Saturday, 29 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Tony Leung Chiu Wai in The Longest Nite

Tony Leung Chiu Wai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Sam in The Longest Nite.

The Longest Nite is a stylish and effective thriller about two men in the middle a power struggle in Macau's criminal origination. I would say this film probably should have been a little longer to make the plot a little clearer, build up the rivalry a little more, perhaps flesh out the supporting players.

Tony Leung is best known for playing somber heroes so it is a bit surprising to see him here where he plays an extremely corrupt cop. Inspector Sam isn't like Tung from Beast Cops who just took a too relaxed view of his job, Sam actively works as an enforcer for the local criminals. He does not just go about interrogating or arresting particular suspects he's command to. Instead Sam spends his time rough torturing anyone he's basically told to by the bosses he works for. Leung is funny enough less somber here than usual, although he's not really happy either, in his portrayal of Sam who seems to be a very no-nonsense sort of agent. When we first see Sam handle his first couple of cases Leung brings an extremely cold brutality in his performance as there is so little humanity he has in his eyes here as Sam cruelly goes from one man to another harming them in one way or another, and in some cases issuing a very to the point execution order on the suffering party.

It is interesting since Leung is not a really physically imposing guy. The film almost seems to purposefully emphasize this by having him wear somewhat baggy clothing and framing him in a way that never hides his height. Leung overcomes this possible hindrance completely and carries himself with considerable menace through the efficiency he brings to Sam's manner of torture. Leung's whole manner in terms of his movement is that of basically a craftsman doing a job that he knows all too well once again. Leung is quite effective as he does not portray Sam really deriving any pleasure from the violence he inflicts on his poor victims, but rather he portrays it much as just a carpenter making a table or something. Leung shows it basically as something that Sam's gotten use to at this point making it perhaps even more cruel since Sam clearly is not even putting all that much passion into the violence, even though he is still completely fulfilling his task still.

This film is a bit too fast paced thanks to the very short run-time therefore we don't get a lot of downtime so to speak with Leung. Leung's performance is almost always moving in the action except for one very brief scene where Sam seems to take a moment out of the plot. It's an extraordinarily brief scene, but it's a brilliant moment as Leung takes to develop Sam just a little more. All the scene consists of is Sam washing his face but in this moment Leung expresses the exhaustion in Sam as it seem he's been chief torturer for far too long and his resigned reaction when he receives yet another call perfectly sums up how Sam truly feels. It's such a great couple of seconds I do wish the film had given him a bit more time to show Sam outside of the job. That is not the case though as Sam gets to rest even less than usual when he finds out he's being blamed for something, that was something I think the film could have been made a little clearer, and I'm usually pretty good at deciphering complex plots.

Anyway though Sam to make up for his mistake attempts to pin it on a strange hitman named Tony in order not to confuse anything obviously (Lau Ching Wan). Although I would say the film doesn't build the rivalry between Sam and Tony as much as it should Leung and Wan make up for it though in their scenes where they are facing off. The best of them being in a prison cell where Sam waits for Tony to make a move. Leung and Wan bring such a palatable intensity to the scene that they bring a hatred to life in a way that the script doesn't really bother to. Whenever the two share the screen there is a searing emotional quality to the scenes as both actors do their absolute best to cover for the film leaving them a few gaps. They actually don't have that many scenes together though as Sam finds himself the target of a manhunt as he attempts to make it out of Macau before he is killed by either the police or the gangsters.

Again I would not have minded if the film had built up to this climax a little more but Leung does not lose his step as everything seems to be closing in around Sam, and Sam takes some pretty extreme measures himself to attempt to make it out. Leung is terrific in these scenes portraying Sam's vicious manner as flies through the night in Macau killing and torturing his ways to an escape. Leung is excellent in conveying the growing desperation in Sam even as he attempts to his cold demeanor. Leung is effective in carrying these scenes and makes them compelling even though Sam is most certainly a vile character. This is a strong performance by Tony Leung Chiu Wai altogether since he turns Inspector Sam into an interesting villain we follow throughout the film despite the fact that Leung's really isn't given that much material to work with. Not only that the film frankly does not stop and this is a remarkable performance by Leung since he does so much while never losing step with the momentum of the film.

28 comments:

luke higham said...

Louis: Rating & thoughts on Lau Ching Wan.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Huh. Could this be a year without any 5's?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Robert: we could very possibly have a reprisal of 2004 Supporting on our hands...Ian McKellen could come out of the blue and shock us all

Michael McCarthy said...

