Project Gutenberg

Counterfeit artist Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is extradited to Hong Kong from Thailand. The Hong Kong Police Force led by Inspector Ho (Catherine Chau) are investigating a series of murders and robberies involving counterfeit notes linked to Lee, masterminded by a mysterious figure known only as “Painter.” The interrogations are interrupted by renowned artist Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu), attempting to bail Lee. An agreement is reached where Lee will be released into witness protection for revealing Painter’s identity and criminal history, so Lee begins recounting his past.

In the 1990s, Lee and Yuen were lovers living together in Vancouver, struggling to sell their artwork. Yuen’s artistic talent was eventually recognized, but Lee’s artwork was criticized for only imitating the styles of great masters. Lee realized his skills and reluctantly became a forger to make a living.

Lee’s work was eventually noticed by Painter (Chow Yun-fat), who invites Lee to join his team. Lee agreed to leave Canada with the goal of returning and winning over Yuen. Lee successfully worked with the team to overcome the security features of the new 1996 US 100-dollar bill, but became disturbed by Painter’s increasingly violent actions, especially after an armored car hijacking resulting in the deaths of all the Canadian guards.

With their counterfeit stock, Painter’s team traveled to Thailand to re-negotiate their contract with crime boss “the General.” Painter revealed that he was actually here for revenge, knowing that the General was responsible for the death of Painter’s father. During the destruction of the compound, Lee rescued Sau-ching, the General’s own counterfeit expert. Sau-ching joined Painter’s team after recovering from her injuries, and Painter gave her a fake passport with the name “Yuen Man.” At this time, Lee learnt that Yuen had became a successful artist, but also that she was engaged to her agent.

Painter discovered that their next counterfeit buyer was an undercover from the Canadian police. Painter ordered Lee to kill him during the deal, but Lee hesitated and Painter was forced to kill the buyer in the ensuing struggle. Frustrated with Lee’s cowardice, Painter revealed a captured and blindfolded Yuen with her agent in the next room. Painter insisted if Lee really wants Yuen back in his life, he should prove it by killing her fiancé. When Lee refused, Painter shot the agent himself, causing Lee to turn on him. Almost everybody was killed in the gunfight that follows; Lee and Sau-ching escaped to Lee’s new home in Thailand. Lee was eventually arrested by the Thai police for counterfeiting. As he was taken away, Lee noticed Painter in a crowd, and realized he set Lee up for the crimes.

In the present day, Lee and Yuen are escorted to a hotel. Inspector Ho notices a policeman matching Lee’s drawn depiction of Painter. He is captured and interrogated, but the confused policeman insists he is a legitimate officer, and was the one who drove Lee Man to the police headquarters.

It is revealed that while Lee’s recount is mostly accurate, the Painter is fabricated and Lee himself was Painter all along. The real Yuen Man is currently in China, while the Yuen Man in Hong Kong is actually Sau-ching, who received cosmetic surgery to look like Yuen following the burns she received. Sau-ching had feelings for Lee, but Lee was only using her as a replica for Yuen Man, so she turned Lee to the Thai police. While in prison, Lee wrote to Sau-ching for forgiveness and assistance to escape. Lee and Sau-ching kill their guards and escape Hong Kong by boat.

The next day, Sau-ching reveals to Lee that she has been deliberately sailing in circles and they are still in Hong Kong. As the police surround them, she declares she is tired of living as Yuen Man’s replacement, and detonates a cache of explosives on the boat.

Inspector Ho visits Yuen Man in China to inform her of Painter’s death, but Yuen indifferently says it will not bring back her fiancé. Asked if she recognizes Lee’s photograph, Yuen states that he was a neighbor; it seems Lee’s relationship with Yuen was also fabricated, and his obsession with her was no more than the unrequited love of a stranger.


Chow Yun-fat as Ng Fuk-sang (吳復生) / Painter (畫家) / HKP driver Ng Chi-fai (吳志輝)
Aaron Kwok as Lee Man (李問)
Zhang Jingchu as Yuen Man (阮文)
Joyce Feng as Ng Sau-ching (吳秀清)
Liu Kai-chi as Ng Yam (吳鑫), Painter’s assistant
Catherine Chau as Inspector Ho Wai-lam (何尉藍)
David Wang as Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer Lee Wing-chit (李永哲), Inspector Ho’s lover
Alien Sun as Lam Lai-wah (林麗華), a member of Painter’s team
Deon Cheung as Bobby Wong (王波), a member of Painter’s team
Justin Cheung as Shum Sei-hoi (沈四海), a member of Painter’s team
Carl Ng as Lok Man (駱先生), Yuen Man’s agent and fiancé
Alex Fong as HKP Deputy Commissioner Ho (何副處長), Inspector Ho’s father (guest appearance)
Jack Kao as General (將軍) (guest appearance)
Xing Jiadong as General’s secretary (guest appearance)
Leung Kin-ping as Lam Tin-lik
Felix Lok as YT
Dominic Lam as painting shop owner
Chan Mong-wah as Law Sam
Javier Hernández and Diego España