The Austin Chronicle

Peace Hotel

Directed by Wei Kar-Fei. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Cecilia Yip Ye-Tong.

REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 14, 1995

If nothing else, this latest vehicle for Hard-Boiled star Chow Yun-fat gets off to a terrific start, as the ultra-charismatic Chow, sporting a shaved head and wielding a mean sword, chases a bloodied youngster through a corpse-filled hotel, intent on sending the injured young man into the hereafter. Unfortunately, most of what follows this promising prologue, which is stylishly filmed in grainy black-and-white, isn't anywhere near as confidently executed and the result is a disappointing picture that fails to live up to the promise of its own intriguing premise. The plot, set in China during the early 1900s, is great: Chow stars as “The Killer,” a sensitive man of action who, in an attempt to repent for his mysterious past, has opened the titular “peace hotel,” a safe haven where anyone seeking protection from the outside world can come and live out their life in peace. But when a snotty, manipulative woman shows up claiming to be the killer's long-lost love, the peace hotel is plunged into chaos as general confusion reigns inside while, outside, an old enemy with a score to settle waits and prepares a deadly siege that could destroy the hotel and all it stands for. Well, it sounds great, so what happened? In a couple of words -- the script. Peace Hotel simply wastes too much time (in what is fast becoming an annoying trend in Hong Kong movies) with silly, out-of-place comic relief. To make matters worse, the action sequences, which are usually the one area in which Hong Kong pictures are infallible, are not that great -- they're energetically shot, but choreographed no better than, say, any of the Highlander films. On the positive side, Chow turns in a bravura performance that practically defines charisma, and there's an interesting re-creation of the famed “reviving” sequence from James Cameron's The Abyss. Director Wei does stage a few genuinely effective scenes and has a great eye for powerful, ironic images -- like the film's unforgettable final shot of the Peace Hotel's sign literally soaked with blood. For fans of Chow (and who in their right mind isn't?) Peace Hotel is, reportedly, the actor's final Hong Kong production before crossing over to the United States, but will prove to be a passable time-waster at best. Yet, as some frustrating moments demonstrate all too well, it could have been so much more.

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