Project Gutenberg (PG13)
Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok, Zhang Jinchu
Directed by Felix Chong
If you haven’t already Googled the title, Project Gutenberg is this free eBook site. So what does that have to do with a thriller — by Felix Chong, best known as the writer of the Infernal Affairs trilogy — set in the world of counterfeit currency? Nothing, apparently. The Chinese title ‘wu shuang’ (无双), meaning ‘unique’ or ‘one of a kind’, makes more sense. But — you know what? — Project Gutenberg just sounds cooler.
You know what’s even cooler? Watching Chow Yun-Fat revisit his badass ‘bloodshed heroic’ persona from his A Better Tomorrow days as a mysterious crime lord who simply goes by ‘Painter’. (Hardcore fans will spot a homage to that John Woo classic where Chow lights up a ciggy with a burning forged greenback.) That, and Chow sparring with his Cold War 2 co-star Aaron Kwok as Lee Man, a struggling artist Painter recruited as a member of his counterfeit gang.
When we first see Lee, he’s languishing in a prison in Thailand before being repatriated to Hongkong where he’s forced to squeal on his elusive boss. Reluctantly, Lee shares with the authorities — among them, a lady cop (Catherine Chau) with an old score settle with Painter — their action-packed exploits, including how they sourced a printing machine from Eastern Europe, and a massive shoot-out with drug dealers in the Golden Triangle.
It’s all very exciting (though some of the flashbacks are a little confusing to follow) until a not-that-surprising revelation makes you do a double take on the events that came prior. Without revealing too much, it’s kinda fitting that in a story that deals with fakery and substitutes, its third act is a blatant knockoff of a certain Oscar-winning movie. Or is it a homage? Either way, it doesn’t ruin the movie; it just dampens the impact. (***)