.  As He Qiwu mourns, a mysterious woman (Brigitte Lin) finds an illegal deal falling apart.  Another officer named Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) also is suffering loss in the form of his former flight attendant girlfriend.  When Faye (Faye Wong) of the Midnight Express takes an interest in him, Cop 663 finds his life turned upside down.

Written and directed by Wong Kar-wai, Chunking Express (重慶森林 or Chung Hing sam lam) is a crime-comedy romance.  Following Wong’s Days of Being Wild in 1990, the film received positive reviews and was an international success.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #453) and the film is also included in the World of Wong Kar Wai boxset.

chungking express break in faye wong

Faye Wong starring in “How to Get Shot in America”

Wong Kar-wai is an odd director.  His movies go all different directions (which is a good thing).  Chunking Express has some of the best of his style, but also sometimes feels a bit unbalanced.

The overall theme of the movie is lost love…both Cop 223 and Cop 663 are in mourning of their romance.  Cop 223 storyline involving a weird potential love isn’t as compelling or as fun as the cat-and-mouse game of Cop 663 and Faye.  It isn’t bad, but it feels like the spirit of the movie is in the second half.  Wong Kar-wai’s a skilled writer, and I know this is intentional, but I almost wish the tone had been the same throughout.

Because of the tone of the stories, I also feel that Faye Wong is the runaway star of the film.  Her anxiety producing invasion into Cop 663 life is playful and somewhat sad since she cannot connect (in a character that feels a lot like Amelie from Amelie).  Tony Leung Chiu-Wai doesn’t get as much range as Takeshi Kaneshiro who is more the star of his segment and his mourning is palpable as he dreams of May and his lost love.

chungking express faye wong flight attendant ending

I go a long way to impress

The movie looks great.  It is a movie set in an extremely “unflashy” location, but it still has a lot of style and good looks.  The characters all feel very compartmentalized in their little worlds and each are yearning to break free.

Chungking Express is a much easier film to watch and enjoy than some of Wong Kar-wai’s other movies.  It is a bit more straightforward and a nice romance-anti-romance movie.  When things seem to be at their worst for the characters, they all seem to realize there is still hope…and someone for everyone even if it takes some work.  Wong Kar-wai followed Chungking Express with Ashes of Time in 1994.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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