Rules of the Game

There is a terrific little book about baseball called Rules of the Game, but as you might guess this film is not based on that. Too bad – it would be interesting to see a HK film about baseball. As it is, this is yet another film about the world of the triads. The old TV series Naked City always began with a prologue “There are a million stories in the Naked City. This is one of them”. If it were HK I think 999,900 of them would deal with the triads – at least according to the movies. Not that I have anything specific against triad films – many of them are truly great films – but aren’t there other stories to tell in HK? At this point it takes a very original story or style to make much of an impression and though this film has some fine moments in the end it is just another triad film – full of brawling, brotherhood and divided loyalties.

Alex Fong is head of the Hung Lok Gang and in an early scene he provides an example of following the rules of the triad. Brother Sexy beats up a member of the gang for cheating at his gambling parlor, but he goes too far and maims the man. Fong (Brother Shing) explains to him that there are rules – even within the triads – and without them there would be total chaos. So a burlap bag is placed over Brother Sexy and he is beaten with a baseball bat (so there is a little baseball here!). No hard feelings – those are just the rules of the game.

But for those outside of the triad – anything goes. Louis Koo, Sam Lee and two other friends who own a car mechanic shop go to see Ann (Kristie Yeung) who has just begun working at a hostess bar. She is the sister of one of the friends and Koo has a long-time crush on her. He warns her to “be a goldfish, not a cockfish” meaning that she should only chat with the customers and not go home with them for money. She adamantly agrees.

Kristie Yeung and Louis Koo
Things quickly get very nasty when Fong gets an urge for Ann and he is only more intrigued when she refuses to go home with him. Soon Koo and friends get into a fight with his followers and Fong brutalizes Sam Lee who becomes paralyzed and brain dead (This is not really a film for Sam Lee fans as he is wheelchair bound and silent for the rest of the film). Koo swears revenge.
Loyalties get confusing though when Ann has to plead with Fong to save her four friends from a vicious loan shark. He does so and then asks them to be his followers. Koo realizes that this is the only way to succeed in this life and so he agrees and becomes as deadly a killer as Fong. But he hasn’t forgotten his pledge to Lee.
Alex Fong and Koo
Some of this is well done and by the end of the film you really don’t know who to root for – Fong or Koo – and neither does Ann which makes it all the more interesting. Still though, I never connect with the characters and often the film was way too over dramatic – accompanied by very annoying swelling type music. Except perhaps for Ann – none of the characters felt fresh or more than cardboard character cutouts from other triad films.
There is a fair amount of action - of the machete wielding kind - and though not badly done - it could have been from hundred other triad films. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for this - but nothing here struck me as particulary memorable.

My rating for this film: 6.0