I’ve praised this director before, but I’ll bump him up again, having just watched Running on Karma, a neatly-strange little mix of genres that plays out quite enjoyably. In a nutshell: bodybuilder/male-stripper (Andy Lau, in a muscle suit) is a former Buddhist monk and sees karma, which gets him entangled with a police investigation. Yes.
It takes its notions of karma and the pleasurable protocol of action sequences seriously, yet its tone avoids that kind of unblinking engagement in genre or tone that other Hong Kong directors (like Woo) sometimes fall into–the conventions are, when you’re being melodramatic, play it over-the-top melodramatic, and the same when being funny, or romantic, or…. To, on the other hand, has this lightness of touch–while never mocking or ironic, his films also dance across generic boundaries so that, thinking you’re watching a comedy, something fairly violent happens, and vice versa. Besides the pleasures of Lau (I’ll go ahead and say it–as charismatic as and far more interesting than Chow Yun Fat), and the textbook beauty of To’s action choreography, you get a surefooted spinning that meets and disrupts our expectations.
So check out Karma, or even better, my favorite The Mission, or any of the many films of his Netflix carries. I mean you, Howell and Chakladar. These are damn fine action films.