This feels like a minor film compared to In The Mood For Love or Ashes of Time. It's set in the present day, and while Wong Kar-Wai is still obsessed by the lovelorn stoicism of his characters, at least here he gives one budding couple an escape.
It's still a bit of a mess though, and I'm not just talking about the long exposure effect Kar-Wai likes to use for his chase scenes. The film is actually two separate films clumsily jammed together, with a takeaway outlet in Hong Kong's Chungking Mansions serving as the bridge between them. Both don't really have enough to them. They are like short stories – vignettes designed to introduce you to a shared setting. And the first is particularly ludicrous, involving a drug dealer gunning down a bunch of double-crossing Indian migrants.
All the characters in Chunking Express feel one-dimensional, defined by quirks like a fixation on tinned pineapples or the song 'California Dreamin' by The Mamas & the Papas. These serve as obvious symbols for loneliness or wanderlust, and they create recurring patterns which fail to build to anything beyond the sum of the parts.
The plot is as contrived as anything else by Wong Kar-Wai – every one of his films I've seen tries to stretch out the possibility of a connection between lovers past endurance. Depending on your tastes, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. I find it unappealingly manipulative when the achingly cool characters involved are so completely devoid of personality.