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龍在江湖 (1998)
A True Mob Story

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 01/31/2007

“A True Mob Story” has brutal rapes, a vicious assault on a child, some sappy love stories, murders, motorcycles, drug dealing, VCD pirating and more loose ends than I had thought possible in one movie. The script is a complete mess, the cinematography is by the numbers and the art direction make it look like a million other movies. There are huge holes in the plot—Brother Prince tells his gang to kill Dee but Dee shows up in the next scene just knocked around a bit. Dee’s son is horrifically injured in a hellish attack by Crazy Ball but after what is supposed to be a touching reunion with his father the kid isn’t mentioned for the rest of the film. A first person POV shot of Sandy entering the courtroom—one that should be a bit suspenseful—is spoiled when the audience immediately sees the person they should think has the POV. There are two really annoying cross cuts—one between Dee getting beaten while the same thing happens to his son, one with Dee being dragged to still another beating interspersed with shots of Crazy Ball’s henchmen dragging Ruby. They don’t add anything—they are just there, calling attention to themselves. Perhaps Wong Jing wanted to let an uncredited apprentice editor fool around a bit.

There are a few reasons to watch “A True Mob Story” though. Ben Ng Ngai-Cheung with a big assist from Lai Ka-Pik, the makeup artist, creates an extraordinarily evil character. When Crazy Ball takes his sunglasses off it is a shock—he has become a Cyclops both in looks and in attitude with all the blood lust that the original monster had. His actions match his hideous demeanor—while Brother Prince is a disgusting person, it is possible to feel just a bit of sympathy for him when Crazy kidnaps him. He is even more merciless when the truly innocent fall into his power.

And there is Gigi Leung. Her excellent, understated characterization of Sandy is really the center of the movie—and she looks very cute in her white barrister wig. We remain interested in her even when Sandy gets overly predictable, such as when she falls in love with Dee while hanging on to him as they flee on a stolen motorcycle from a gang of chopper wielding maniacs or when she throws away her career, her engagement and her entire life for no particular reason other than it was the only way to end the movie.

There is an odd little bit of gender switching during a dinner the first time Sandy represents Dee in court—Ruby says to Michael that if she were a man she would have married Sandy already. Then Michael tells Dee’s son that he is looking at Dee because he is cute and that if he (Michael) were a woman he would fall for Dee. It doesn’t go anywhere but nothing really does in “A True Mob Story.”

Interesting discussion of movie piracy and mob-run bootleg VCD production—which, Wong Jing seems say, is not as bad as selling drugs to school kids, a stand with which the MPAA would not agree. These pirates have standards: the production manager at the illegal factory doesn’t want to burn copies of the latest stolen film because the quality of the source material, a camcorder tape made from the audience at the first showing is so poor. He is convinced to do so when Brother Prince tells him their customers don’t expect anything good since it is so cheap and then beats him up.

“A True Mob Story” is an example of movie as product—clear several weeks to shoot, get some actors and technicians together with an outline of a script (which stayed an outline), get it shot and edited and ready to go on the screen when the distributor and exhibitors need it. There is nothing at all wrong with that—lots of good even great movies have been made in that fashion although with an actual script. One big difference between Hong Kong filmmaking and Hollywood is that the movies actually got made and shown to paying audiences. The same movie in Hollywood may have spent a couple of years in “development” (also know as being ignored or hell) with countless script rewrites before the cameras start to roll, often for a different studio than the one that initially purchased the script. Or it may just kick around for years and never get made. More money will have been spent on in not making the movie than it takes to write, shoot, edit, print, distribute and exhibit a film in Hong Kong. Hong Kong movie making has been in a slump for years but is still leagues ahead of Hollywood in the most important aspect of the art/business—getting stuff done.

Not recommended

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/27/2005

This is your pretty standard story about a cowardly low-level Triad (Lau) who rises to the top of the ranks after he accidentally kills a rival boss. Of course, this makes all the other gangs pissed at him and they attack at every turn, which creates problems with his girlfriend (Leung) and son. The script is actually well-developed compared to most of Wong Jing's recent movies -- it has its' share of cliches, but it doesn't depend on toilet jokes and the story actually has an arc to it. More suprisingly, Andy Lau actually leaves his shirt on for most of the movie (except to display his cool-looking Triad tattoos, of course), doesn't sing any syrupy ballads, and puts in a good performance. A True Mob Story sure isn't anything revolutionary; most any Hong Kong film fan has seen this type of movie many times before. But it is done well and worth checking out if you're a fan of the genre.

