Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival with stops at the Udine Far East Film Festival and the New York Asian Film Festival, Johnnie To's Sparrow
is certainly well-traveled. The award-winning director took three years to make this gorgeous little film characterized by vibrant locations and heaps of entertaining style. To enlisted many of his regular players for Sparrow
- including Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Gordon Lam, Lo Hoi Pang, and Lam Suet - and each plays their part with solid, practiced charisma. But this is clearly Johnnie To's show, and the director delivers an engaging cinema love letter demonstrating his affection for both his city and the movies. This whimsical thriller creates a glamorous Hong Kong filled with gentleman pickpockets, elegant damsels, and unspoken honor amongst thieves. As lovely and enjoyable as it is breezy and smart, Sparrow
is a Hong Kong movie with grace, wit, and abundant cinematic pleasure.
The dapper Kei (Simon Yam) leads a four-man team of pickpockets (played by Gordon Lam, Kenneth Cheung, and Law Wing Cheong), each adept at relieving unsuspecting tourists of their valuables. But their daily thievery is interrupted when Chung Chun Lei (Kelly Lin) enters their lives, bringing with her an elegance and mystery that immediately attracts. She approaches each man separately, drawing each in like moths to a flame, but what's her angle? Is she a thief? A damsel in distress? And why is she constantly on the run from suit-wearing thugs? Chun Lei most definitely means trouble, as her interference - and a sultry cry for help - threatens the foursome's solidarity. Ever the experienced leader, Kei knows that it's best for pickpockets to keep a very low profile, and desires for his men to attract as little attention as possible. But when Kei's skills are challenged by an elder, more experienced thief, he goes all in, risking everything to help Chun Lei.