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The head of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, Inspector San Lee, will do anything to put triad boss Tung in jail, but he'll have to fight both sides of the law to do it. Written by
Erik Gregersen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Impressive and realistic depiction of the violent criminal world of Hong Kong
Organized Crime & Triad Bureau (1994) is the second film in Hong Kong film maker Che-Kirk Wong Chi Keung's impressive and hyper gritty trilogy of films based on the reality of Hong Kong police and the gangsters they try to capture as well. The first film in the trilogy is Crime Story (1993) starring the comedy kung fu star Jackie Chan in his most serious and dramatic role in which he doesn't even smile during the whole piece! The third film, Rock 'n Roll Cop (1994) is an incredibly ultra violent and also often confusing depiction of violent robbery gang near the borber of Hong Kong and the mainland and the police that are after them. All three films have the impressive style of its director, a veteran and maverick maker in the tradition of John Woo and Ringo Lam, and my opinion is that Organized Crime & Triad Bureaus stands out in the trilogy.
Danny Lee is again a cop, inspector Lee, who doesn't follow the rules of the book too much and thus gets in trouble with his superiors more than often. He is also disliked by some of the other policemen even though his own "group" is very loyal to him. Anthony Wong (the legendary actor specialized in psychopathic roles such as the "bunman" in Herman Yau's harrowingly violent 1993 terror piece The Untold Story, a film from which Wong earned the best actor award in the HK Film Awards) plays a determined and quite sympathetic triad boss Tung who has inspector Lee on his tail. The cop is not so "good" all the time nor the triad boss is thoroughly "bad" and this is the theme we get to see depicted during the ride of 91 minutes of Hong Kong adrenalin filled cinema.
The film has a great cast and naturally Wong and Lee definitely know their job and don't over act at all. Lee has played cop so many times he has even received many thanks from the real police for his realistic and (often) human depiction of the force and its inspectors. Wong is pretty restrained considering what kind of perfomances he gave in films like the mentioned The Untold Story or Ebola Syndrome (1996) by the same director, Herman Yau. He is natural and some interesting deeper sides in his criminal character become very believable as he acts with so much talent. Cecilia Yip Tung is very interesting, too, and she is perhaps the "coolest" and most restrained Hong Kong actress I know. She doesn't talk when there's nothing to say and she tells so much by only her eyes and face. The love affair between Wong and Cecilia has its "dark sides" because of Wong's nature and habits but still Cecilia's love towards him, no matter what, is real since the acting and characters in the piece are so carefully constructed and believable. The other actors include Fan Siu Wong, the lead from Nam Lai Choi's insane ultra gore fest prison drama Story of Ricky (1991), and Roy Cheung, a bad guy actor from many Hong Kong films like Ringo Lam's "On Fire trilogy" School on Fire (1988), City on Fire (1987) and Prison on Fire (1987).
The film is pretty close to John Woo's themes as it depicts the many sides of people that are in the different sides of the law and very often visit the "grey area" of their minds and souls. The way how cops treat their suspects is something unspeakable and very inhumanely violent, and unfortunately, very true and taken from the incidents of real life as Kirk Wong has admitted. This depiction of police turning equally bad or even worse than the original criminal was taken to its absolute extremes in Yau's The Untold Story that gets almost unbearably intense in its scenes of police brutality. Also the criminals are not just bad guys here as Wong has his moral code especially towards the girl he loves. He is also not able to kill a wounded little boy at one scene and that scene is very effective as it has the same kind of infernally violent urban feeling as the hospital finale in John Woo's Hard Boiled (1992). So the two sides of our nature are there in the film as they are in every day life. And Organized Crime & Triad Bureau is real everyday life, perhaps even more so than some would dare to see and admit.
The visual look is also impressive as can be expected by Wong. His trademarks include the blue lit interiors and exteriors created by different techniques and lenses, hand held camera, extremely low angles during the action scenes, a technique that creates an incredibly fast and furious illusion in the hands of this gifted director. The chase finale of Rock 'n Roll Cop is perhaps the most insanely fast and ultra violent action sequence I've seen in any Hong Kong film, and the low, grass level angles and camera drives create it mostly. If Woo makes his films like a painter in the room full of glass, Wong makes his films like a rhino in that room, but both make them masterful and convincing!
The cinematographer Joe Chan Kwong-Hung's filmography includes many interesting and masterpiece films of Hong Kong cinema like Ringo Lam's dark and harrowing School on Fire, the same director's masterful bullet spitting action miracle Full Contact (1992) with its incredible "bullet cam" techniques and Billy Chung's severely mean spirited CAT III shocker Love to Kill (1993) to name just a few. The scenes in Organized Crime & Triad Bureau are pretty restrained in their visual style and there are some very nice effects like the speeding of the Hong Kong landscape shot to make the atmosphere and pace even more "on the edge" and hand touchingly realistic and "everyday".
The action scenes themselves are nothing short of spectacular again. They are not as greatly choreographed or martial arts oriented as in Crime Story, nor (quite) as graphically violent as in Rock 'n Roll Cop, but they are more like massive and very authentic and there is no question about what film Michael Mann without a doubt had seen when he was writing his 1995 action thriller Heat, which has a similar and fierce city war sequence with Wong's film. The shotgun blasting finale of Wong's film is breathtaking in its chases and violent shootouts and is also pretty close to the finale of Johnny Mak's classic Long Arm of the Law (1984), a film that is considered to be the very first of the "heroic bloodshed" films albeit it is not as claustrophobic as in Mak's film. Some of the scenes in Triad Bureau are rather violent, especially the flashback showing the dark past of Cecilia Yip's character. It is the kind of harrowing ultra violence at times that makes it hurt the viewer as much as the victim inside the film, and that is exactly the way to depict this bad thing, violence, realistically and so that it would affect and change our feelings about it. The violence is not as deep element in Wong's film as it is in Woo's films and characters, but still it definitely doesn't look any more nicer here. In fact, the violence in Wong's hands is so brutal and without any "Woo elements and symbols of beauty and emotion" that some may find it unpleasant if searching for nothing more than entertainment and good feelings in films.
Some negative points can be found in Wong's film, too. Some of the scenes seem to develop too fast and straightforwardly like the mentioned flashback that seems to happen a little too fast and simply. Also the way how the piece ends, a fate of one bureaucrat that has annoyed the police throughout the whole film, is a little too brutal as it kind of fights against the film's anti violent message and premise as it was based on the real facts of Hong Kong society, and especially when the guy was fighting the corruption in the force. Still these little flaws are pretty easy to forgive as the film is otherwise so impressive, honest and noteworthy, and definitely has more ambition and talent than most action related cops and robbers films of Hong Kong cinema.
Organized Crime & Triad Bureau is perhaps Kirk Wong's masterpiece. His 1988 Gunmen is also a noteworthy period action drama with great performances by Waise Lee (Johnnie To's 1988 film The Big Heat) and Tony Leung Ka Fai (Ringo's Prison on Fire), and the circle of war continuying in the society impresses in that film. Wong's debut, after he had returned to Hong Kong from England where he was studying in art school, was a harrowingly violent and brutal The Club (1981), a film that starred a real life triad member Michael Chan Wai Man as a triad member who gets right in the middle of a bloody fight over an ownership of one club that would give the greedy triads a nice profit. Kirk Wong is the talented rhino of Hong Kong cinema. His films manage to grap the breath, make the heart beat and make the thoughts run, and those are among the reasons why his films are among the most noteworthy ones in the Hong Kong action cinema. 8/10
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