Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Trần Anh Hùng|
|Produced by||Christophe Rossignon|
|Written by||Tran Anh Hung|
|Starring||Lê Văn Lộc
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Trần Nữ Yên Khê
|Music by||Tôn-Thât Tiêt|
|Edited by||Nicole Dedieu
|Distributed by||New Yorker Video (Region 1 DVD)
Gaumont (Region 2 DVD)
|Release date(s)||September 1995 (premiere at VFF)
22 March 1996 (UK)
2 August 1996 (U.S.)
19 September 1996 (Australia)
|Running time||123 minutes|
A young cyclo rickshaw driver (Lê Văn Lộc) pedals his cyclo through the crowded road of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in search for his next passenger. He inherited the cyclo from his late father, who died in a road accident while a truck hit him when he was driving the cyclo. His father did not want his son to take up his profession and desired him to live a better life than a cyclo driver. The cyclo driver's grandfather repairs tires despite his failing health, his younger sister shines shoes beside a restaurant along with other poor children and his older sister (Trần Nữ Yên Khê) delivers water to local grocery stores.
Their poor but peaceful lives are jeopardized when the cyclo is stolen by a gang. The cyclo driver is beaten when he frantically chases after them. He pays a visit to his employer (Nguyễn Như Quỳnh), a middle-aged woman, who dotes her mentally retarded adult son. Nowhere to go, he is forced to join the criminal dealing of her under the supervision of a brooding gang leader (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who is also a poet. In his employers place the cyclo driver sees one of the men who stole his cyclo, but is thwarted by one of the accomplices of the poet. The poet detains him in a small room and he begins to get involved in organized crime starting small by destroying rice shipments, burning down a rival gang's cyclo garage, and trafficking drugs.
Meanwhile, his older sister also comes under the influence of the poet and becomes a prostitute. They develop feelings for each other. She visits his house where he is beaten by his father, who is furious for the profession he has taken. The poet brings the cyclo driver to Mr. Lullaby, who kills a victim by slitting his throat while singing a lullaby.
Ho Chi Minh City is hit by unrest as different gangs start fighting with each other. A truck carrying a helicopter crashes on a busy city-street. The cyclo driver blinds one eye of the man who stole his cyclo, but manages to remain unseen by anyone. He pays another visit to his lady employer to pay a part of his debt, but she refuses and becomes busy with her retarded son who has covered himself with yellow paint.
The poet assigns the cyclo driver the job of murdering a man. His two accomplices give him a gun and teach him how to kill their intended target. They also hand him a bottle of pills to reduce his anxiety, but warn him not to take too many. The poet and the cyclo driver's sister visit his childhood place. He leaves her in a nightclub with a client and she is abused by the man. Both the poet and the man realize their mistakes and the man tries to compensate by bribing the poet with a hefty sum of dollar. But the poet kills the man and then kills himself by setting fire to the room where he lives.
Meanwhile, the retarded son of the lady is killed when he is hit by a truck. The cyclo driver gets drunk and takes two tablets of the drug he has received from the poet's accomplices. He becomes hallucinatory in the flat where he has been forced to stay, failing to carry out the job of killing the man. Instead, he covers himself with blue paint and then due to the hallucinations he mistakenly shots himself twice. The next morning, the members of the gang find him badly injured but still alive, and the lady spares his life despite his failure because he reminds her of her deceased son. She releases him from the gang. The movie ends with the scene of the cyclo driver, still contemplating the memory of his father, driving his cyclo with his grandfather and his two sisters on it through a crowded road of Ho Chi Minh City.
The film soundtrack was written by Vietnamese composer Tôn-Thât Tiêt, who also collaborated with Trần Anh Hùng on The Scent of Green Papaya. The score received a "Best Music" award at the Festival International de Flandre in 1995. The soundtrack also contains several well-known Vietnamese ca dao (folk songs) and other popular songs:
- Nắng Chiều - Sung and played by handicapped street performers.
- Ru Con (Lullaby) sung by Lullaby Man.
- Thằng Bờm (Little Bờm)- Sung by Sad Woman to Crazy Son. Transliteration and translation.
- Em ơi, Hà Nội phố - Sung by Thanh Lam (the lounge singer).
- Creep by Radiohead - Playing in dance club.
- Blum-Reid, Sylvie (2003). East-West Encounters: Franco-Asian Cinema and Literature. Wallflower Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-1-903364-67-3.