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Rebels of the Neon God 

Wednesday, Jun 24 2015
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Not to suggest that cigarette smoking or petty crime is cool, but is it possible to have a cooler entrance than that of Ah Tze (Chen Chao-jung) and Ah Bing (Chang-bin Jen), first seen robbing a blue-lit phone booth on a rainy night in Taipei, cigarettes dangling from their lips? Tsai Ming-liang's 1992 Rebels of the Neon God, now getting its first domestic theatrical distribution along with a spiffy restoration, is an equally cool entrance for the director of What Time Is It There? and last year's Stray Dogs, among many others. In addition to Ah Tze and Ah Bing, Rebels follows the parallel storyline of Hsiao-kang (Kang-sheng Lee), who becomes obsessed with Ah Tze from a distance after the latter smashes Hsiao-kang's father's rear windshield. The characters all bum about the media-drenched Taipei, their primary hangouts being a video arcade, and the roller rink where Ah Tze's brother's girlfriend Ah Kuei (Yu-Wen Wang) works. While Rebels of the Neon God wears its influences on its sleeve, especially the underlying theme of repressed queer longing in the phonetically similar Rebel Without a Cause, its own influence can be seen in pictures like last year's The Toy Soldiers, which also focused on damaged teenagers and their roller rink. But it can't touch Rebels for grimy coolness.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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