The 'Post-Post 97' Variation of the Johnnie To & Wai Kai Fai's World

-- From PTU to Running on Karma

Without The Longest Night, Expect the Unexpected, and A Hero Never Dies of 98, or even earlier Johnnie To & Wai Ka Fai collaborations, and the transitional Running out of Time, The Mission and Fulltime Killer from 99 to 01, PTU, Turn Left Turn Right and Running on Karma of 03 would not have developed into being. Karma has always been the theme of Johnnie To & Wai Ka Fai collaborations. Mere mortals taking on their destinies is the invariable precondition of these films and the doomed end the preconceived conclusion. But the plot development and the marginality of the characters are always full of gripping dramatic tension, and tug the chord of the helplessness of Post-97 Hong Kong.

The Post-97 trilogy, be it about duo confrontation or about esprit de corp, the main characters all come to a tragic end. It was the projection of the collective permission of Post-97 Hong Kong when everyone found their fate beyond their control. Whether the story takes place in a day or striding several years, fear and repression of the characters and the audience are never given a release - after all, 98 was still the beginning of a new era, uncertainty hang in the air and the society in a limbo. The To-Wai team saw the cause and yet had to see the consequence. The trilogy made between 99 to 01 could be seen as an emotional transition, with breaks from the bleakness: there are characters with incurable disease (Andy Lau in Running out of Time and Fulltime Killer), some live in the limbo, some on the run (Jackie Lui in The Mission), and some who embrace their final days (the terminally ill thief and killer played by Andy Lau), but not all of them meet a fetal end, and the dead and the survivor all share a sense of humour and wisdom. Though they still cannot avoid being sentimental, there are also offer of relief.

PTU, Turn Left Turn Right and Running on Karma are continuation of the To-Wai world. Though it still rains in these three films, the drizzle is a far cry from the downpour in Expect the Unexpected, an implication of the possible way out for the Post-Post-97 Hong Kong. This trilogy are also stories of destiny, but they are the progression of from being lost to back on the right path. The searching for the missing gun in the rain, and the accidental find (PTU), the lost and the reunion(Turn Left Turn Right), the chase of the murderer and the apprehension (Running on Karma), leads to the realization that the lost of the gun is not a predetermination, the separation is not unavoidable, and resuming the secular life does not mean that the cultivation is stopped...... The characters find that they cannot break away from their destiny, but they have not lost hope or faith. The future may be uncertain, but if the pessimism is but a momentary loss of faith and enlightenment will come in the morning after, will that make us more upbeat? Granted, there aren't that many miracles in real life, but this belief in the To-Wai world is a reflection of the un-dealt-with side of Post-97: if the miracle in the day after is the "consequence", then the "cause" is the over-pessimism of today. The focusing on the bad has made us overlooked the possibility of miracles.

By Chan Ka Ming

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