Where a Good Man Goes

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The violence-prone gangster and the placid innkeeper

Jul 12, 2009
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
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Pros:performances, quirkiness (both the humor and the violence!)

Cons:takes some getting used to, getting into

The Bottom Line: 3.5 stars mix of romance, police brutality, gangster/ex-con narratives


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

"Where a Good Man Goes" (the Chines title," Joi gin a long, means good-bye to something, I think the old ways of gangster Michael) is one of a rash of movies Johnnie To and company (Milkyway) made in 1999 as PRC rule of Hong Kong settled in. The movie is set in Macau. It begins (and ends...) with a triad (gang) boss getting out of prison and taking a taxi into the city, stopping in front of the International Hotel, a decidedly unswank establishment in which the widow Siu (Ruby Wong Cheuk-Ling; Fireline, PTU, Running Out of Time) is attempting to make a living and raise her son (who has started school but looks less than 6 to me).

Michael (Lau Ching-Wan, the hostage negotiator in both "Running Out of Time " movies) has been scraping mud off his shoes in the taxi. The driver orders him out  and then comes around at him with a baseball bat. Michael has a gun but is kept from using it by another taxi driver who stops to help.

Michael is battered but is the one who can walk at the end of the altercation. He walks into the hotel, staggers into a room, discovers there is no hot water, demands food and Viceroy cigarettes. Mrs. Siu accedes to his demands.

When Karl, a corrupt, corpulent bully of a police officer (sgt.?), played by To regular Lam Suet, turns up to arrest Michael, Mrs. Siu and her son follow to the police station and insist that the taxi driver attacked Michael (which is true, though she was not in a position to see it...)

What follows is an odd mix of Michael going around to those, including an estranged wife, who should have money for him but provide various excuses for not being able to cough it up, and Mrs. Siu taking care of her dangerous lodger. The romance is so offbeat that it takes quite a while to realize there is one.

Michael takes on substitute fathering for the young boy when he is not out breaking up places owned by those who are supposed to be his subordinates. During the best of these bloody scenes, one of his debtors commands others to leave, because it is his debt not theirs, which impresses Michael.

Bully-with-a-badge Karl is ever lurking. Not content to wait for Michael to fall into his clutches, Karl goes way over any line that will get support from his superiors or subordinates. The Les Miserables aspects (which are prominent) lead to an unexpected end.

Though shot by regular To cinematographer Cheng Siu-Keung, the movie lacks the wild visual flourishes of "Fulltime Killer," Breaking News," and other Johnnie To movies. It has a lot of violence, though To tends to show the aftermath rather than blows landing and blood spurting.

Lau Ching-Wan makes the volatile gangster fascinating to watch, and Ruby Wong, the boy playing her son, and the alternately smirking and snarling Lam Suet.

Generally regarded as the least of the three 1999 Johnnie To movies (Running on Empty and The Mission are the other two), "Where a Good Man Goes" has the most developed romance of the three and very satisfying performances. And has the least difficult plot to follow of the three. It took a while for me to get in synch with the movie, but by the end (and beyond) I liked it.

Although it's been a long time since I saw it, I think that "Where a Good Man Goes" was influenced by the 1947 western "The Angel and the Badman" in which John Wayne, wounded but intent on revenge, is sort of domesticated by Gail Russell and her Quaker family. (A better title IMHO would be "When a Good Woman Takes on a Tough Gangster.")

©2009, Stephen O. Murray

My other Johnnie To epinions:

The Mission (1999)
Running Out of Time (1999)
Fulltime Killer 2001
PTU (2003)
Running on Karma 2003
Breaking News 2004
Election 2005
Triad Election, 2006
Exiled 2006


With no guns discharged, perhaps this might fit into Talyseon's Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting! Write Off.


Recommend this product? Yes

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