Written by: Carroll Jenkins on July 10th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1984
Director: Johnny Mak
Writer: Philip Chan
Cast: Jing Chen, Jian Huang, Lung Jiang, Ben Lam, Wai Lam, James Mou, Wai Shum, Kwong Leung Wong
DVD Released: December 23rd, 2009
Approximate Running Time: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: IIb (Hong Kong)
Sound: DTS Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital Mono Cantonese, Dolby Digital Mono Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Chinese
DVD Release: Joy Sales
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC (Hong Kong)
Retail Price: $10.51 ($82 HK)
Synopsis: A mainland China crew is recruited by an old army buddy to pull a jewelry store robbery in Hong Kong. Complications arise.
This is a gritty, grimy, and violent crime actioner, also very realistic with a rough documentary feel. Produced very early in the ‘bullet ballet’ genre of urban crime dramas (by Sammo Hung), it created more cliches than it incorporated. Later triad movies such as Election are more polished in most every respect, but that doesn’t mean they are more effective than this trailblazing effort from director Johnny Mak and action director Billy Chan.
The characters are all painted in shades of gray with no absolute blacks and whites. These criminals are desperate, but we witness the poverty that drives them to seek this one big score. The police case becomes a vendetta, and we witness officers firing machine guns into public crowds as fugitives flee in their midst. The cast is exceptional throughout, with Wai Lam always commanding loyalty from the crew despite the downward spiral they vainly struggle to escape.
In many respects this is a dark comedy, as the protagonists blunder from one situation to another. The middle act allows a little ‘down time’ with some hostesses, which provides for some comic relief, romance, and additional character development – for those that have survived thus far.
Previously available on Deltamac and Mega Star, this new Joy Sales release is somewhat disappointing, especially given the ‘digitally remastered’ banner. The second unit work in the opening mainland sequences is rather poor, though the production gets much better when it arrives in HK. The DVD, however, is merely adequate with some motion blur and occasional line shimmering. The anamorphic 1:85 widescreen presentation features Cantonese and Mandarin soundtracks.
This bleak and memorable crime story gains momentum as it snowballs into a ferocious juggernaut. No kidding.