Felix Chong's Project Gutenberg
just garnered a ridiculous 17 nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards so there are many nice things that could be said about the film's twisty plot, slick pacing and tight direction. I'd like to focus on the single most important factor that makes the crime thriller a must-watch for Hong Kong film fans (or at least me): Chow Yun Fat.
Chow Yun Fat is in peak Chow Yun Fat form in the role of a criminal mastermind behind a counterfeiting operation. His commanding and charismatic performance in the film channels the classic effortless charm that captured a generation of Asian cinema fans and also the dangerous, unreadable duplicity of later roles in films like Curse of the Golden Flower and Let the Bullets Fly. The veteran star got into really great shape for the film so his action scenes are also a giddy blast to the past. Basically, Project Gutenberg often feels like a Chow Yun Fat greatest hits collection.
Some films of recent years, such as A Better Tomorrow 2018 and John Woo's Manhunt, have misfired at trying to re-create the old school Hong Kong action vibe, instead reminding audiences how much better those old movies are. But when Project Gutenberg deploys Chow Yun Fat covered in blood splatter, brandishing two guns and shooting while leaping through the air, it doesn't come off as cash-in nostalgia. Throwback without being clichéd or outdated, the thrilling and knowing homage doesn't just excite, it also smartly fits into the film. Of course, most of all it works because Chow Yun Fat is simply that awesome.