Johnnie To: Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

Fai seung dat yin

Patrick YauHong Kong94 minutes1998RColourCantonese Mandarin

Dec 5
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Called into action when a jewel robbery goes bloodily awry, a team of HK cops (including To's primary leading men Lau Ching-wan and Simon Yam, as modern-day incarnations of King Hu's chivalrous heroes) find themselves in pursuit of two groups of criminals — hapless bunglers from mainland China and brutal goons from Hong Kong — leading to a long night of violence and terror. Producer To took over the shooting of Expect the Unexpected from original director Patrick Yau (as he would with that same year's masterpiece The Longest Nite), and the result was a devastating and deeply personal statement about the bleakest period of recent Hong Kong history; the rich character interactions and elegiac celebration of the cops' traditional code of honour stand in poignant contrast to the abject nihilism posited by the allegorical pairing of the Hong Kong and mainland gangs. "The sense of crisis in the cinema of To … reaches epic proportions in this top-notch thriller and tender love story" (Sam Ho, HKIFF).

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.