Film & DVD Review
Rising through the ranks with the stealth of cruise missiles, Chan Ho Nam, and schoolyard buddies, Chiu, Fao Pan and Yee, become formidable players within the notorious Hung Hing Society triad. Under the fatherly guidance of Uncle B, and the watchful eye of society head, Chiang, Chan and his entourage of "Wise Guys" flourish. But a failed assassination attempt in Macau leaves Chan alienated, Chicken a fugitive on the run in Taiwan, and former rival, Ugly Kwan, the prime candidate to take over leadership. But defeat is one thing they won't take lying down! A deadly couterplan hatched, Chan steers headlong into a deadly face-off with his nemesis of the past ten years, the vicious and brutal Kwan.
Director Andrew Lau is a director that has become very well known for making two completely different styles of film. He is the man behind the computer graphics heavy films that started with Storm Riders. So far he has made four of them, and in my opinion they have gotten progressively worse with each one. The other films style is the triad films. He co-helmed the excellent Infernal Affairs trilogy, and is the man behind the majority of the Young and Dangerous series.
The Young and Dangerous series is hard to keep track of, following which films are official films in the series, which ones are spin offs and which ones just look like they are part of the series but are neither official or spin offs. The last count that I heard of was that the Young and Dangerous series was up to its ninth film, but as far as I am aware this includes three official spin offs, as listed on the Young and Dangerous Series page. If any of the info is inaccurate then please let me know!
Anyway this is the film that started the series, and is the one that introduced many characters that would form the basis for the series. From what I can tell, this installment is based on a comic, as there are many scenes where you see the actors in a pose, and it then changes to a comic strip of the same scene. This film centres on a group of young members of the Hung Hing triad gang. The main two are Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng) and Chicken (Jordan Chan). They've been in the Hung Hing for 10 years following their boss Bee, and their loyalty and dedication has seen them rise through the triad ranks. Being the most trusted members to their boss, they are sent on an assassination mission in Macau, but it goes badly wrong leaving Chan and Chicken at odds. They know were set up, and they know who did it but are unable to touch him. Despite this, over time they a plan is made to get their revenge.
For what is clearly a low budget film Young and Dangerous contains quite a few surprises. Firstly the story has a little more to it than a lot of other triad films that I've seen. There is the main story line, but this is intertwined with quite a number of subplots and stories. This makes the film far less linear that in could have been, and so many others have been. Even on my second viewing (several years after my first), I was still entertained and interested in what I was seeing unfold on screen. The main characters had depth and this made me more sympathetic to the situations they found themselves in. However, while there are lots of separate stories in the film, what stops the film being better than it is, is that none of the stories are that special in their own right. Nothing is that clever, there are no twists, everything is quite generic and all the stories are just equal to the sum of their parts as opposed to greater than. The reason that Young and Dangerous gets away with this, to a degree, is because here there are many generic stories, unlike most films that only have one or two story lines.
This invoked sympathy towards the characters really is a must for this film, as without it the film would not work quite as well. This is because the main characters, Chan Ho Nam and Chicken are not nice guys. In any other film they would be the bad guys as they go around killing other people with no remorse. They have no hesitation in beating other people up, although this does appear to be only with other triads. It is also fortunate for them that there are other more evil people in the film, so comparatively they come across well and more in a good light. This leads off to something that Young and Dangerous can possibly be accused of - glamorising the triad life. Yes you do see the down sides to what happens, the triads can be killed and in the triad lifestyle there are separate laws and rules that have to be obeyed, but other than that the lifestyle is a little glamorised. The triads are seen pretty much to get whatever women they want, they have money to spend in excess, they are able to break laws that general members of the public have to obey, and they can get away with it because of their connections and their money. The increased likelihood of an early death is a big price to pay, but that point isn't exactly laboured upon.
Acting wise the film scores nicely too. Some people don't like Ekin Cheng and certainly don't think too much of his acting. I have to agree that some of his recent acting efforts (that I've seen) haven't been too hot, but I thought he was good as Chan Ho Nam. He seemed to fit the part well, and the chemistry between his brothers and himself came across well. He was, however, out done by Jordan Chan. I've always thought highly of Jordan's acting abilities for some reason, and again in this role as Chicken I thought he had the part down very well. The main potential scene-stealer was Francis Ng as Kwan, but I'm not sure what to make of his performance. It was a little too overplayed in places, and the post-dubbed voice was a little too husky or something for my liking. Like most people though, it still got the job done well enough. The only other person I am going to comment on is Gigi Leung... god damn she is so good looking and cute in this film!! Her acting as the stuttering love interest for Chan Ho Nam is decent too, but having her look so pleasing for the eye is such an added bonus!
Young and Dangerous was made with a ruggedly stylised look to it. There is nothing flash in the camera work and there are no special effects. The camera is often shaky, being right up there in the streets with the Hung Hing boys as they walk around Hong Kong. It looks rough, but that is right in tune with the Hung Hing society's lifestyle.
Audio & Subtitles
The audio for this DVD release is the original stereo soundtrack. I've never been one that is good at commenting on stereo tracks, so why break the habit of a lifetime! All I can really say is that it gets the job done, although some of the speech at times sounds like it is a little muffled. The soundtrack isn't helped from having some horrible music to play! The film is clearly post-dubbed, but mostly with the actual actors voices.
The subtitles are yellow with a transparent black backing bar. Unfortunately they are positioned on the lower section of the film print, and also off the bottom. This stops the letterboxed film print being zoomed in on with widescreen TVs. They are non-removable subtitles. Spelling and grammar wise the subs are basically perfect, as I don't recall seeing any errors at all.
Here is where this DVD for Young and Dangerous is at its worst. The film print really is quite poor. This is most notable during the opening scenes where there is absolutely everything wrong that you can possibly think of. Almost immediately I noticed motion artefacts, compression artefacts and a really terrible looking film resolution. Some characters faces looked as though they were quite pixelated, and every time anyone moved there was a blur in their wake. Once the film moved to the present none of these things were nearly as noticeable, but detail levels were still low, and there was still slight evidence of compression and motion artefacts. Colours looked alright though, and there was only a little grain to the print.
DVD & Extras
The DVD calls itself a Special Widescreen Edition... that is a bit of a laugh. It should be more like, Not Very Special Letterboxed Edition, but I doubt that would sell as well! The only extra is the theatrical trailer.
The first of many Young and Dangerous films gets the series off to a good start. It could have been better if it had a little more to each of the story lines, but as it is Young and Dangerous is a nice solid triad action film, and is better than quite a number of other triad films I've seen.
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