The latest evidence that Hong Kong cinema has entered a self-conscious, mannerist phase is this Chow Yun-fat vehicle--an updated variation on the romantic nihilist image he so successfully projected in John Woo's operatic action films. Here Chow plays a morose desperado whose nickname Killer hints at a dubious past. Holed up in a desolate frontier town, Killer runs a hotel that serves as a refuge for ragamuffin ex-cons. One day a mysterious woman (Cecilia Yip, in an over-the-top performance) shows up claiming to be Killer's long-lost wife, setting off a chain of events that ends in a blazing, cathartic finale. Director Wa Fa-fai, under Woo's supervision, has appropriated from Kurosawa, Woo, the spaghetti western, and other sources to forge a glossy, anachronistic yet existential look that suggests Leone's west--and MTV (though most of Peace Hotel was shot on the wide plains of China). The narrative tone, however, is strictly 90s Hong Kong--zigzagging from comical to serious, naive to all-knowing. The saturated visual style owes much to the trendsetting Ashes of Time, Wong Kar-wai's peculiar swordsman western. Throughout this delirious, baroque, almost campy fantasia, Chow, whose career is about to shift to Hollywood, proves himself a resourceful actor--his stoic, dignified presence resembles that of our movie icons. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14, 6:00, 443-3737. --Ted Shen
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.