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Once a Gangster More at IMDbPro »Fei saa fung chung chun (original title)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Very good if you are from HK

8/10
Author: phsamuel-4 from United States
8 February 2014

I came across this one accidentally browsing amazon instant video. I had little idea what I was expecting except the cast. At first, I thought it was one of the very old (90's) gangster movies by Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan. It took me a while to realize that it is a rather recent movie.

As a HK born native (though no longer lives there), I found the dialog very witty and can imagine how most dialog cannot be well translated. So I can understand the relatively poor reception from non-Cantonese speakers. Probably people outside HK will also have difficulty to appreciate some of the references. For example, it did some on-going blatant reference to the controversial election system in HK. Probably only locals will find that funny.

Overall, it is an entertaining movie (if you are from HK). Despite predictable, the script is well written with believable twist.

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6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A Nutshell Review: Once a Gangster

6/10
Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
22 May 2010

Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan as gangsters all over again, why not? After all, these two chaps have been what was one of Hong Kong's most enduring cinematic icons with regards to the Gu Wak Zai in the 90s, and this is a reunion of sorts with both of them playing gangsters backed by rival factions within a triad group up for an election of a new triad leader.

Written and directed by Felix Chong, who had given us Overheard of last year, and Lady Cop & Papa Crook which I felt could have been onto something great if not for bowing down to Mainland China pressure for a more politically correct finale, this film somehow straddles between the two - It's not an all out serious fare with its penchant for comedy whenever possible, and it's not all nonsensical when you sit down and mull over its themes under the premise of reluctance.

In some moments, it's an absolute parody of Hong Kong gangster flicks like Johnny To's Election movies (borrowing its seeking a triad head and element of the Dragon Head/Tail baton), and the Infernal Affairs films with an undercover cop (WIlfred Lau) amongst them, and in other times, laden with great nostalgia of the fore-mentioned partnership between Jordan and Ekin in their Young and Dangerous days. The film is almost schizophrenic in treatment, not know what it wants to achieve, and hence it blew hot and cold throughout, which can get a bit perplexing as it stumbles its way through an erratic pace to a tight finale with plenty of blood-laden violence played out for laughs. See my point?

So what this boiled down to, is its characters and their struggles to keep their personal ambitions fulfilled. Alex Fong stars as Kerosene, who as a young man in the lower rungs of the triad society had recruited a bunch of new hoodlums, including Jordan Chan's Roast Pork, and because of the latter's tenacity in battles, Kerosene slowly rises to become chief, and rewards Roast Pork by funding his desire to open a string of restaurants. For Roast Pork, a life in the triads is not what he's seeking, but rather, a culinary one where he can find some stability to bring up his family.

Which gets a little complicated when Kerosene's leadership is under scrutiny for the embezzlement and losses from the triad's coffers due to dwindling members who had gone legit, and business models challenged by the latest technologies, and hence a new leader has to be found. Roast Pork becomes Kerosene's successor of choice, but rival gangster played by the overacting Yu On-on, pushes forward her son Sparrow (Ekin Cheng) instead, from a deed that he had undertaken for the triad group, and also using his lineage as the descendant of the triad founder as leverage.

Fans of Ekin will be wondering why it took almost half the film to run by before he turns up, but I guess it's better late than never, given a somewhat stylish introduction, only for the bombshell to be dropped that leadership is not what he's seeking, but an entry to the university to study Economics. So we have two reluctant would-be leaders, each trying to overcome their nominations to pursue what they prefer in life. And frankly by the time we hit this point, it's one more scene to the finale sequence only, leaving little room to dwell between the friendship/rivalry between Sparrow and Roast Pork. We want to see more screen time with the two sharing the same frame, and it's somewhat too little too late.

The only positives from this film is the dialogue, especially in a scene where Roast Pork launches into a discussion with his closest allies, that deviates into anything but the agenda at hand. I reckon that this portion will be side-splitting hilarious in Cantonese, but alas we have to make do with the Mandarin version here, which I suspect had taken the oomph out of many witty lines strewn all over the narrative. And watch out for WIlfred Lau's hilarious spoof of Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs, in what would be a running gag throughout the film and probably the best and most hilarious role here.

Once a Gangster should appeal to the Jordan-Ekin fan base without a doubt, and it's probably all worthwhile if we get to watch it in its original language track. You've been warned though of its erraticism and eccentricity, so you'll have to approach this with the mood to laugh along and laugh at its antics.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Hong Kong version of Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels...

5/10
Author: GarryJohal from Singapore
20 May 2010

...But not as good.

This film is a rather odd combination of humor, violence and tightly intertwined plot lines. It borrows heavily from Snatch and Lock Stock, which is not necessarily a bad thing. At times overacted, it tends to substitute flashy editing for meaty story and characterization. There is a fair bit of over-acting and it tends to get quite boring at several stages.

Overall, it's not a bad movie, but far from great. If you don't mind a pedestrian movie that's more amusing than earth-shattering, this would suit you fine. If you want a proper movie, catch this on DVD and spend your money on a different ticket.

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