A Chance To Die (Taiwan 2000)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/25/20
Cast: Miki Mizuno

A Japanese gangster is shot and killed during a botched-up, double-crossed drug deal. A young Japanese woman named Kanako (Miki Mizuno) travels to Taipei to sort everything out, and get revenge if necessary. Her relationship to the deceased gangster is unclear. She refers to him as "her man" in the subtitles, but he could just as easily be her brother or another relative. There are no flashback scenes to provide context, but all that matters is that she wants the killer found. When it becomes clear that no one is going to help her, she takes matters into her own hands by obtaining a gun and taking out the gangsters, which escalates into an all-out gang war between two rival gangs. In the end, everyone wants Kanako dead, but against all odds she manages to come out on top. However, the downbeat ending leaves Kanako's future uncertain, as sentimentality robs her of a clean break.

This gritty Taiwanese crime noir is definitely an oddity and could easily pass for a Hong Kong film. It's also extremely rare and difficult to come by. The cinematography is great and it's a good looking and well-lit film. The action scenes are tense and grounded, but unlike Hong Kong cinema, the pacing is a bit slow and there's no martial arts action. This is unfortunate, because fans of Miki Mizuno know that she's a capable stunt woman. At one point, she shows a brief flash of physical strength, but the film never follows through with it. However, it's nice to see her handle a gun, and she looks great. The acting is good across the board, and Ms. Mizuno does an excellent job of being a lost and confused woman trapped in a foreign country, with no money or friends, driven solely by her desire for revenge. Just as her connection to the victim is unclear, the subtitles create additional confusion when Kanako says that she's been in Taipei "for years" towards the end of the movie. Has she really been knocking off gangsters for that long, or is that a translation error? The movie timeline feels more like several weeks or months, not years.

Overall, the film is a nice bit of nostalgia from the fallout of the Hong Kong Handover in 1997, and I enjoyed seeing Miki Mizuno in one of her earlier action roles. It's grim and bleak, and reminded me of Jade Leung's work in the 1990's, like "Enemy Shadow" (1995) and "Fox Hunter" (1995).