No Hand on the Tiller...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 02/04/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this film was an exercise in frustration. So much of it works, and then so much of it doesn't, but would have if it weren't for the other parts.Set sometime at the turn of the century when Britain still had control over parts of China, the story follows a young man's rise to prominence in gangland. One interesting early scene takes place in a dance club and features a pure retro swing band. The hero is the embodiment of a handsome youth as they might have looked before 1930, as he plays drums on a dance number. A rival gang tries to break things up, and the film goes downhill soon after the ensuing fight.I got the feeling that the movie wanted to be all things to all people; martial arts film, light comedy, light drama, romance, violent gangster flick. The film has elements of all, in what can only be described as a jarring jump through all of these afore-mentioned genres and back again.Initially, I was really hooked. The film came off as a "Once Upon a Time in China" type of film. Broad, epic, fun. There's even a great duel over a pocketwatch that takes place on an open horse-drawn carriage racing down a road. Throughout the film, there are other equally brilliant fights, though they lean towards violent gore rather than the fun, skill-testing combat of the first fight sequence.Frankly, I felt cheated. The first two fights or so had such great promise, along with a OUATIC-type of storytelling style; light, fun, but serious. Then there are seriously gory fights, shootouts, graphic swordplay, and even a brief rape scene, that make the film appear to be a gangster film with "beautiful" film violence. Then it goes back to light comedy, then romance, graphic violence, light drama, comedy, romance, graphic violence, comedy, then more violence. These styles do not usually flow together very well, and I don't think they do in this case, either. All are marvelously handled, which made things even more frustrating despite the skills on display all around. As a graphic, violent mob movie, it works. As a light, fun drama, it also works. As a romantic comedy, it works. As a romantic drama, it works. As all four, it fails.Cinematography throughout is excellent. Visually, the direction is brilliant. Story-wise, the film is a choppy mish-mosh, and that's the real tragedy. If only the director could have settled on one storytelling style, this could have been a classic Hong Kong film right alongside the OUATIC series, classic crime saga, or classic romance. As it is, there are three or four different storytelling styles mashed together, creating disappointment instead of joy.If only the director could have kept his hand on the tiller and steered the film in one direction or the other, I'd have been a lot happier with this purchase.As previously mentioned, the climactic fight is indeed cut for no apparent reason. Probably a transfer error rather than editing done on purpose."
Good film, okay action, horrible editing
(3 out of 5 stars)
"this was a great film to watch, moments of humor, lots of action including good but not great kung fu, guns, swords, horses... epic story of friendship, love, betrayal, redemption. takeshi kaneshiro is a good lead in an action movie but doesn't rank with jet, jackie, sammo, or yuen in terms of actual fighting. his charm and looks make up for it though.the one awful thing about this movie is the last fight scene. they simply don't show a very important part of it, a crucial scene for every action movie. i don't know how it could have been cut because of violence or blood because there was plenty of both throughout the film. it was almost as if they wanted to deny the viewer the satisfaction, and i heard from other online sources that this is the only english version of the film. it really makes you mad cuz you sit through the entire film and they cheat you at the end.see it if you want, and just make up your own ending."
Aaron Lawhorne | Riverview, FL | 12/20/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The average Hong Kong action movie is packed with fast-paced action, rehashed plots and poor dialogue. This movie escaped that stereotype by incorporating another dimension. In addition to the lightening fast fight scenes and well done stunts, the movie boasted a well developed, fairly fresh plot. I haven't seen another Hong Kong mafia movie that can compare with this one. I recommend this movie to those who are tired of the antiquated you-killed-my-teacher genre and are looking for something with a little more substance."