Exiled, a beautiful and bizarre slice of Western lore served up Hong Kong style by director Johnnie To, flutters with cowboy iconography and codes of honor worthy of both John Woo and John Ford. This might be To’s purest expression of action yet, since he relies almost entirely on the tension built by montage and violence. Even though it’s drenched in powdery blood splatter, the film goes out of it’s way to connect the five assassin protagonists as boyhood friends forced back together to defeat their gangster boss, a distinct and effective basis in character which makes the action even more exciting. My only gripe with the film lies in it’s disregard for plausibility (in terms of story) and dependance on a magical realism of sorts, a strange tonal compliment considering the clashing genres at work. This aesthetic gets tiresome by the end, a jarring approach thankfully soothed by the film’s brilliant Western score and memorable layered action scenes. Another solid effort by today’s most ambitious master of mise-en-scene.