As Tears Go by
1988, NR, 102 min. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Starring Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Jackie Cheung Hok-Yui, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 19, 1996
A stylish if formulaic addition to the seemingly endless onslaught of crime films that dominated the Hong Kong cinema of the late Eighties, As Tears Go By also marked the promising, if not entirely successful, debut of director Wong Kar-wai -- a filmmaker who quickly matured into one of the brightest talents working in today's world cinema. Cantonese singing sensations Andy Lau Tak-wah and Jacky Cheung Hok-yui star in this none-too-subtle variation on Martin Scorsese's gritty, low-budget classic Mean Streets; Lau is cast in the role originally performed by Harvey Keitel, while Cheung subs for Robert De Niro's wild-card gangster wannabe. While there are, undoubtedly, several instances of the beautifully crafted, poetic imagery one immediately associates with Wong's unmistakable film style (starting with the film's magnificent first shot), there's also little doubt that those familiar with Wong's more recent work (truly extraordinary, innovative movies like Days of Being Wild, Ashes of Time, and Chungking Express) will likely be disappointed by this first effort's over-reliance on genre clichés and embarrassing Cantopop interludes. As Tears Go By has some interesting ideas and is an adequate first film, but, ultimately, is only slightly more interesting than any number of similar pictures made in the wake of John Woo's seminal 1986 trendsetter A Better Tomorrow. Nevertheless, As Tears Go By does contain several flourishes -- like the surreal, stop-motion photography accompanying many of the action scenes, or the careful, methodical way in which the story initially unfolds -- that are unmistakable indicators of Wong's future brilliance.