When people talk about the dregs of society, they’re usually talking about either the criminal or the poor, sometimes conflating the two. Mr. Long (Chang Chen) is a Taiwanese contract killer on hire to the mafia underground. His latest contract in Japan goes sour, leaving him broke and alone in a foreign country where he doesn’t speak the language. Inevitably, he finds shelter in an impoverished barrio where he hones his talent for making noodle bowls from scratch. After Mr. Long feeds and cares for the neglected son of an impoverished son of a heroin-addicted prostitute, the kind neighbors support him by cobbling together a noodle cart for him to make a business for himself.
The neighbors of the barrio insinuate that they’re all down on their luck for good reason. They say they have committed bad acts and Mr. Long is now friends with the unwanted people of society, but everybody sticks together. They try to support each other as best as they can, especially when they see somebody has a shot to make it out of their situation. Even the addict mother is seen as a sympathetic figure meant to inspire empathy and pity rather than scorn and derision. What does that say about how we treat the poor and the old that they believe they deserve their station in life?
Sure, the majority of Mr. Long is largely a cartoonish melodrama about starting an epic noodle bowl business and improving your life through cooking. But, it’s also about an assassin who did a botched job for a mafia crime boss. And it’s about the way society comes together to ensure their own survival. Mr. Long wrestles with the largest questions about our perception of the “dregs of society” while still managing to dish out heavy doses of extreme violence.
This candy-colored urban fable from Japanese director Sabu (Miss Zombie) is methodically paced but never slow. Sabu steadily unwraps the story through its many phases and sages, masterfully weaving a classic tale making the audience wait to see how the tale of woe will eventually turn out. There will be knives.