Once Upon a Time in Triad Society
Director: Cha Chuen Yee
Stars: Francis Ng, Spencer Lam
The story of a gangster named Kwan (Ng) rise and fall in the Triads. This is a sort of spin-off from the Young and Dangerous series. I say "sort of" because while Ng is basically reprising his role as the nasty Kwan from Young and Dangerous 1 and the priest from the series (Lam) makes an appearance, their ends don't mesh with the Y&D storyline. So if you're looking for a prequel to the Y&D series, you may be disappointed.
But actually, the break from Y&D allows Once Upon a Time in Triad Society to break free of the standard trappings of the genre. While the plot has been done many times before, the film presents the story in a fresh way. Most of the story is told in flashback by Ng, and shows both the brutality of the Triad gangs and the overglamorization of the lifestyle present in most movies (ironically, in films like Young and Dangerous). Ng's flashbacks themselves also figure heavily into the style of the film. As with Too Many Ways to Be Number One, the film presents the same story with different views.
One telling scene has a "valiant" Triad member fighting off a group of attackers, when we see that it is actually a scene from a comic book that Kwan is reading on the toilet. Running out of toilet paper, Kwan uses one of the comic's pages to wipe himself. On the surface, it's quite a funny scene. But if you look beyond what is on the screen, the scene actually has a lot of symbolism to it, such as the fact that Young and Dangerous itself was based on a comic book and used comic book illustrations in the film. It's not too often that a Triad film can make you think like that.
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