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Li Man-Ho comes to Hong Kong after his father's death following a double crossed peace meeting at the hands of a rival gang. The family's business begins to crumble as rival organizations stir violence and trouble in acknowledgment of this weakness. Li Man-Ho reluctantly agrees after pressure from other members to temporarily act as leader in order to restore stability and order. But he is soon faced with violence, betrayal and confusion, in this world he tried so long to avoid. Written by
This movie tells the story about a triad leader being killed in a gang fight in Hong Kong. His son, a well educated business man living in the United States, goes back to Hong Kong and slowly gets himself involved in his father's dirty business... sounds familiar??
However, Triads: The Inside Story is more than a Hong Kong interpretation of Francis Ford Coppola's classic film the Godfather. As the title suggests, it is supposed to give insights to one of the most mysterious crime organizations in the world. The producers, Cheung Kuen, and several actors in the film, such as Chan Wai-Man and Shing Fui-On, are rumored to have triad connection themselves. And yes, we do get a glimpse at these elements, namely the "Induction Ceremony" at the beginning and Yeung Kong's "Promotion Ceremony" after he saves Li Man-Ho (Chow Yun Fat). But that's pretty much it. The filmmakers cannot show too much because of censorship. In Hong Kong, merely being a member of the triad, or doing anything related (such as holding one of those ceremonies in the film), can get you arrested. A too-detailed narration of triad materials is likely to be seen as promotion and needless to say it is a definite no-no.
The plot is somewhat messy. There seems to be two sub plots: 1) Li Man-Ho (Chow Yun-Fat) being forced to get involved in the triad business, and 2) Yeung Kong (Roy Cheung) tries to break free from the elders' interference and run the gang his way. A story about these two men is enough to make a good movie, but instead, director Taylor Wong tries to tell more. The plot ends up being confusing. The characters are underdeveloped, wasting talents such as Chow and Cheung. The theme is cliché: triads are evil so don't get involved. This message is found in all films of the genre, because filmmakers can then justify making movies that praises triad members as heroes without being criticized.
Like many young men growing up in Hong Kong, I have always been curious about the mysterious triads, and this film does satisfy my curiosity somewhat. This film is a classic in the sense that later films in the genre, such as the Young and Dangerous series, clearly borrow material from this film. However, the poorly written script prevents the movie from getting any score higher than a mere pass. I give this it 5 out of 10.
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