My absolute favorite film out of this year’s TIFF is in theaters and on VOD today. SNAKEHEAD is the narrative feature launching of Evan Jackson Leong and one of the best debuts I’ve viewed this year.
The film follows the journey of Sister Tse (Shuya Chang, Made in Chinatown), who pays a “snakehead” (a person who “snakes in” people) to smuggle her into the country on a mission for better opportunity and to find her long lost daughter. Beholden to crime family matriarch Dai Mah (Jade Wu, Luke Cage) for her entry into the US, she works her way up the ranks of the organization – earning the trust of Dai Mah and the ire of Mah’s son Rambo (Sung Kang, F9, Power).
A tale that exposes human exploitation, trafficking, and the cruel, opportunistic, organized crime underworld of NYC’s Chinatown, “Snakehead” is filled with noir inspired cinematography, a vintage 70’s feel, and an old-school inspired soundtrack/score.
Shuya Chang portrays Sister Tse with a shrewdness that captivates from the beginning of the film to its very satisfying conclusion, and Wu’s Dai Mah is the crime boss I didn’t know I needed to see in a film.
To watch both of these female leads spar on screen was a joy. Even more delightful was learning how the Chinatown community supported Leong in the making of this film by donating spaces, food and monetarily assisting with crowdfunding the project.
As much a tale about human nature as it is about the conditions that allow human trafficking and other types of atrocities to thrive, “Snakehead” is part action, part drama, and I was all in for both in addition to the crime saga. I rate the film 4 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer.
SNAKEHEAD opened in theaters and is available on video-on-demand today, October 29.
Until next thought, Thomasena