Fallen Angels (1995 film)

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Fallen Angels
Hong Kong theatrical poster
MandarinDuòluò tiānshǐ
CantoneseDo6 Lok6 Tin1 Si2
LiterallyFallen angels
Directed byWong Kar-wai
Written byWong Kar-wai
Produced byJeffrey Lau
CinematographyChristopher Doyle
Mark Lee Ping Bin
Joe Chan
Music byRoel A. Garcia
Frankie Chan
Jet Tone Productions
Distributed byKino International
Release date
  • 6 September 1995 (1995-09-06)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryHong Kong
Box officeHK$7.5 million (Hong Kong)
US$0.2 million (US)[2]
Fallen Angels
Traditional Chinese墮落天使
Simplified Chinese堕落天使

Fallen Angels is a 1995 Hong Kong romantic crime comedy-drama film[3] written and directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Charlie Yeung, and Karen Mok.


The movie is composed of two stories that have little to do with each other except for a few casual run-ins when some of the characters happen to be in the same place at the same time. Both stories take place in Hong Kong.

Story One

The story begins with a hit man named Wong Chi-ming (Leon Lai) and a woman he calls his "partner." They hardly know each other and rarely see each other but she cleans his dingy apartment in club clothes and faxes him blueprints of the places where he is to commit his murders. Infatuated with him, she frequents the bar he goes to just to sit in his seat and daydream about him. One night, Wong has a late night meal at McDonald's where he meets Blondie, who invites him into her apartment. While they spend time together, she has illusions that he is the ex-lover who left her for another woman. Wong's partner finds out about the relationship and, after he tells her he wants to terminate their business relationship, she asks that he do her one more favor. Wong is killed while attempting to carry out the job.

Story Two

Wong Chi-ming's partner lives in the same building with Ho Chi-mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a crazy delinquent who escapes prison. She helps him elude the police when they are searching for him. Ho is mute and still lives with his father. For work, he breaks into other people's businesses at night and sells their goods and services, often forcibly to unwilling customers. He keeps running into the same girl at night, Charlie. Every time they meet, she cries on his shoulder and tells him the same sob story. Her ex-boyfriend, Johnny, left her for a girl named Blondie. She enlists his help in searching for Blondie. Ho Chi-mo falls in love. Later, she stands him up and he changes his ways, beginning a friendship and work relationship with a restaurant manager. He begins to film things around him with a video camera. His father passes away; he falls back into abusive habits, going so far as to cut off the hair of a man whose family he in the past forced to eat an excessive amount of ice cream. He and Charlie do not come into contact for a few months, but they run into each other while he is masquerading as a business owner. She is in a stewardess uniform and in a new relationship. She does not acknowledge him.

Sometime later, Ho Chi-mo is in a restaurant sitting by himself one night when he sees Wong’s ex-partner also sitting by herself. There is a silent spark between them that they both feel. She asks him for a ride home on his motorbike. As they ride off into the night even though she knows it’s just a moment she enjoys his warmth.


Development and production[edit]

Originally conceived by Wong as the third story for 1994's Chungking Express, it was cut after he decided that it was complete without it. He instead decided to develop the story further into its own feature film and borrowed elements of Chungking Express, such as themes, locations and methods of filming. Wanting to also try to differentiate it from Chungking and to try something new, Wong decided along with cinematographer Christopher Doyle to shoot mainly at night and using extreme wide-angle lenses, keeping the camera as close to the talents as possible to give a detached effect from the world around them.

In an interview, Wong had this to say:

...To me, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels are one film that should be three hours long. I always think these two films should be seen together as a double bill. In fact, people asked me during an interview for Chungking Express: "You've made these two stories which have no relationship at all to each other, how can you connect them?" And I said, 'The main characters of Chungking Express are not Faye Wong or Takeshi Kaneshiro, but the city itself, the night and day of Hong Kong. Chungking Express and Fallen Angels together are the bright and dark of Hong Kong." I see the films as inter-reversible, the character of Faye Wong could be the character of Takeshi in Fallen Angels; Brigitte Lin in Chungking could be Leon Lai in Fallen Angels. All of their characters are inter-reversible. Also, in Chungking we were shooting from a very long distance with long lenses, but the characters seem close to us.


Featured in the Fallen Angels soundtrack is a version of "Forget Him" sung by Shirley Kwan, a reworking of the classic by Teresa Teng, and one of the very few "contemporary" Cantopop songs ever used by Wong Kar-wai in his films. In the film, the song is used as a message from the hitman to his partner. One track played prominently throughout the film is "Because I'm Cool" by Nogabe "Robinson" Randriaharimalala. It samples Karmacoma by Massive Attack. The Laurie Anderson piece "Speak My Language" is used as well.

