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.
Koo, Kwan and Lau
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 Lau’s 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!
Patrick Tam, Koo, Joey Man, Lau
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 Koo’s girlfriend (Joey Man).

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 can’t 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. Koo’s 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