High K

Reviewed by YTSL

In my on-going exploration of Hong Kong cinema, I’ve come across certain distinct sub-genres that may well be peculiar to it, or have a greater hold on its audiences than comparable others.  Among the better known and longer established among these are the gambling movies, the Triad films, the prostitute dramas, the gigolo comedies and what John Charles has labeled the “terminal beauty” themed works.  Latterly, with the production of such as this rather dark 2000 offering that ought to have novelty interest for Old School kung fu movie fans -- on account of its charismatic lead actor being none other than Ti Lung and the effort also containing a brief (but important) appearance by Kara Hui Ying Hung as his character’s ex-wife -- along with “Glass Tears”, “Diamond Hill”, Lawrence Ah Mon’s “Spacked Out” and “Gimme Gimme”, the low-rent “Girls In the Hood” and the HKFA Best Picture winning “Made in Hong Kong”, a case could be made for there being a similar group of films that focuses on depicting “troubled (but hip) youth”.

What with its adolescent protagonist (CoCo is convincingly portrayed by the actually older Sherming Yiu, who also served as the effort’s presenter and associate producer) and her friends’ actively participating in the once highly trendy -- but maybe less so now -- rave party and drug taking scene, HIGH K might seem to also belong in the same category and representative milieu as those films with titles like “Rave Fever” and “Fing’s Raver”.  Similarly, the presence in this low rent feeling production of “goo wat jai” -- and the kind of violent as well as criminal acts that are associated with them -- might get the rather grim work designated as a Triad movie.  Despite a significant proportion of this “Bloody” Billy “Love to Kill” Chung (not to be confused with “Bloody” Billy “Red to Kill” Tang) helmed offering taking place in strobe lit settings and the movie possessing one gang rape as well as a couple of other surely intentionally disturbing scenes however, this (re)viewer actually does reckon that what did in fact start off with depictions of a loving parent-child relationship is a production with a pre-dominantly pro-family message, even if not domestic focus.
After her mother is fatally injured in a car accident that occurs while they’re on their way to the airport to catch a plane to Phuket, seventeen year old CoCo is entrusted to the care of her surviving parent.  While this might seem on the surface to be a natural as well as logical arrangement, it’s one that is shown for much of HIGH K to be rather problematic; and not least as a consequence of CoCo’s bitterly remembering -- and most definitely resenting -- her stern-looking police detective father having walked out on his justifiably upset wife and then really young child twelve years ago. Considering these circumstances, it was pretty much to be expected that Ti Lung’s Zeng character would have some difficulty in his bid to carry out the death bed wish of CoCo’s mother that he give their offspring more time -- along with the associated attention and care -- than he had done for a long while.
The veteran cop’s attempts to re-connect with his daughter are hardly helped by it looking like about all that he and she have in common -- besides the obvious biological bond -- are a nicotine habit and a dissatisfaction with much of what life looked to be offering them.  Although Zeng’s sympathetic female partner (who is played by the sadly under-utilized Christine Ng) tries to help the short-fused middle aged man and the often angry secondary school girl to get along better with each other, the more mature woman’s very presence only succeeds in making things worse since CoCo appears to suspect that her father and Jenny’s relationship is not solely professional and platonic in nature.  In any case, the unattractive -- to her -- specter of seeing Jenny and Zeng together provides the (already) troubled CoCo with one more reason to prefer the company of her hedonistic gal pals, Bondy and Moondy, plus a couple of not-all-that-bad-at-heart Triad boyz named Ken and Li (whose “tai lo” comes in the familiar form of Ng Chi Hung and turns out to be on friendly terms with Zeng).
Seemingly inevitably though, CoCo and co.’s not entirely innocent plans to observe the creed of “No more thinking.  We’re still young.  Let’s have some fun” are scuppered by a string of dramatic events (that initially more directly affect other people but end up having major repercussions for the youngsters and also Zeng).  Just when HIGH K seriously threatens to feel as aimless and unambitious as its female protagonist, the film proceeds to kick into high gear with the abduction and murder of the younger brother of Ng Chi Hung’s Nan character by a rival -- and much less caring, to say the least -- Triad (Ng Ting Yip).  Even while this is when things start to get majorly ugly, it also is what ends up ensuring that welcome dollops of affecting emotion got added to the mix of a generally gritty movie that’s far from a classic but still does manage to tear at one’s heart.

My rating for this film: 6.