Every two years, the Wo Shing Society, an ancient Triad, elects its chairman. The two candidates this year are Lok, an amiable, level-headed, managerial type, and Big D, a flashy hothead cut from the same cloth as Tybalt. Big D throws bribes and around in an effort to win, but to no avail. Refusing to accept defeat, he resorts to violence, threatening to tear the Society apart. The question is whether Lok is made of the necessary stuff to make good his victory.
This is the first of two films recounting a crime epic, and though this effort stands very handily on its own, it is to be fervently hoped that Part 2 makes it to DVD very shortly. From a deceptively placid beginning, the story builds to a climax worthy of Shakespeare and his blackest and most violent. There are also surprising moments of humour (there’s a scene involving a two simultaneous phone calls that is one for the ages). The sheer number of characters can be a bit confusing, but this is tight, smart, economical storytelling at its finest.
The sound is impressive, and impresses immediately, with a striking score. Each strum of the guitar (or, he said, confessing his ignorance, whatever the stringed instrument playing was) is crystalline, and the base notes are very well defined. The viewer is immediately enveloped by the sound design, and the music remains just as impressive throughout. The voices are generally well modulated. The sense of environment created by the sound effects, however, is not as noticeable or successful as what is done with the music.
After a rather eye-popping display of colours during the opening credits, the colours become far more naturalistic (in fact, many faces are deliberately obscured by shadow in the opening scene, in stark contrast to what the opening might lead viewers to expect). In either case, the colours remain strong throughout. The blacks are excellent, as are the contrasts. The anamorophic widescreen presentation looks very nice, though I did notice some slight cropping occurring at the edges, at least on my screen. There is a little bit of grain, and the image isn’t always absolutely sharp, but overall the result is very pleasing.
Nothing beyond the trailer.
Viewers looking for a fresh, taut gangster film need look no further.