Taiwanese director Chung Mong-hong’s Godspeed starts like any number of other gangster pictures: a mysterious man is led by other mysterious men into a room for a tense and bloody encounter. We then see the same man, in a calmer state, discussing sofa maintenance with a crime boss. The man is sent on a mission, apparently as a killer for hire, or some other kind of mob underling, and the cab that picks him up is driven by Michael Hui—one of the great comedy directors and stars of the past 50 years. Hui’s series of hits in the 1970s and ‘80s helped revive the Cantonese language in cinema, a missing link between the classical American comedy tradition and the nonsense films of Stephen Chow. Hui’s presence in this Taiwanese film alone is enough to destabilize it—and he does, playing one of his trademark characters, a sad-sack cheapskate hustler. This oddball brings out the absurd in gang movie clichés, while the moody suspense and violence bring out the melancholy in Hui’s everyman struggles. The resulting film is too shifty to grasp, moody and ephemeral, grippingly bleak and cruel, yet sad and somehow weirdly hopeful.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 2.