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This movie tells the story of an aging hoodlum who wants to go straight and decides to invest his time and money in a tea-house. However, when the tea-house stands in the way of a development project supported by a rival gang who try to strong-arm everyone out of the development area, he must call upon his old gang to save his tea-house and the others in the project. Written by
A look at the cast list alone is enough to take you back to the glory days of 1990s Triad classics. While I would admit that you have probably seen a lot of this before, it's done with a modern influence, and it's clear that the actors had fun making it. If, like me, you loved the old films, you'll be smiling all the way to the end.
Unsurprisingly, the cast list appears at least partially like a mini "Young And Dangerous" reunion, and there are more than a few nods in the direction of that series: the sauna scene just needs some orange gowns and an appearance from Lee Siu-Kei, and you've got one of the scenes from the aforementioned goo waat jai series. Ng Chi-Hung's character is called "B" in this film - now where have we heard that before? Oh, and did I mention that the gang in this film is also called "Hung Hing"... but, unlike those awful Tung Sing guys, this is an honourable Triad... they don't deal in drugs. Just pineapple buns. And flour. :)
The film reflects upon the allegedly weakening power of Triad gangs in HK (though a look at the statistics on the HK Police's website would suggest otherwise), and it's fair to say that this particular gang has definitely been weakened, financially at least - it appears to have reached the point that one of the younger members is told to call the police if he finds any trouble, because "phoning for backup costs money but phoning 999 is free"!
You certainly won't see anyone mincing along King's Road in a loud shirt, while telling everyone that they run North Point, and no-one is laughed at for claiming to be the new Causeway Bay branch leader - quite frankly, this gang don't seem to be able to (or even want to) run anything; for a start, they are all - as they will freely admit - getting old, so "running" in any way may be ill-advised, and they know it ;)
Like many of the best Hong Kong films, this one mixes genres in varying degrees, but with varying success. While the general "Triad" theme would suggest that violence would be prevalent in this film, this is not the case - I think I only counted three real episodes of violence. However, like in some of the best crime/Triad films, these scenes appear very suddenly, and have far more effect than some of those 1990s VCD-only potboilers, where a hundred guys flail knives and sticks around for several minutes, yet no-one ever appears to bleed! That's definitely not the case here.
The almost-but-not-quite romance between Ghost and Mei is slightly unbelievable: the age gap is simply too large (Charlene Choi is a very young-looking 31-32 year old, which doesn't help), even when we consider what Eric Tsang gets up to in some of his films! They just don't look right together. Someone in their early 40s, like Sonija Kwok, would have been a much better match. However, Charlene does a good job of her role, it's just the age gap which is the problem.
Carrie Ng, on the other hand, who plays Ghost's ex-wife, is a more than adequate match, has better on-screen chemistry with Anthony Wong, and looks absolutely stunning for her age.
The times-have-changed theme appears also to be a nod towards the way HK has developed since the Handover - Mainland influence, fluctuating economic fortunes, and the feeling that money matters more than traditions and/or honour. Yet, as we have seen (both on and off-screen), Hong Kong isn't finished yet, and neither is the HK film industry.
What's more, there is minimal Mainland involvement in this film, unlike many recent films, and (fortunately!) NO Mandarin dialogue - hooray! The ending is not particularly spectacular, but also finishes in a way one might not quite have expected. I did wonder if the ending, and the way the "failed romance" between Ghost and Mei developed, was actually preparing us for a sequel? While the film clearly stands up well on its own, there is certainly potential for a "GPD2".
Having been a HK film fan for over 30 years, I understand that the "glory days" of frequent classics are long gone. However, this is one industry which refuses to die, and seems to have taken a positive step forward in some recent years. If the future means more films like "Kung Fu Jungle", the "Overheard" series, "Cold War", "The Midnight After" and this one, then the future may be looking a lot better than it did in, say, 2003. In the current climate, that's great news.
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