Century of the Dragon
I think Andy Lau has likely played more triad
characters than John Wayne ever did cowboys and like watching those old
John Wayne films, Lau's triad films can be somewhat comforting in
their predictability. This one produced by Wong Jing and directed
by Clarence Ford (Fok) travels a well-trodden path. There is the noble
triad figure, the undercover cop who respects his triad "boss" much more
than his own slimy bureaucratic bosses and then some odious triad types
who are trying to kill off the noble one. In most ways this film is very
formulaic, but it has just enough imagination and subtle twists to make
it somewhat intriguing. What was most disappointing and surprising was
the total absence of any visual flair that Ford (Naked Killer, Dragon from
Russia) brings to this film.
Louis Koo who seems to be showing up in every
other film these days plays an undercover cop who is assigned by his
obsessive and repugnant boss to infiltrate the Hung Hing Triad and get
close to Andy Lau. This is seemingly accomplished as easily as purchasing
a ticket to the movies because the next thing we know Koo is Laus right-hand
man. For the most part, this undercover thing looks like a lot of fun.
You still have your police salary coming in, your triad money coming in,
all the women that triads seem to have around them and you get to kill
people without any fear of being held responsible. The worst part for me
would be getting the tattoos all over my body as Koo does. I have a major
paranoia of needles and would somehow have to get out of this Triad ritual
I hope they would be sympathetic!
Though Lau was at one time one of the top members
of the triad and still has strong ties to them, he has gone legitimate.
Much of this was due to his love for his wife Suki Kwan and her desire
for him to get out of the life. This relationship between the two of them
was the best and most unique element of this film. Its not often that a
triad marriage is portrayed as lovingly and close as this one is and
later when the going gets tough Suki gets even tougher. But like
Al Pacino in Godfather III, the old life keeps pulling Lau back in.
Anthony Wong long time friend and partner
of Lau gets badly wounded by the cops and his leadership role leaves
a vacuum that needs to be filled. It turns out that his son Patrick Tam
though only 20-years old has a hidden ambition to do this and at the
same time revenge himself on Lau for imagined slights against his family.
He sets in motion a plan to take over the triad and kill Lau. This will
involve not only Lau but also his wife, Koo and Koos girlfriend (Joey
This is pretty standard stuff but all in all
it is not too bad. Koo does a good job of playing a cop caught between
his respect for Lau and his need to perform his duty. Andy is Andy even
when he is chained by his wrists to the ceiling - he still looks
like he could model evening wear but you cant help liking him. My favorite
character though was Suki - an ex-hostess bargirl who has married
good and plans on holding on to it and on to Lau. The best scene is when
the bad guys try and kidnap Suki. Koos girlfriend (another bargirl) turns
out not to be such a little twit after all as she warns Suki and then the
two of them fight their way past a whole gang of thugs.
My rating for this film: 6.0