Project Gutenberg (2018)

Director: Felix Chong

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok, Dmitry Mazur, Jason Moehring, Rick Pokrajen-Harmon

Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is in a Thai prison when he is gotten out by the Hong Kong police who want to question him about the whereabouts of a major counterfeiting kingpin the Painter (Chow Yun-Fat). He is scared that he will be killed, but agrees to tell them if they offer him a deal.

Cut to 1985 when Lee Man is a starving artist living in Vancouver with his girlfriend. Ten years’ later and he still hasn’t sold any of his art. A gallery owner offers him a job copying a work by Albrecht Durer to sell off at high prices.

Unknown to him the Painter takes an interest in his work and turns up to his girlfriend’s exhibition, insulting his work that was snuck in there to get his attention. Lee Man runs out to stop the Painter driving off and they go for a drink. He offers him his card if he wants some work.

When Lee Man finds out the work is to be counterfeiting $100 bills he is dead against it, but the Painter manages to convince him otherwise. He ends up burning his own painting for some strange reason and goes to meet the plane.

On the plane to Hong Kong he meets the usual suspects who are going to be part of the enterprise and each of their roles are explained. There is quite a lot of detail put into the scenes of setting up the counterfeiting operation with the drawing of the forgery, engraving the plates, printing test copies and trying to source the special paper and ink for the notes.

When they go to get the special ink that changes colour is when stuff starts to go south with a big action scene of holding up the armoured truck carrying the drums of ink and several casualties resulting. Lee Man is shocked that the Painter is so violent and refuses to pull the trigger.

Lee Man threatens to quit, but the Painter will not let him so Lee Man says he will come up with a way to get the ink without having to steal it.

There are quite a few scenes of them exchanging the fake currency for real money all over the world. In the mean-time an investigation has been launched in Canada after the armoured car raid and it ends up moving to Hong Kong.

A deal in the Golden Triangle goes bad, leading to a massacre and the whole group going underground. Loyalties are tested and Lee Man still wants no part in killing. When the group eventually ends up returning to Hong Kong things go bad again and this time the police get involved.

This a great crime story with a lot going on and a plot that reminds me of a certain film from the 90s with a large cast and unexpected turns.

It is great to see Chow Yun-Fat in a Hong Kong movie again even though he is not really the main character in the film. The shot of him lighting a cigar off a burning $100 note is not in the film so I guess Hong Kong movies play the same tricks as Hollywood ones.

I did enjoy the action scenes of the armoured truck heist and the raid on the village. We do get to see Chow Yun Fat with twin machine guns in the latter and having Lee Man refuse to shoot in most of the scenes was different.

The scenes of the interrogation were also good and I enjoyed the performance of the female police officer as she took no bullshit from anybody.

I had been looking forward to this movie for a while and it did not disappoint. While it would be good to see on the big screen, I am sure it will be streaming or on DVD/Bluray soon enough.

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