War of the Underworld (1996) War of the Underworld

War of the Underworld

Directed by: Herman Yau
Starring: Jordan Chan, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Carman Lee

Tagline: "The poster is better than the movie!"

(Jordan Chan) is a inept triad member who can't help getting into trouble with rival gangs, even going to the movies is a trial and he ends up having to be rescued by the estranged son of his gang's boss Hung Fei (Tony Leung Chiu Wai).

Tung (Carman Lee), Shun's sister puts up with his gang activities as she knows he is too timid to get into real trouble, but once she hears about Hung Fei she starts to get interested as she is a reporter for a popular magazine.

They both go to an illegal street race to try and track down Hung Fei and Tung ends up going along for the ride with a sabotage attempt en route by baseball bat wielding bikers. During the race Hung Fei tells Tung to scream as she will hurt herself holding it in and they just managed to win due to some short cuts on the way back.

At the retirement celebration for the gang's boss a rival gang stirs up trouble and so does Hung Fei, but what really stirs things up is the 'gift' the boss gets from the rival gang which causes him to have a stroke.

The rest of the gang goes into hiding while the rival gang tries to take over their territory. Shun is given the job of guarding the boss at the hospital, but they have to make a quick exit when the gang turns up looking for them (not before Shun acquires a rather painful injury from a boiling kettle.)

Towards the end of the movie the violence escalates with several characters being killed, almost killed or forced to act like dogs. Probably the best one of these scenes is the one where what looks like a couple of hundred people face off against each other on the street.

This film is one of the better reworkings of the triad genre made popular by the 'Young and Dangerous' series (it even acknowledges this by having the characters fighting over tickets to see the film.) The early parts of the movie have some funny moments, but it soon changes to a more dramatic mood as you would expect from this genre. People who don't like the way Triad society is romanticised would be well advised to avoid this movie as there are some questionable decisions made by the main characters.

As a special bonus I received for viewing this film at a 'Classic Cinema' screening I won the lucky door prize, which is the poster for this film. I must say it is an excellent poster partly due to the fact of its size (1940mm * 960mm), which is as big as two normal movie posters lengthwise. What I also like about it is that it has all the main characters featured on it (15 in all) as well as 1/4 views of the two main characters at each end with them holding newspaper wrapped machetes. Nice use of colour too.

My favourite character in the movie is Shun with his tattoos that his sister says make him look like a clown. He manages to provide some comic relief in between the more serious scenes. Hung Fei is a more serious, traditional triad hero, but he comes off as somewhat cold compared to the other characters.

The are many other supporting characters in this movie, but two of my favourites are the blond-headed dude with no shirt from the rival gang (he is funny) and the newspaper owner who provides the deadly guillotine blades. There is a police officer in the mix also, but he is not really that important to the story.

While the street racing was interesting to watch, the rest of the movie has pretty much what you would expect from this type of movie. I recommend this movie if you are fan of the stars or of the genre in general.

Movie Rating : 7/10
Poster Rating : 10/10

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