From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The movie unfolds at least nine different stories on very different levels. First, there is John as a reporter, trying to capture the interesting things in daily life of Hong Kong and persuading himself that in this way he gives his life a meaning.
Second, there is Vivian, who is trying to find a balance in life, trying to escape from the underground and forget about her past, but is not allowed to do so because of the prejudices that go back thousands of years in the Chinese society (including Hong Kong).
Third, there is Vivian (still), with a possibility to discard all the problems she has with a simple option of marrying John and going to the West. But she knows that would just be running away from the core of the problem and it wouldn't really be a long-term solution, because of different cultural backgrounds and maybe even because of a subtle uncertainty regarding John's ex-wife and ex-life.
Fourth, there is Jean, with her own story and with a typical Hong Kong here-today-who-knows-where-tomorrow attitude. Living the moment, enjoying and suffering at the same time, perfect reflection of modern life, especially so easily seen in Hong Kong. She understands all the different kinds of hardships that come in life but also understands where to draw the line in selling herself. John tries to help her, but does that in a dishonest way, which disappoints her tremendously.
Fifth, there is friendship between John and Jim. Close, mutually understanding, with enough humor and sarcasm to keep them going even through the bad days.
Sixth, there is Chang, a man of power, of high position, but a wimp in his heart. Money can't replace what he doesn't have in personality. No charisma, no morality, no care. Just money and status. He is ashamed of Vivian, and loves her in his own pathetic, cowardly way at the same time. He doesn't marry her but rather arranges a mock wedding photo-shoot, so Vivian would have some pictures (which she burns the same night). He is very much into "saving face" and can not find an equilibrium in his life (professional nor personal).
Seventh, there are John and Vivian. A story of true love that just isn't meant to be. Not because they wouldn't want it to, but because of the constraints of the society they live in.
Eighth, there is John (again), perplexed with his own mortality of which awareness appears suddenly and without preparation. Ninth, there is the political aspect of Hong Kong politically becoming a part of China again, which (at the time) was a great uncertainty.
The movie shows the actual temporary press room, specially set up for the press coverage of the handover, and located in the old part of the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Cast and roles include
- Jeremy Irons - John
- Gong Li - Vivian
- Maggie Cheung - Jean
- Michael Hui - Chang
- Rubén Blades - Jim
- Jared Harris - William
- Chaplin Chang - Homeless Man
- Noel Rands - John's Friend at New Year's Party
- Emma Lucia - Amanda Everheart
- Ken Bennett - Rick
- Russell Cawthorne - New Year's Party MC
- Emotion Cheung - William Wong
- Harvey Stockwin - Weeks
- Jonathan Midgley - Jonathan
- Bruce Walker - Bruce
- Angelica Lofgren - Baby-Lin
- Dr. Julian Chang - Dr. Chang
- Jian Rui Chao - Businessman #1
- Wai Sing Chau - Businessman #2
- Hung Lo - Businessman #3
- Shirley Hung - Girlfriend #1
- Michelle Yeung - Girlfriend #2
- Alex Ng - Drunk karaoke singer
- Chiu Wah Lee - Minibus passenger
- Maria Cordero - Mamasan
- Pao Fong - Godfather
- Hui Fan - Godfather's wife
- Lam Man Cheung - Wedding photographer
- Lee Siu-Kei - Gangster #1
- Leung Chi On - Gangster #2
- Tse Yuen Fat - Gangster #3
- Roderick Lee - Manhattan Club bouncer
- Hui Li - Black Moon hostess
- Maria St. Lynne - Black Moon hostess
- Josie Ho - Lilly