The Flying Pickets version of "Only You" was used in the last scene of the film.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave Fallen Angels three stars out of a possible four:

It's kind of exhausting and kind of exhilarating. It will appeal to the kinds of people you see in the Japanese animation section of the video store, with their sleeves cut off so you can see their tattoos. And to those who subscribe to more than three film magazines. And to members of garage bands. And to art students. It's not for your average moviegoers—unless of course, they want to see something new.[5]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times said:

Fallen Angels is a densely packed suite of zany vignettes that have the autonomy of pop songs or stand-up comic riffs, all stitched together with repetitive shots of elevated trains, underground subway stations and teeming neon-lit streets. Although the story takes a tragic turn, the movie feels as weightless as the tinny pop music that keeps its restless midnight ramblers darting around the city like electronic toy figures in a gaming arcade.[6]

In the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote:

The acme of neo-new-wavism, the ultimate in MTV alienation, the most visually voluptuous flick of the fin de siècle, a pyrotechnical wonder about mystery, solitude, and the irrational love of movies that pushes Wong's style to the brink of self-parody.[7]

Hoberman and Amy Taubin both placed Fallen Angels on their lists for the top ten films of the decade while the Village Voice's decade-end critics poll placed Fallen Angels at No. 10, the highest-ranking of any Wong Kar-wai film.[8]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10.[9] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100 based on 13 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Box office[edit]

The film made HK$7,476,025 during its Hong Kong run.

On 21 January 1998, the film began a limited North American theatrical run through Kino International, grossing US$13,804 in its opening weekend in one American theatre. The final North American theatrical gross was US$163,145.

In 2004, Australian distribution company Accent Film Entertainment released a remastered widescreen version of the film[11] enhanced for 16x9 screens.[12]

Home media & streaming[edit]

Kino International, who initially distributed the film on DVD, prepared a re-release of the film from a new high-definition transfer on 11 November 2008. Kino released the film on Blu-ray Disc in America in March 26, 2010. It has since gone out of print.[13]

The film was picked up by the Criterion Collection and given a new Blu-ray release on March 23, 2021 in a collection of 7 Wong Kar-wai films.[14]

Also, Fallen Angels could previously be streamed on FilmStruck (shut down in 2018) and is currently available on The Criterion Collection subscription service channel. In May 2019, Wong Kar Wai announced that all of his films would be remastered by his production studio, Jet Tone Productions, and be distributed in the United States through Janus Films and the Criterion Collection. It was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by Artificial Eye.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and nominations
Ceremony Category Recipient Outcome
15th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Film Fallen Angels Nominated
Best Director Wong Kar-wai Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Karen Mok Won
Best New Performer Chan Man-lei Nominated
Best Cinematography Christopher Doyle Won
Best Film Editing William Chang, Wong Ming-lam Nominated
Best Art Direction William Chang Nominated
Best Costume and Make-up Design William Chang Nominated
Best Original Score Frankie Chan, Roel A. Garcia Won
32nd Golden Horse Awards Best Film Editing William Chang, Wong Ming-lam Won
Best Art Direction William Chang Nominated
Best Cinematography Christopher Doyle Nominated
Best Original Film Score Frankie Chan Nominated
2nd Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards Film of Merit Fallen Angels Won
1st Golden Bauhinia Awards Best Film Fallen Angels Nominated
Best Actor Takeshi Kaneshiro Nominated
Best Actress Michelle Reis Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chan Fai-hung Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Karen Mok Won
Charlie Yeung Nominated
Best Cinematography Christopher Doyle Won
Omega's Most Creative Award Fallen Angels Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fallen Angels". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  2. ^ Fallen Angels, Box Office Mojo, Retrieved 22 July 2011
  3. ^ BBFC. "Fallen Angels". www.bbfc.co.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  4. ^ Nochimson, Martha P., ed. (26 January 2016). A Companion to Wong Kar-wai (2016 ed.). West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. p. 451. ISBN 9781118424247. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  5. ^ Roger Ebert (19 June 1998). "Fallen Angels". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (7 October 1997). "FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; Better a Broken Heart Than Shot in the Heart". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  7. ^ J. Hoberman (7 August 2007). "Redeeming Feature". Village Voice. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  8. ^ "The Best Films of the 1990s". Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Fallen Angels (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 23 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Fallen Angels Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 23 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "Accent Film Entertainment - FALLEN ANGELS". www.accentfilm.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008.
  12. ^ "Fallen Angels Blu-ray - Leon Lai".
  13. ^ "Fallen Angels Blu-ray (墮落天使 / Do lok tin si)".
  14. ^ "World of Wong Kar Wai Blu-ray Release Date March 23, 2021".

External links[edit]