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
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
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.
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