Director: Johnnie To
Tagline: The machinations of triad politics exposed
In his introduction to the screening of this movie at the 2005 Melbourne International Film Festival, Johnnie To said he wanted to show the history of the triads and how they have degenerated into violence since they started over 300 years ago.
As it was the first screening since Cannes, he also wanted people in the audience to report anyone illegally recording the movie. Once it opens in Hong Kong the Triads will pirate it to sell on VCD anyway (fun with irony.)
This movie follows the lead up to and fallout from the election of a new leader of the Wo Sing triad in Hong Kong. Big D (Tony Leung Ka-fai) is trying to get the leadership by bribing all the “uncles” (senior leaders) of the triad and he is very impulsive.
Lok (Simon Yam) is more level-headed and knows he has to work within the system to succeed so he doesn’t overstate his case in the triad leadership. In one great scene, he continues to have dinner with his son when he learns he has won the election.
Big D is a very poor loser and kidnaps two of the uncles to torture them just out of spite. He is also trying to get the “Dragon Head Baton”, back from China as it is the symbol of power and whoever has it is seen as the leader.
The police arrest all the leaders as a matter of course and to keep them from each other’s throats and the negotiations continue in the cells. I liked the scene where the former leader Uncle Teng (Tian-lin Wang) kept having to pull up his pants while he is talking to Big D as it was funny.
As the baton is raced back to Hong Kong amongst much fighting and drama, the negotiations continue amongst the leaders. Will they come to a conclusion or not? Can Lok ever really trust Big D or will he try to grab for power? I’ll let you find out for yourself.
This is not a usual triad movie with the focus on violent fights and melodramatic love stories. I thought it was a strange choice for the closing night film as I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it at Chinatown Cinema as I have seen many other triad movies and I usually know what to expect from them.
I always enjoy when a movie brings something different to the genre and this movie did so with the exploration of the behind the scenes negotiations between the triads that the police have full knowledge of. This movie gets a slightly higher score from me as I saw Johnnie To partying hard at the closing night party for the festival and he is a good dancer and a hit with the ladies.
Rating: 8/10Thanks to this site for the poster: