This period action comedy by Jiang Wen (Devils on the Doorstep) is great fun in the Shakespearean tradition, stuffed with lively characters, dramatic stand-offs, and stolen-identity subplots. Jiang stars as a fabled bandit who arrives in a small town posing as its new, state-appointed mayor; he plans to cheat the people out of their tax money, but after discovering that a local crime lord (Chow Yun-Fat) has beaten him to the punch, he decides to avenge them out of spite. The action moves at a breathless pace, and the comic dialogue (which sometimes recalls Billy Wilder's in its cheerful cynicism) moves even faster. But ultimately what makes the film irresistble is its laid-back quality: Jiang lingers on each narrative complication until it yields the maximum pleasure. In Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles.
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