[review from]

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 12/18/2004

Andy Lau Tak-Wah and Gigi Leung Wing-Kei are re-united for the first time in a film since Derek Yee's 1995 Full Throttle. Both give fine performances here. This movie tells the story of young Dee as he makes his reputation as a triad member. Suki Kwan Sau-Mei steals another movie with her great performance. Sam Lee Chan-Sam, in one of his early film appearances, gives a wonderful comedic performance in a supporting role. This is a brilliant film from the Producer King, Wong Jing.

[En francés]Andy Lau Tak-Wah et Gigi Leung Wing-Kei sont réunis pour la première fois dans un film depuis Derek Yee Full Throttle en 1995. Donner deux spectacles ici. Ce film raconte l'histoire de jeunes Dee comme il l'a fait sa réputation en tant que membre d'une triade. Suki Kwan Sau-Mei vole un autre film avec son excellente performance. Sam Lee Chan-Sam, dans l'une de ses premières apparitions cinématographiques, donne une merveilleuse comédie de performance dans un rôle de soutien. Il s'agit d'un brillant film de la production King, Wong Jing.

[En español] Andy Lau Tak-Wah y Gigi Leung Wing-Kei se restablezcan unidos por primera vez en una película ya que Derek Yee de 1995 Full Throttle. Ambos dan multa o ejecuciones aquí. Esta película cuenta la historia de Dee jóvenes como él hace su reputación como una tríada miembro. Suki Kwan Sau-Mei otro roba la película con su gran rendimiento. Sam Lee Chan-Sam, en una de sus primeras apariciones en cine, ofrece una maravillosa comedia desempeño en una función de apoyo. Esta es una brillante película de la escena Rey, Wong Jing.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 06/15/2004
Summary: High class schlock with revenge motif


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital

Wong Jing's commitment to schlock cinema may not be widely admired in Hong Kong filmmaking circles, but he's still capable of turning out worthwhile potboilers like A TRUE MOB STORY, which he wrote, produced and directed. Andy Lau Tak-wah plays a low-ranking Triad mobster who loses his nerve during a gang fight while saving the boss's son (Mark Cheng Ho-nam) from a rival gangster (Ben Ng Ngai-cheung), an incident which results in the death of Lau's beloved wife (Angie Cheung Wai-yee). Unable to cope with the subsequent demands of his Triad lifestyle, Lau becomes an unwitting pawn in the hands of his ungrateful superiors, and when Ng comes looking for revenge, they abandon Lau to his fate. Further treachery is revealed when Lau - who is virtually penniless and beholden to the gang for his pitiful income - discovers that the video CD factory which Cheng had licensed in Lau's name is actually the cover for a massive cocaine distribution center. Pushed beyond the limits of endurance, Lau summons the courage to plot an elaborate revenge against all those who have betrayed him...

The casting of poster icon Lau is central to Wong's blatant deconstruction of the 'honorable Triad' myth popularized in the mid-1980's by directors like John Woo; Lau's innate decency and aversion to violence is frequently contrasted with the vulgar excesses of his fellow gangsters, most of whom are portrayed as reptilian thugs with no respect for anything but wealth, power and brutality. Lau's ultimate redemption is provided by Gigi Leung Wing-kei, his charming co-star from the unexpected smash-hit FULL THROTTLE (1995), playing a barrister whose ambivalent feelings for Lau threatens her somewhat strained relationship with fiancee Alex Fong Chun-sun (effectively understated in a difficult role), who also happens to be head of the local Organized Crime and Triad Bureau!

The breathless narrative is prone to sudden outbursts of blistering violence, but the fight scenes are more chaotic than extravagant (the 'Young and Dangerous' series has a lot to answer for!), and the film survives primarily on the strength of its performances, which are uniformly excellent. Given that the script is supposed to be based on 'true' events (hence the title), Wong goes way over the top on occasion (check out the judge's reaction to Lau's manufactured display of 'nobility' during the first courtroom sequence!), and his film has none of the myth-making grandeur of similar Lau vehicles like THE ADVENTURERS (1995) or SHANGHAI GRAND (1996), but it passes the time amiably enough whilst upholding all the familiar traditions of this particular subgenre.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/17/2002
Summary: Average

A True Mob Story has several flaws, but overall it's something most people could put up with. However, Andy Lau seems so out of place here, and he is one person who can usually fit into any part. Expect no new ground broken here either, and the plot is poor. But like I said, it would entertain most people, although I wouldn't recommend it.

