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.