The easy-breezy life of a pickpocket gets shaken up when a less than free-spirited woman enters his life.
Kei is a happy-go-lucky guy. When a tiny sparrow flies into his apartment, he calmly and happily eases it into his hand and lets it fly back out. And when it flies back in. Oh, you mischievous little bird. He meets his three buddies for breakfast and casually mentions the sparrow and asks them if they think that it is a sign. Two of them donâ€™t seem to care, but the third, Bo, says that it is bad luck, claiming to know a (straight) couple who both got prostate tumors and had the value of their apartment halved after a sparrow flew in. The other two seem to be taken in by the story, but Kei thinks that Bo is just weaving a tale. Bo claims that he learned it from Kei, and then says that he wants to take the lead this time. Kei wonders if he is ready for the task. What does Bo want to take the lead in?
Okay, so I already told you, but Hong Kong audiences would also have figured out what they are talking about, given that â€œsparrowâ€ is also slang for pickpocket. So, they go on their morning thieving spree and everyone buy Kei seems to be content with the results. I am not entirely sure if Bo took the lead or if Kei did, but Kei still claims that Bo is not ready.
They get rid of the wallets and Kei puts his share in a mailboxâ€¦his own? Then he goes off on his bicycle to take photographs of the city. Suddenly, a Taiwanese woman runs in front of his camera and stands there for a few seconds before running off. Needless to say, Kei gets a few choice photographs of her. The woman ends up in a gambling den and finds a seat next to Bo. What a coincidence. Bo spots her watch. The woman spots him. The have some drinks. The woman seems to pass out and Bo makes a pass for her watch when she suddenly wakes up and demands that they drink some more. Sometime later, Bo wakes up to find that the woman is gone, as is his own watch.
The woman ends up encountering the other two men as well, looking over the shoulder of one of them in an elevator and hitching a ride with the other one on his motor scooter. She runs around the city some more, before entering the car of some rich elderly man. At this point, it is unclear who they are to each other, but it is heavily implied that the elderly man is holding her passport. The woman tracks down Kei on his bike and tells him to get into her car. She doesnâ€™t really say much except to say that she wants to go to his place. She looks at the photographs that he took of her, as well as the sparrow, which he had apparently bought a cage for. During this time, Kei steals her wallet. She asks for one of the photographs, immediately burns it, asks him not to show anyone else the other photographs, and runs out of the apartment and to her apartment. It turns out that she lives in the same buildingâ€¦and her name is Chun Lei. Yeah, I know, that caught me off guard the first time too.
The next day, Kei is taking some more photographs outside when he sees Chun Lei running off, just like before. This time he runs after her. It turns out that that was not Chun Lei, but some gangster in drag who led Kei straight into an ambush. With his arm in a sling, Kei meets up with two of his partners in crime to find out that they are also injured. The fourth guy is still in the hospital. Kei deduces that they had all met the same woman and she is the reason for their mishaps. They break into Chun Leiâ€™s apartment to find it empty, save for several cages with sparrows in them. Bo reminds him of his warnings about Sparrows being bad luck.
The next day, Chun Lei is running through the city again. Kei and his partners (the fourth guy is out of the hospital) manage to corner her at the top of a building, seemingly intent on getting their revenge. Chun Lei claims that she did not know that â€œheâ€ would hurt them (he being in a car down below), and apologizes. She tells them that he, Mr. Fu, spies on them all of the time. She says that he is a good man who has treated her well for so many years and that she owes it to him to take care of his health. But then she turns it around to say that she should leave him and find a true love. She walks up to Bo and puts his watch back on his wrist. She asks them for their help, but Kei appears unmoved. Bo seems a bit more moved, particularly after Chun Lei kisses him. Chun Lei walks back down and Bo start going after her; he wants to strike back at Mr. Fu right now. Kei says no. That evening, Chun Lei calls someoneâ€¦probably family back in Taiwan, saying that Mr. found out and Keiâ€™s gang refused to help. So, she returns to Mr. Fu. But, of course, the movie is not over just yet.
This movie is fairly lightweight, with a dash of comedy and a dose of artsy pretentiousness. It portrays Kei as a guy who happily wanders the streets of Hong Kong, taking pictures of things and picking pockets for the fun of it. The other three seem to treat picking pockets as more of a job. I would not say that the movie necessarily glamorizes robbery, but it does make it seem like a bit of fun. There are some elaborate pickpocketry setpieces in the film that could come across as unrealistically perfect in other films, but work in the asthetic of this movie.
The movie is primarily style over substance. The story is rather threadbare and the characters are not all that well-drawn. There is a bit of a theme regarding age and experience, but I am not sure that it is really explored that much. The real draw of the movie is its style. It is not flashy or anything like that, but there are moments that really do make the movie stand out. There is seventy-two second shot of the four of them robbing three individuals. There are the scenes where the four men are riding a bicycle that is obviously built for ONE. There is the scene with the balloon and the scene with the cigarette that are so blatantly sexualized that they have to be parodies. There is the scene with the glass container that still makes me crack up no matter how many times that I see it. And then, of course, there is the scene with the umbrellas. I am guessing that if you had heard anything about this movie, it would be the umbrella scene. It could be an homage to some old French film, I donâ€™t know. I do know that it has that â€œcoolâ€ aesthetic that director Johnnie To has used in his more action packed gangster movies. This movie is a bit warmer, quieter, and more relaxed. More along the lines of his romantic movies. So, somewhat of a mix that works well.
This movie took three years to make, probably because everyone had other commitments. I am not sure if the wait was necessarily worth this short and light movie, but I applaud those involved for sticking to it even though it was not a prestige project or a big-budget blockbuster. Also, I saw it two years after it was released, so I didnâ€™t care how time-consuming the production was. I just know that I liked what I saw.
Next Time: Saving My Hubby (South Korea: 2003, approx. 95 minutes)
Time After Next: Chor Chor Super Chor (India: 2013, approx. 100 minutes)