Director Wong Jing is renowned for low brow and enjoyable at times action comedies but here with co-director Jason Kwan gives viewers the dramatic story of gangster Crippled Ho’s journey from low life street thug to criminal mastermind, Chasing the Dragon.
The film is a revisiting of the stories from two classics films of that era — Lawrence Ah Mon’s Lee Rock and Poon Man-kit’s To Be Number One, in fact, Andy Lau reprises his role of Lee Rock 26 years after the original. The film unites two of the biggest stars of Hong Kong cinema together Lau and action superstar Donnie Yen with enjoyable if mixed results.
Ng Sek-Ho (Donnie Yen) is an immigrant who comes to Hong Kong in 1963. While protecting his friends, Ho runs afoul of the British run Hong Kong Police Force but makes an unlikely friend in Lee Rock (Andy Lau), a policeman who views Ho as a potential ally in his rise to power. Eventually, the two friends are placed on a fateful collision course, as their respective kingdoms are put in jeopardy when the corrupt Police Force are rooted out by the government to rid the colony of the criminal influence once and for all.
The film has a lot of great points, the sets, costume design and cinematography are all excellent but the film just feels a little empty and has little of the grit or tension you would expect while the underdeveloped secondary characters don’t help matters. The chemistry between the two leads is good and well-played, but you don’t really get to care much about Yen’s character as he comes across at times as hypocritical, a point made to him by his son in one of the many dramatic confrontations in the film. The action is good and well staged, don’t expect the usual kung-fu moves from Yen as this is down and dirty which fits the subject matter perfectly, the action highlight being a chase and shootout at Kowloon Walled City. The British police are all portrayed as evil and corrupt and there is not much sex or gore on show something which no doubt pleased the mainland Chinese censors.
It may sound like I am being a little harsh because overall the film is definitely worth a watch and it is good to see Donnie Yen stretch his acting muscles and Andy Lau once again proves why he is still one of the best actors working in Hong Kong after all these years. Look out for some great cameo’s also by veteran HK players such as Chan Wai Man, Kenneth Tsang and Kent Cheng. A great effort with a big budget just a shame the supporting players are generally underwritten, not sure if the film was cut before release because of the running time, and as usual, the English dialogue is at times cringe-worthy and badly written.
The film has been released in the UK by Wellgo but sadly on DVD only. While it is great to see such recently made Hong Kong movies getting a UK release it is also criminal that it is not available on Blu Ray, what is this 2007? Everyone has a HD TV these days and to not give fans the option of a Blu Ray release is simply ridiculous. The annoying thing is Wellgo in the USA have given it the HD treatment so fans who want that option will have to import it.
A very enjoyable film and well worth your time to seek it out.
7.5 out of 10