TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1
(Yige Zitou De Dansheng)
Here the band of stylish, hard-talking crims that has become a staple of the subgenre since Reservoir Dogs are replaced by a group of bumbling wannabes who have more in common with Abbott and Costello than Quentin Tarantino. The exercise is shot through with a sense of Terry Gilliam-esque black irony wherein everything that can go wrong inevitably will. The gang accidentally run their boss over they brick him up only to find they have entombed his ringing pager with him; one of the hoods keeps trying to call his senile grandmother to give him the contact name of the person he is to make the hit on; the hoods wake up after a nights heavy drinking to find they have agreed to a hit and then that each has been hired by two mobster brothers to rub out the other brother; they mug a woman only to find that the woman has been left brain-damaged and is a triad bosss wife and that they have now been hired to find and kill themselves. The entire film is more a dog-legging series of ironic twists than it is necessarily construed as any real plot but it is conducted with an immense degree of energy. It is as notable for the energy of the exercise as it is for the eccentricity of the camera-work a fight is filmed with the camera upside down; another with it swinging from side to side as though on a pendulum; or fluid camera shots with the camera snaking through the aftermath of shootouts or action melee scenes to take in everything that is happening at once.
The film also has a unique narrative structure. It tells one story then backtracks to the beginning of events to retell an alternate story based on what might happen if the hero made a different central choice. This may have been inspired by the elliptical story-telling structure of Pulp Fiction (1994), as some have pointed out, but is a device of sufficient uniqueness and originality to stand on its own. A more likely source was Alain Resnaiss Smoking/No Smoking (1993). Of course, the basic idea of telling two alternate storylines based on different choices was then appropriated by the following years Sliding Doors (1998), which created its own mini-fad of Chick Flick alternate timeline films.
Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 was the second film from Hong Kong director Wai Ka-fai. Wai, usually in conjunction with Johnnie To, has become one of the top Hong Hong Kong directors since. Mostly in collaboration with Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai has made a number of other eccentric efforts that enter the fantastic genre with:- Help!!! (2000), a black comedy set in a hospital that has some fantasy elements; the comedy Wu Yen (2001) about mischievous fairies; My Left Eye Can See Ghosts (2002), a comedy about a woman who starts to see ghosts after an accident; Running on Karma (2003) about a Buddhist monk with the ability to see peoples past lives; Fantasia (2004) about a wizard drawn through time to contemporary Hong Kong; Himalaya Singh (2005), a Magical Realist comedy involving amnesia drugs; Mad Detective (2007) about a detective that is capable of seeing peoples inner personalities; and Written By (2009) where a dead man is reincarnated in an alternate life in his daughters novel.
Clip from the film here:-