Or maybe if McKellan isn't five-worthy, Louis could pull out a surprise bonus review, like Schwartzman in Rushmore or Vincent Gallo in Buffalo '66.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Either way I don't think any performance will top Edward Norton in American History X, which is perfectly fine with me since he was amazing in that. Still shocking that he didn't win.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

The Oscar, that is.

RatedRStar said...

I believe Edward Norton was the surprise nominee back in 1998 so its likely he had no chance of winning.

RatedRStar said...

I think one of my only problems with The Longest Nite was with who won the final confrontation and how the death happened (one getting his head chopped off by some metal scaffolding lol)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I really hope McKellen isn't a 5. I know people think he's better than the film, but for me he sunk to its horrid level.

John Smith said...

I found the movie a very intresting charachter study and did quite enjoy the battle of wits betwen the charachters with Mckellens performance being the most captivating one (5 stars from me)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I thought it was shameless Holocaust-sploitation at it's worst. McKellen hammed it up in a desperate attempt to divert attention away from the crap material.

Anonymous said...

What are everybody's current picks for Best Picture and the acting categories for this year? (For Louis only female)
Mine are:
Picture: Interstellar
Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal - Nightcrawler
Actress: Shailene Woodley - The Fault in Our Stars
Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender - Frank
Supporting Actress: Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Wan - 4(He does not have a lot of screen time but I would consider him lead. He gives a solid version of the mysterious badass type, and really makes his scenes with Leung properly. Again I would not have minded if the film had spent a little more time building his character though)

RatedRStar: Yeah that was a bit random.

Anonymous:

Picture: Nightcrawler
Actress: Marion Cotillard - Two Days One Night
Supporting Actress: Rene Russo - Nightcrawler

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Right now?

Picture: Begin Again
Actor: Michael Keaton in Birdman
Actress: Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
Supporting Actress: Kind of torn between a few right now. I'll get back to you on this one.

Michael McCarthy said...

Picture: Birdman
Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal-Nightcrawler
Actress: Rosamund Pike-Gone Girl
Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons-Whiplash
Supporting Actress: Emma Stone-Birdman

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Oh dayum, looks like you bumped Norton down to a 4.5...Paul Muni for 'I Am A Fugitive' up to a 4.5...any particular reason?

Any for me:
Picture: Birdman
Actor: Micheal Keaton, Birdman
Actress: Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Birdman
Supporting Actress: Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I loved Birdman, but honestly I found Norton's and Stone's subplot to be the least interesting aspect of the film.

Michael Patison said...

Having seen very little:
Picture: A Most Wanted Man
Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
Actress: Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
Supporting Actress: Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire (I'm both hoping this changes and that it doesn't)

Louis Morgan said...

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

I explained about Norton in Bridges's review. Muni in Fugitive as lacked any of his eventual trademark overacting, and utilized his actual natural talent to give his best performance.

RatedRStar said...

Louis are you looking forward to reviewing Lau Ching Wan for Mad Detective? =).

luke higham said...

Picture: Nightcrawler
Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, although Tom Hardy is a very close second for Locke.
Actress: Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender in Frank
Supporting Actress: Rene Russo in Nightcrawler

luke higham said...

Performances, I would give a 5 so far this year are:
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
Tom Hardy in Locke
Brendan Gleeson in Calvary
Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar
Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man
Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
Michael Fassbender in Frank (Although, I'm a bit biased on this one.)

Have yet to see Zero Theorem, Birdman, Foxcatcher, Theory of Everything, Mr Turner, Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year, The Rover, Big Eyes, Whiplash, Hobbit III, Unbroken, Selma Etc.

Anonymous said...

I think a 5 for Fassbender is entirely deserved. He was brilliant. Personally, I'd give him a 4.5 but he's definitely terrific.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Well I'm probably Fassbender's biggest fan on the blog apart from RatedRStar, but I'll be happy nonetheless if he gets a 4.5 from Louis at the very least, any less will piss me off a bit.

Anonymous said...

@luke: I am a great Fassbender fan too, I think he's a brilliant actor, he's so versatile and you can see he's clearly committed to his job. Also, I enjoy very much watching his interviews (especially the ones with James McAvoy as they're hilarious together) because he seems to be such a nice and friendly guy.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: He's one of the nicest actors you would ever want to meet and he absolutely loves his job, I know with the amount of films he has over the next 3-4 years, he should settle down, but I couldn't care less anyway since he is that damn good, hell, one average performance from him would be soul crushing in every possible way for me.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Also his collaboration with Steve McQueen is the best going today in my opinion.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: Most certainly as I thought he showed a lot of promise here.