One Night Only Aaron Kwok, Yang Zishan, Hao Lei. Directed by Matt Wu. Not rated. Opens Friday at Regal Colonnade.
With its lush, color-saturated visuals, urban setting and slow-burning romance, One Night Only, the directorial debut from Taiwanese actor Matt Wu, at first recalls the work of Wong Kar-wai, only to end up more like a bad soap opera. Stars Aaron Kwok and Yang Zishan have a nice chemistry as two down-on-their-luck Chinese expatriates in Bangkok, one a former heir who’s gambled away his entire fortune, the other a prostitute yearning for a better life. Kwok’s Gao Ye convinces Yang’s Momo to lend him some money so he can win enough at the city’s underground casinos to pay back the gangsters threatening to cut off his limbs, and they set off on an eventful night that includes cage fights, car chases and one rather lovely romantic heart-to-heart in the ruins of Gao Ye’s former mansion.
It’s all a bit disjointed, moving from action to romance to serious drama, but Kwok and Yang bring it together with their sensitive portrayals of people who feel they’ve got nothing left to lose, and yet hold on anyway. Then it all falls apart with a ridiculously melodramatic finale, including a twist that makes all the preceding action retroactively sappy and sentimental. What started out as cool and stylish, with a bit of danger to its romance, becomes mawkish and heavy-handed. It turns out to be more Nicholas Sparks than Wong Kar-wai.