Rating: [2.5/5]

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 11/23/2001
Summary: Well, I liked it

A TRUE MOB STORY (1998) - A much grimmer film than we're used to getting from Wong Jing, but still bearing his trademark 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach to film making. A TRUE MOB STORY doesn't hold much back. Andy Lau plays a Triad boss who finds a distate for Triad activities after a gang fight leaves his wife in a pool of blood. But he's in deep with the Triad, who are definitely not a nice bunch of people in this movie. Suki Kwan gets an incredibly rough deal as the long suffering secretly in love friend, whilst Gigi Leung looks absolutely stunning as the lawyer who ends up fighting Andy's side. Alex Fong shines as her boyfriend, who is coincidentally the cop investigating Andy. Subtlety is not a word in Wong Jing's vocabulary, though surprisingly enough we do get quite a few subtleties in the characters performance, if not the script. Forgiving the melodrama and the implausabilities presented, I found the movie extremely enjoyable... in fact I'd say it's one of the best Triad movies I've come across. Recommended, though the ladies in the audience might find aspects of the movie quite distasteful.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Rab99bit
Date: 06/19/2001
Summary: An unbelievable mob story

I wouldn't recommend this to a friend even if it's a rainy day. If you wish to know the story line, read the reviews below. If you are crazy about Andy Lau and find him cute, see this movie for he dominates the entire movie, leaving little space for anyone else. We are led to believe that the lady barrister (Gigi) defending Cheung (Andy Lau) finds him cute enough to fall in love with, sacrificing both her career (how dumb!) and her fiance, a legitimate cop (Alex Fong). As usual, a little kid (Cheung's son) is used to humanise the character of Cheung and his wife is conveniently killed off early in the movie to win sympathy and to make way for both the wife's best friend and the barrister to fall head over heels in love with a gangster with cold feet. The only good part of the movie was at the end when "someone" got exterminated. It was almost comical,coming at the end, after all we had to endure.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: ok-ish

A pretty strong drama as i remember!! But i can't remember too much about this apart from the ending!! I think it's worth watching a least once..........


Reviewed by: paul
Date: 07/04/2000
Summary: Revisionist history?

Prior to his self-claimed rebirth as a legitimate businessman, producer Charles Heung was a feared Triad member. This film, according to pre-production reports, was to be Heung's attempt to shed a little light on those early years. Taking these claims on face value, Heung represents himself (via director Wong Jing and poster-boy popstar Andy Lau) as a loving father who stumbled into the company of ruthless criminals who were constantly taking advantage of him. You see, poor Charles never really had a stomach for the job. Instead, the character rumored to be a representation of Charles' infamous thug brother Jimmy, helps Charles save face by secretly stepping in to do all of Charles' dirty work for him. Eventually, however, Charles manages to step up to the plate by virtue of his brains, rather than his brawn. No, I don't believe a word of it either! And interestingly, neither does Charles Heung. Or at least he ain't admitting it. He has publicly denied any resemblance between this film and his life, stating that he loves his brother dearly, and would never portray him in a way that some might find unflattering. Uh huh. Ironically, if this is not a "true mob story", then there's little reason to watch it, as it simply does not stand up very well on it's own. On the other hand, if it IS meant to be Heung's true story, it's fascinating, even if only as a record of what Charles would have us believe about him, because damn it... he's handing out a sugar-coated pill that pretty darned hard to swallow.

Paul Kazee

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/08/2000

This may be the most Hollywood-esque Hong Kong movie I have ever seen, and this is not a good thing. Certainly, there are
a few tricks that I am happy to see Hong Kong take away from Hollywood. High production values, particularly an accurate
syncing of voice to film, are a good thing. However, a predictable and manipulative plot, irritating, intrusive background
music, and a general lack of inventiveness are not something that I am particularly interested in seeing come to Hong Kong.

