Dir: Wong Ching-Po
Star: Annie Liu, Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Eric Tsang
I was drawn into this by the stellar cast, virtually a Who’s Who of Hong Kong gangster actors. Wong, Yam and Tsang have all stamped their presence on the triad genre, so this was like a mob movie starring Pacino, DeNiro and Walken. The premise, as described by Netflix, also sounded intriguing: “Adopted by a powerful Hong Kong mobster as an infant, Phoebe returns from schooling in the United States only to have her new dad slain by a rival.” I’ve seen this used to decent effect previously, perhaps most notably in the memorably-titled Japanese offering, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun.
Only here, the producers screw the pooch by throwing in the Chinese equivalent of Lindsay Lohan as the daughter, Phoebe (Liu), along with a director and script who appear entirely uninterested in the facets which make the genre great, and prefers to do things like film a shot with the camera turned 90 degrees, for no apparent reason. As another example, instead of, a climactic gun-battle, we get a climactic…multiple pile-up? Vehicles fly in from all directions, with no apparent logic, in what I think is intended to be a Meaningful Statement of some kind. Then – and I trust I’m not spoiling it for anyone, and if I am, this is my unbothered face – the gangsters all decide to give up gangstering.
About the only character of interest is a true female gangster, Nova, who was only stopped from killing Phoebe as part of a blood feud years ago by the intervention of her father, and who is still out for revenge. I guess the moral here is supposed to be that, given a good example, even the deepest and darkest can reform. But Phoebe is so incredibly whiny, you find yourself rooting for Nova to succeed, simply to shut up the irritating teenager. It’s a very sad waste of talent, by a cast which deserves an awful lot better. And so does the audience.