The Rules of the Game (1999)
Reviewed by: j.crawford on 2005-07-23
Summary: good performances from talented cast.
[1999 was a good year.] Since early 1999, Hong Kong film director Steve Cheng has been very busy. He has made a half dozen or so films including Erotic Nightmare and the Horoscope films. In The Rules of the Game, Cheng tries his hand at the triad gangster genre that continues to be popular with Hong Kong cinema patrons. Working with a taut script by executive producer Nam Yin, the director gets good performances from his talented cast.

The film opens with a cleverly crafted sequence that introduces the viewer to the Hung Lok society. In a gambling parlor, run by triad under-boss Uncle "Sexy"[played by producer Ng Chi Hung], a cheater is dealt with severely. