Once Upon a Time in Triad Society

This film takes on the essence of a triad tall tale as it progresses; a story to be orally passed down from triad generation to triad generation and always taking on a different hue, an even larger than life slant. Triad society is presented through the prism of a black comedy and though it often comes across as brutal, it is also incredibly absurd and nearly surreal. The filmmakers borrow the nasty triad character Kwan (Francis Ng) from the Young and Dangerous series and just creatively riff off of it. Though related to Y&D, this is a very distant cousin. This film is all funky jittery improvisational jazz to the Y&Ds lounge music. In this triad world there are no pretty boys with long tresses, no loyalty, no friendships, no little chipper girlfriends on the side. This world is nasty and brutal and deadly and no one is to be trusted.
Francis Ng and Michael Chan
Everything about this film has movement in it the music, the camera work and the actors just keep driving the film forward. Ng with one of his first great roles creates one of the unique characters in HK film. He is incredible as he creates a multi dimensional character that has no redeeming qualities and yet you cant help but be fascinated by him he is like watching a cobra. He compares to no other triad bad guy on the screen. Full of quirks and tics and bravado, Ng just dominates the screen for 90-minutes. There is hardly a moment in which he is off camera.

In the opening few minutes his odiousness is well established as he tries to rape a girl I wont rape you if you have sex with me then sells her into a brothel in the Middle East and finally kills someone in cold blood with a bottle. All without raising a sweat. He later gets shot and taken to a hospital where he even tries to feel up the nurse Pauline Chan while being operated on.

As he is lying there thinking he is dying, he decides to tell his story. Or stories. He begins one segment with No one is born nasty and tries to convince God and the audience that he is really not such a bad sort. He was honorable and courageous but betrayals from his boss (Michael Chan), his friends and his girl (Loletta Lee) forced him to become the man he is today. When he floats from Japan to HK one begins to suspect this is all a whitewash and then he jumps into version number two.
Ng, Loletta Lee, Spencer Lam Seung-Yi
Its all done very tongue in cheek at times and there are some wonderfully absurd moments. Such as killing his friend because he thinks his friend is about to do him in only to find out it is a surprise birthday party and then trying to dance his dead friend out the door before anyone notices.

This is easily one of the more intriguing takes on triad life too absurd to take very seriously and yet somehow I suspect there is a strong dose of reality within this tall tale.

My rating for this film: 8.0