Issue #230       HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES          September 20th, 2004

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Jiang Hu
(2004; Go Film Distribution/See Corporation/Media Asia Films/Focus Films/SMI Corporation/Anytime Pictures Co.)

Cantonese: Gong wu
Mandarin: Jiang hu
English: Underworld

 

RATING: 5/10

REVIEW:

On a night intended to celebrate the birth of his son, triad gang lord Hung Yan-chau (Andy Lau Tak-wah) must instead officiate over an internal power struggle that threatens to explode into all-out warfare. His three chief lieutenants (Eric Tsang Chi-wai, Norman Tsui Siu-keung, and Miu Kiu-wai) are clearly unhappy with the status quo but Hung bristles at taking the extreme action demanded by his longtime confidant, Lefty (a feral looking Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, sporting dreadlock extensions and a metal hand). Claiming that he has only Hung’s best interests at heart, Lefty secretly orders his men (led by Gordon Lam Kar-tung) to locate and murder the three bosses. Hung not only resents this intrusion but knows all-too-well that Lefty’s ruthless "cut the weeds and dig up the roots" policy means eliminating not only the men but their families as well. In a concurrent storyline, ambitious goo wak jai Yik (Shawn Yue Man-lok) accepts a seemingly suicidal mission to eliminate an important triad leader. While Hung and Lefty debate what is transpiring over dinner in the former’s restaurant, Yik and buddy Turbo (Edison Chen) make their way towards the target.

Andy Lau Jacky Cheung Shawn Yue

As evidenced by the six production companies and a first-rate cast of industry veterans (see below), JIANG HU was a major undertaking but, in the end, it is very light on substance. In the wake of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy’s success, an interesting and intimately scaled storyline has been over-inflated into a would-be epic that such a modest premise cannot adequately support. The climactic twist everything has been building towards in such an imposing fashion turns out to be one of the genre’s most basic and oft-used analogies, eliciting little more than a shrug from the viewer. Early ‘90s triad fare like TO BE NUMBER ONE and LEE ROCK had their own weaknesses but delivered storylines and circumstance that generated a sense of sweep and grandeur, while JIANG HU tries to manufacture it through force of style. Sophomore director Wong Ching-po (FU BO) overdoes everything from a stylistic standpoint, incorporating enough slow motion and heavy-handed import for a movie three times this length.

Lin Yuan (background), Shawn Yue Edison Chen Jacklyn Wu

Thankfully, there are some scattered pluses, courtesy of the veterans. The pairing of Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung invariably harkens back to their roles in AS TEARS GO BY, and having Lau and Jacklyn Wu (making her first HK film appearance since 1997's INTRUDER) as husband and wife seems a natural extension of what might have transpired had Lau’s young hood survived at the end of A MOMENT OF ROMANCE. These connections, and the actors’ time-honed abilities, lend inherent interest to scenes that would have almost certainly played out in a more pedestrian fashion. Mainland actress Lin Yuan (as an indentured hooker who falls for Yik) does adequate work within the framework of a familiar character but Yue and Chen’s one-note performances remind one of just how uninteresting the current crop of young HK talent is. Also appearing: Xiao Hai, Kara Hui Ying-hung, Tony Ho Wah-chiu, Lam Suet, Ha Ping, Hugo Ng Toi-yung (a wordless blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo) and, inevitably, Chapman To Chat-man (ludicrously mannered in his brief appearance).


PRESENTATION:

The trailer and standard Data Bank are included but there is also a second disc devoted to just about every supplement you can imagine, inadvertently replicating the same sense of overkill as the movie itself. Only permanent Traditional subtitles are provided but most of the segments retain some passing interest for English speakers. The "Making of" runs a useless 3 minutes but there are also interviews with
the principals (evidently shot for a Mainland promo as everyone is speaking Mandarin), a music video, outtakes (3 minutes of Jacky Cheung having trouble with a pivotal speech plus a very brief scene featuring Xiao Hai added to the Mainland version to appease local censors), "Unseen Footage" (a handful of brief deleted scenes and extended edits, plus an alternate angle view of a stunt), a photo gallery (accompanied by Zamfir’s "The Lonely Shepherd," heard in KILL BILL VOL. 1), a segment on the various posters (hosted by Eric Kot Man-fai), and an alternate edit of the finale (also accompanied by the Zamfir track).

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Mei Ah. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Mei Ah Entertainment #DVD-679
  • Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS
  • Sync Sound Cantonese and Dubbed Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional or Simplified Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.80:1)
  • 85 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Hong Kong: IIB
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Contains moderate violence, coarse language, and some crude content

FILM REVIEW RATINGS KEY:

  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful