Johnny Hallyday seeks Vengeance in Cannes

Sun May 17, 2009 10:51am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Veteran French rocker Johnny Hallyday stars as a father out for blood in "Vengeance," a stylish thriller from Hong Kong director Johnnie To showing at the Cannes film festival.

Hallyday, who began his career in the 1960s as a local version of Elvis Presley, has been one of France's most recognizable faces in a career spanning five decades but is relatively unknown outside the French-speaking world.

In To's film he plays a French chef with a mysterious past who goes to Macau after his daughter and her family are gunned down there. Swearing revenge, he joins forces with a band of local gunmen to hunt down her attackers.

Hallyday's presence in a role originally intended for famous French actor Alain Delon underlined the inspiration To said he had drawn from the atmospheric thrillers of French directors such as Jean-Pierre Melville.

"The characters in the movies don't have much dialogue and they are really cool, romantic action heroes and of course we have a French actor in the lead," To told a press conference after the film's screening at Cannes.

"For me as a Hong Kong film director, I always hope I can find new ideas and new ways to bring films to the audience."

Hallyday's deep blue eyes and virtually immobile expression match the stylized atmosphere of To's film, which is played out in a neon-lit world of rainy streets, taciturn gangsters and highly choreographed gun fights.

The 65-year-old singer, whose other cinema appearances include Jean-Luc Godard's 1985 film "Detective," praised To's direction which he said mixed precise requirements for constructing scenes with rapid sketching of the story and dialogue.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Johnny Hallyday poses during a photocall for the film "Vengeance" by director Johnnie To at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2009. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>