Killer Ping (Chow Yun Fat) is guilt ridden when his wife dies in his arms during a fierce massacre. He opens the Peace Hotel and promises peace to all guests, but turns his back for request of escape from fugitives. This rule remains unbroken for 10 years until one day a lady steps into the hotel and captures the eyes of Ping. His rule of business begins to waver as Ping surrenders his heart to the lady, not knowing that it is all a trap. A conspirator is stepping in for a war.
This version is the old Mei Ah release. It has just been newly released with an anamorphic transfer. That is the version linked to at Yesasia.
John Woo and Chow Yun Fat on the same credits bill. That's enough to get most people salivating at the prospect of what lies in store, including me. However, close inspection must be paid to the credits bill as John Woo is only the producer, not the director. With this in mind, and despite the gun-totting picture of Chow Yun Fat on the DVD cover, it is best not watch Peace Hotel expecting a stylish bullet ballet film. You'll be disappointed if you do.
Peace Hotel is not quite the film I was expecting. The front cover does allude to something a little more action packed than what is delivered - which seems more of a drama with action scenes most of time. The film revolves around Chow Yun Fat's Killer and Cecilia Yip's Shau Siu Man. From a hate-hate relationship built on lies and distrust, things slowly start to develop between them as the film progresses. This is where one of my mysteries in this film lies - why would Killer become interested in Siu Man? Yes, he may have lost the love of his life 10 years previous, but given the dishonest, lying manner in which Siu Man meets Killer, I would not have thought he'd have let his past 10 years be thrown out the window just like that. In those 10 years he'd established his Peace Hotel, where he will give refuge to anyone who needs it, and pursuers dare not enter. His main rule is that he will never throw anyone out of the hotel (unless they don't pay, I'm assuming). But trust a woman to come along and mess all this up.
Despite his feared name, a group of people are after Siu Man and against his previous 10 years' judgement, Killer gets her out of the hotel and to safety. Or at least that what he thinks he's doing. Peace Hotel has some quite convenient slight plot twists that link the past with the present, and go a little of the way to explain Killer's past. The only problem about this is, by the time it happens I had completely lost interest in it all. The rather unmoving romance side to the film caused my attention to start to waver and then it was completely gone due to the lack of gripping plot or decent action. It is the plot that is the main detriment in my opinion. Nothing much really happens. We see these people living happily in the hotel, we get a little bit of back story, some girl comes along and stirs things up, they carry on living there with a little bit of friction, someone comes for the girl, and then there is much drama and dilemma on what to do with her. Yawn. The plot has nothing to entice the viewer, nothing to grab hold of them and keep their attention glued to the screen. This is not helped by there being no strong characters at all in the film. The background characters in the hotel are all bland and uninteresting and unfortunately the leads don't fare that much better. I felt no emotion whatsoever for Cecilia Yip's character and as her relationship with Killer develops, I still felt nothing. Killer was a slightly stronger character, as his past has an air of mystery to it. We know that Killer is only his nickname because he single-handedly killed so many people in the past, but we rarely see that side of him or any other side that sets him out from the rest.
To engage the interest of the more manly side of me, there is some action and violence to vegetate over. This is where I really think John Woo should have done more than just produce, because the action is quite poor. The camera work is shaky, with an almost strobe like effect on the picture. This makes it very difficult to actually see what is going on in the action, giving the impression that there wasn't much in the way of choreography or the like, so the filming style was to mask this. Given the massacres that go on in the film and the potential that there is for action and violence, what has actually been produced is very, very disappointing.
That last statement is basically echoed for everything else to do with the film. There wasn't a single element of it that I can think of, that I felt positively about. Everything is below average, relegating this whole film to one that I cannot recommend in any way.
Audio & Subtitles
The Cantonese 5.1 audio track was a little below average too. The left and right front surrounds were used frequently, but only really to spread out the audio coming from the front centre speaker. The rears were used quite infrequently. The sound itself didn't quite sound right. Lots of effects, such as the noise of someone walking up or down stairs, sounded like it had been recorded in a very small room, rather than the place pictured on screen. The same went for the speech - there was too much of an enclosed echo to everything.
The subtitles were typical of older Hong Kong DVDs. The point gets across in the text, but with frequent spelling and grammar errors.
The picture quality is so-so throughout the film. There is never really anything wrong with it, except for it looking a little too soft. Speckles on the print a quite frequent but not distracting, grain levels are rather low and colours are a little washed out looking, but not overly so. It's not bad, but not great.
DVD & Extras
Not much to choose from here at all. Just the typical cast and crew information and trailers for two other films. Not impressive!
There is little in Peace Hotel for me to recommend. It doesn't have a gripping story, it doesn't have an emotional romance story, and it doesn't have exciting action. All it does have is relative blandness. I was very disappointed with it.