Those Were the Days

Reviewed by YTSL
 

The Goo Wat Jai are back!  And while this latest installment is not "Young and Dangerous 6" (something which is being filmed as I write this review in the northern hemisphere summer of 2000), it is an official part of the series and consequently does feature at least guest appearances by many now familiar faces (including those of Ekin Cheng, Sandra Ng, Vincent Wan, Anthony Wong and even Kristie Yeung).  Even better is that this Yip Wai-Man directed movie does for the character so well essayed by Jordan Chan what his "Portland Street Blues" did for Sister Thirteen:  I.e., give new insights, flesh out and further develop a personality who had already majorly intrigued even while generally having played second fiddle to Chan Ho Nam.

Right from the get go, THOSE WERE THE DAYS does what its Y&D predecessors have done:  Play with your expectations and then exceed, by confounding, them (If you don't believe me, see if you can predict the turn of events that take place in the very first ten minutes or so and propel this 102 minute length film along towards the path that it will largely take).  Although it starts off -- and ends -- in a present in which the movie's main character is known as Cock (as opposed to Chicken in previous Y&D episodes) and does act like he's Cock of the Walk in Macau (where he is visiting his Hung Hing colleagues, Sister Thirteen and Ben), it soon segues into -- and its proceedings mainly take place in -- past times when he was but (a) Chick.
Jason Chu, Jerry Lamb, Michael Tse, Jordan Chan, Gigi Leung
One of the things the audience quickly learns is how and from whom this man -- who I previously assumed had been so called because he was as sexually easy as that category of women workers collectively colloquially referred to in Cantonese as "chicken" (as opposed to their "duck" termed male equivalents!) -- got what turned out to be an endearing childhood nickname.  Another matter addressed in this exploratory drama is how and why Cock and three of his "heng tai" (brotherly buddies; who are portrayed as young men by Jerry Lamb, Jason Chu and Michael Tse) decided to become members of the Hung Hing section ruled by benevolent Triad boss Bee (Ng Chi Hung makes a welcome reappearance in this role); with the no frills housing estate -- condemned by a non-resident as "not fit for humans" -- in which these then really youthful rascals dwelled getting implicitly implicated, along with individual personalities and actions, as at least a background factor for their straying off life's lawful path.
No mistake should be made though that:  At the heart of THOSE WERE THE DAYS is a bittersweet, "opposites attract" love story between two childhood neighbors and friends (who, when grown up, appear in the form of Jordan Chan and Gigi Leung).  If nothing else, the wistful sounding music (which greatly contrasts with the pulsating anthems that have come to associated with the Y&D crowd) that plays as the opening credits roll ought to have served as "warning" re this.  To be sure, it is one of those romances in which Triad business and associations frequently intrude and majorly get in the way; and not just on the part of the male half of this couple.  However, rather than complicate and confuse, such shenanigans do help make clear why things rather logically but unfortunately came to be the way that they were for the actually rather complex Cock (and the lanky girl-woman he adored at first sight called Gee).

If it is not already obvious, Jordan Chan is my favorite of the Young Turk actors whose rise to stardom came in large part by way of the "Y&D" set of films.  Although he is by no means the most handsome guy in the Hong Kong movie world, he not only consistently looks good on his own but also has exhibited incredible screen chemistry with actresses as diverse as Anita Yuen (particularly in "He's a Woman, She's a Man"), Jade Leung ("Fox Hunter"), Charlie Yeung ("The Wedding Days"), Chingmy Yau ("Young and Dangerous 2"), Karen Mok (He and she make a fun pair in the third and fourth Y&D films) and Yasuko Tomita ("Kitchen").

Chan Pak Yue, Gigi Leung and Jordan Chan
In THOSE WERE THE DAYS, he and Gigi Leung absolutely convince as a couple who have known and have had genuine affection for each other for a long time (And the child actors who amusingly play Chick and Gee weren't bad at all either!).  Sparks fly too in this movie between the troubled Triad and a Taiwanese fisher girl-woman woman he encounters on Lama Island (Chan Pak Yue makes a confident screen debut in this small but eye-catching role).  Still, the often nostalgic but not entirely sentimental film's absolute highlight scene is that which takes place in a hospital room between Gee's mother (veteran actress Lily Li is wonderful in this role) and Chick.  The fact of it having brought tears to my often-cynical eyes (and other sections putting a lump in my throat) should constitute ample evidence that this often knowing work has the ability to move as well as entertain.
Lilly Li and Jordan

My rating for the film:  8.5