The story follows Cheung Dee (Andy Lau), a triad member who at the beginning of the film saves his boss's life almost
single-handedly, though his wife dies in the process (in one of the single worst effects I've ever seen on screen, by the way),
leaving him to care for their young son along with the help of her best friend, Ruby (Suki Kwan). The story picks up five
years later, with Cheung Dee as the whipping boy of his gang. He has lost his nerve for killing and the other triad bosses
know it.

Gigi Leung comes into the film as a barrister who defends him in several cases. She of course falls for him, though she is
dating a policeman in the anti-triad unit, Michael (Alex Fong). How unpredictable! Also in the mix is Crazy Ball, a former
gangster whose eye Cheung Dee ruins in the fight at the beginning of the film. He gets out of prison and begins to harrass
Cheung Dee, Ruby, and Cheung Dee's son.

Obviously, the film is about Cheung Dee getting revenge on those who've mistreated him. There are also plot points about
his relationship with Ruby (who has loved him for years) and his son. Pretty much everything that happens in the film can
be predicted from watching the first fifteen to twenty minutes. The only good moment of the script is its ending, which is
actually quite brilliant, especially in comparison to the rest of the film.

Andy Lau has recently been heard complaining in the Hong Kong entertainment news about not being nominated for a
Hong Kong Film Award for his work in this film, comparing himself to Sandra Ng, who was also nominated for a role as a
triad member (in Portland Street Blues). Andy's performance is pretty good but doesn't come close to Sandra Ng's. He did a
good job of showing a man who has lost his nerve and its hard not to feel sympathy for him. This was an unusual take on a
triad member and was one of the film's best elements. Suki Kwan has several great moments, particularly the first scene she
is in, when you see a multitude of feelings flicker across her face in a moment. Gigi Leung, as usual, is fairly weak, though
tolerable. She doesn't express strong emotions very well. The generally good acting can't save the film from its pedestrian
script. It's too bad that the cast wasn't given something more interesting to work with.

It is not surprising that this film came from Wong Jing. More than anyone else in the Hong Kong film industry, he is able to
spot commercial trends and run with them. The latest trend in Hong Kong seems to be the ascendancy of Hollywood films
over local productions. I sincerely hope that Wong Jing, trendsetter that he is, is thoroughly ignored this time, so I won't
have to see any more Hollywood films from Hong Kong.

Reviewed by: tdmath
Date: 01/02/2000
Summary: OK if you're really desperate

Andy Lau plays Cheng, a small time thug who rises to a mid-level position in the local triad by saving his boss's life in one of those typical but unbelievable machete-laden fights. It's hard to empathize with this punk because he's basically a creep who's only marginally less objectionable than the other rascals around him, including one bonafide nut case known as "Crazy Ball." How his lawyer Sandy falls for this cretin is beyond me. The only decent people in the movie are Ruby, a girl who pines for Andy and also cares for his son after his wife is killed, and Michael, the cop who chases Cheng at the same time he's dating Sandy. At least in the Y&D series, you could root for Ekin and Jordan. Here, you're just hoping someone will put Andy out of his misery.

Reviewed by: Mark
Date: 12/30/1999
Summary: Ho-hum triad love jumble

This one plays like a Chinese Goodfellas. Andy Lau is a small time mobster who goes ape with a cleaver one night to rescue this boss Prince from rival triad Crazy Ball and his gang. As a consequence he is promoted way beyond his station and his courage. Gigi Leung is the lawyer who represents him when he gets into hot water, much to the consternation of her special agent boyfriend. Andy is just trying to get by, but between his rivals in the gang, the cops, and the reappearance of the man he was famous for killing, it's just too complicated. His struggle between what he needs to be and what he is is well done, but his complete non-reaction to a horrific event in the middle of the film just about cancels any sympathy you may feel for him. The Gigi / Andy attraction is way arbitrary, and seems to occur more because they are famous HK leading actors rather than for any character reason. The film mixes the soppy love scenes with ultraviolence - these 1998 style triad boys go at it with sledgehammers, long knives, and barbed wire smeared with chili oil (ouchy).

But, many scenes are remarkable (particularly the children's party in which the youngsters are frolicking in the pool while their dads are inside beating up a rival tied up in a hessian sack), and the ending almost redeems the whole picture. Almost.