The Longest Shot
Wang Zhiwen, Chris Downs, Xu Yajun, Konstantin Konewhoff, Lee LiChun, Fabien Lucciarini
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…a handsomely mounted production.
The Longest Shot is a Chinese-Australian co-production shot largely in Melbourne, using the historic locales of that city as stand ins for French Concession, a section of Beijing which, from 1849 until 1943, was governed and controlled by a foreign power (there was also a considerably larger International Concession).
Inside this country within a country, power dynamics are constantly shifting, particularly between Chinese gangsters vying for influence and power.
When world-weary hired killer Zhao (Wang Zhiwen) is asked to off two local gangsters, the Irish interloper Pee (Chris Downs) and Bobo (Xu Yajun), who are enmeshed in an escalating street war that’s bad for everyone’s business, Zhao is hesitant to agree. He’s racked with Parkinson’s and has all but given away that life.
Zhao’s keen to repay old favours, make some sweet bank and tie up loose ends so he pulls on the tough-guy pants and steams on in for some old-school wet work. He drafts in Russian friend Luc (Konstantin Konewhoff) to help, though both men fear the multi-sided gang war that could explode.
So, between the scheming local gangsters, Brother Wang (Jack Kao) and Du (Lee LiChun) and corrupt French Concession official Commander Fouquet (Fabien Lucciarini), every devious gangster plots their respective enemy’s demise, unaware that there’s equally nefarious plans set against their own fiefdoms.
The Raymond Chandler style, Rube-Goldberg plotting, with multiple bad guys and multiple schemes, requires scene after scene of gangsters talking in rooms, feeling like the filmmakers had more than a little of the Coen Bros. masterpiece Miller’s Crossing in their crosshairs as a tonal target for the look and feel they were going for.
The film hits its stride on several occasions and the more seasoned cast members really engage with solid, charismatic performances and some claret splattered action sequences. The almost OCD level of sub-plot exposition eventually subsides and the film rattles along at a clip after the first hour, though the amount of plot machinations needed to move the character pieces around the chessboard means way less character development and that’s to the film’s detriment.
Crisp, colourful, elegant and very art deco, it lacks the authenticity of similar fare, such as Zhang Yimou’s Shanghai Triad (set in a similar period) but it’s a handsomely mounted production nonetheless, featuring grand locations with that requisite sense of opulence.