The Club

One of the earliest and most influential triad films, The Club bursts out like a flame-thrower in your face. This 1981 Kirk Wong film is tough, visceral and compelling. It is also very basic and straightforward – a gang war fighting for turf – but Wong puts you right at street level to watch it – with his hand held camera following the dizzying rush of bodies and flashing blades in brilliant fashion. With its gritty feel, high-octave action and subject matter, The Club seems to have been very much influenced by the Blaxploitation films of the 70s - and as in many of those films the hero falls into that gray world of honor and lawlessness.

Michael Chan – who was famous for his exploits in the triads before turning to acting – gives a physically mesmerizing performance in this film. All sinewy muscle, grim determination and tattoos, he simply commands the screen with his glowering looks. One scene of him simply going through his daily workout – the pain  - the drive – the intensity – is amazing. He moves like a cat – and looks incredibly authentic in his fight scenes – but then he was of course the real deal.

Norman Chu, Michael Chan and Feh Yang
During the opening credits, like sudden amber flashes out of a gun barrel, Chan, Norman Chu and Feh Yang are seen fighting for power in a series of quick bloody fights – but when the proper film begins they are now established members of the triad community. Feh owns a successful hostess bar with Chan as his enforcer and protector and Chu runs another similar club. Problems come rushing at them though as two other triad groups are trying to buy the bar from Feh – and it is clear that if negotiations break down the alternative will be violence.
Chan, Kent Cheng, Chu and Yang
In a brilliantly filmed scene, Feh is assassinated by one of the rivals – his bleeding face pressed against the glass – screaming out as he is constantly cut – but going unheard because of the street drilling outside and only a few feet away. When Chan hears about his death, he goes on a revenge-seeking rampage to find out who is behind it – even though it is against a much more powerful force. His own men at the club are brutalized and of no help to him (Kent Cheng is the bald headed floor manager). There is soon a small army of men looking for Chan throughout Hong Kong in order to kill him.
There are no guns present in the film – leading to extended brawls with long blades or short sharp knives and it becomes very brutal and violent. Norman Chu tries to remain aloof from all of this – not wanting to bloody his now clean hands – and Chan has to charge alone into the enemy’s headquarters to revenge his friend – with only a blade and his anger to keep him company – but Chu is not far behind. The ending is a remorseless binge of intense and savage bloodletting.

My rating for this film: 8.0