A disillusioned assassin is on his last job, and is experiencing distinctly unprofessional feelings for his partner. Not wishing to give in to temptation, he sets out to find a surrogate for his affections, and meets some strange characters on the way.
The fifth feature from writer-director Wong Kar-wai, who has been picking up awards and friends (such as Quentin Tarantino) ever since his 1988 debut As Tears Go By, this follows hot on the heels of Chungking Express and echoes much of its predecessor's style - 99 per cent shot on hand-held cameras, pop promo-style action sequences, with loosely connected characters in garish Hong Kong nightscapes moving in and out of bars and fast-food parlours as their lives meet but never quite entwine.
The central character, the assassin (Ming) wants a new life with his partner-in-crime Agent (Kaneshiro) but instead employs a jukebox lyric to tell her goodbye and takes up with the live-for-the-minute Punkie (Karen Mok) after a chance encounter.
All this is punctuated by outbursts of brutal gunplay but, unlike Chungking, has little in the way of humour - notwithstanding mute ex-con Ho (Kaneshiro) who pesters his father with a video camera and breaks into various shops then kidnaps people as his "customers", including one poor soul he tries to shave and later drags inside an ice-cream van he has hijacked forcing him to eat and eat and eat.
Ho's antics are small reward, however, for enduring the overall sense of frustration that the characters all share, and chasing after them along Hong Kong's labyrinthine back streets.
Fallen Angels is a colourful and stylish romp, for sure, but a feeling of restlessness sets in long before the series of false endings that finally bring it to a close. Time passes, things happen, but nobody emerges very much wiser. As in the film, so too in the cinema.