The Longest Nite 暗花 (1998) Review

As proven in 1997’s Intruder <恐怖雞>, Milkyway certainly knows a thing or two about producing a dark and morally reprehensible crime thriller. And they did it again in The Longest Nite <暗花>.

The movie, which takes place in Macau, revolves around a gang war between the two triad leaders (Lung Fong’s Mr Lung and Sunny Fang Kang’s Mr K). In the midst of their negotiation for a truce, Mr Lung finds out someone puts out a million-dollar contract for his life and quickly suspects Mr K is the one ordering the hit. However, Mr K denies such accusations and ends up enlisting Sam (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a corrupt cop who works for him, to investigate the truth.

As Sam works tirelessly to track down any potential suspect, he encounters a mysterious bald stranger named Tony (Lau Ching-Wan), who arrives in town with an ulterior motive.

Running at just under 90 minutes long, the combination of the movie’s compact length along with Yau Nai-Hoi, Szeto Kam Yuen and an uncredited Wai Ka-Fai’s twisty screenplay tends to get confusing at times. A longer duration would benefit a more cohesive narrative structure for the movie’s labyrinthine storyline. Other times, some scenes tend to raise questions like how come no one bothers to pick up Tony’s sports bag left on the street, even after he was escorted into a taxi by a police officer (Ronny Ching Siu-Lung) and later walks back from a few miles away to retrieve his belonging.

Still, if you can get past the flaws, The Longest Nite <暗花> remains a gripping piece of work. The screenplay offers enough psychological tension throughout the movie, as director Patrick Yau (with an uncredited work from Johnnie To) making excellent use of the bustling Macau location to depict the city as a seedy underbelly. It gets better from there, particularly during the second half where Sam and Tony engage in an elaborate game of manipulation as they attempt to survive the night.

Given the nihilistic nature of The Longest Nite <暗花>, the movie doesn’t shy away from police brutality and gangster violence. The former is particularly evident with Sam’s unorthodox method as a police officer from smashing the hand of a potential suspect repeatedly with a bottle of ketchup to ripping off a person’s fingernail with a screwdriver. And credits go to Tony Leung Chiu-Wai for delivering a no-nonsense portrayal of a corrupt cop who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.

Then, there’s Lau Ching-Wan, who sports a shaved head as the mysterious Tony. He does a great job at it, whose rare antagonist role happens to be one of his finest performances to date — a result that earned him a well-deserved Hong Kong Film Awards nomination for Best Actor (both Lau and Tony who received an acting nomination each lost to Anthony Wong for Beast Cops <野獸刑警>).

The Longest Nite <暗花> also gets a boost from above-average supporting performances, even though they are largely confined with limited roles. This includes Maggie Siu as a nightclub hostess who can’t stop throwing up, Mark Cheng Ho-Nam as the short-tempered gangster and Wong Tin-Lam as one of the triad leaders who love to indulge in foods.


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