'One Night Only': Film Review

One Night Only Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Cheng Cheng Films

One Night Only Still - Publicity - H 2016

Terrific performances and cool visuals enhance this fast-paced, atmospheric feature debut.

Aaron Kwok and Zishan Yang star in Matt Wu's stylish melodrama blending crime thriller and romance.

A desperate gambler and a beautiful prostitute spend a fateful, action-packed evening together in Taiwanese director Matt Wu's impressive directorial debut. Mixing suspense with romance in an uncommonly stylish noirish blend, One Night Only marks its tyro filmmaker as a talent to watch while showcasing the acting talents of its charismatic stars, Aaron Kwok (Port of Call, Cold War) and Zishan Yang (So Young, Miss Granny).

The film's central characters are Gao Ye (Kwok), an ex-con and compulsive gambler who has squandered his considerable family inheritance and is now deeply in debt to gangsters who are threatening to kidnap his teenage daughter, and Momo (Zishan), a hooker who mysteriously knocks on his door one night. He tells her that he placed no such order and has no money even if he did, but she insists on sticking around for a while anyway so her pimp won't become suspicious.  

When Gao Ye notices the large stash of money she's carrying with her, he persuades her to bankroll him for another night at the gambling tables, which leads to a frenetic evening involving Momo's fellow hookers; a blindfolded drag race; an excursion into the underground world of cage fighting; and dangerous encounters with another gambler who'll resort to anything to get his money back.

The growing relationship between the two central figures is the heart of the film, with Peng Ren's intriguing screenplay teasing out their backstories and motivations and eventually delivering plot revelations that few viewers will see coming. At times credibility is stretched to the breaking point, but the film works extremely well anyway, thanks to the sizzling chemistry between the two leads who infuse their potentially stereotypical characters with surprising depths.

And it all looks terrific, with Charlie Lam's neon-drenched cinematography giving the nocturnal proceedings a distinctively nightmarish vibe that often recalls the films of David Lynch.

Distributor: Cheng Cheng Films
Production: Fu Jian Hengye Pictures
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Zishan Yang, Lei Hao, Andy On, Jie Gao, Tiantian Fan
Director: Matt Wu

Screenwriter: Peng Ren
Producer: Andy Chen
Executive producers: Yanjie Sun, Hanhai Chen
Director of photography: Charlie Lam
Production designers: Lo Shun Fu, Premo Fang
Editors: Tang Man To, Hongyu Yang
Costume designer: Jewel Yeh
Composer: Benson Chen

Not rated, 90 minutes