Celebrated actor and filmmaker Jiang Wen’s most recent endeavor, Hidden Man, already had its run at the Chinese box office and now awaits its fair stake at the Toronto International Film Festival as of this Thursday. The film is set to screen this Friday and for the last three days of the festival at the Scotiabank theater and stands as one of several titles I hope to learn more about with fellow contributor Alex Chung on hand to screen at least a few if not a nifty handful.
Hidden Man is especially one I’m interested in. Once the PR kicked off I still didn’t know much about this project except it was designated as the third in Jiang’s ‘Bullets’ trilogy. We also knew that bookending the film’s sprawling energy and vibrance would be actors Liao Fan who stood tall in Xu Haofeng’s The Final Master, and Eddie Peng who, in my view, has been massively holding his own on the action front, namely with Rise Of The Legend (for clarity, I still stand by the notion that that film deserves a sequel despite its current residency with actor Vincent Zhao.)
On the cusp of the Second Sino-Japanese War, a spy (Eddie Peng) returns to China set on revenge, but finds himself plunged into a high-stakes game of intrigue, love, and scheming, in actor-director Jiang Wen’s energetic follow-up to Let the Bullets Fly and Gone with the Bullets.
Don’t be surprised if your reaction to watching Hidden Man is “Wow!” And if your first wow comes only minutes in, that’s perfectly normal. Jiang Wen’s latest is astonishing.
A bullet-fast action epic, it races along fuelled by dazzling chase sequences, gorgeous visuals, and pure adrenaline. It’s the final film in the 1930s-set trilogy Jiang began with his blockbusters Let The Bullets Fly and Gone With the Bullets, but it may leave you panting for more. In a tour-de-force opening sequence, a lethal attack upends a martial arts master’s birthday party. One of his disciples, Zhu, has conspired with a Japanese agent, Nemoto, to betray the master and rearrange the order of things. Only young boy Li Tianran escapes. Years later Li has grown up in San Francisco, and has received advanced training in both Chinese martial arts and American spycraft. He’s sent back to China on a mission, but he’s driven by his own urge to take revenge on Zhu and Nemoto, the men who killed his master. Chinese-Canadian superstar Eddie Peng (Operation Mekong, Duckweed) plays Li with a fleet charm that recalls Bruce Lee. The similarity is not coincidental. Jiang packs Hidden Man with a raft of delightful film references, from Hong Kong actioners to Quentin Tarantino.
Jiang recently played a mercenary in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; here he plays the equally tricky Lan, a businessman with shadowy motives. Gleefully anachronistic, Hidden Man breaks rules and sometimes tramples over good taste. But Jiang packs this movie with kinetic energy and sheer visual invention. It’s a blast.
Warner Bros. boarded the film as co-producer back in May. A U.S. release date hasn’t been made public but Jiang’s global appeal in film since Rogue One in conjunction with his strong reputation should position him favorably for one. One hopes, at least.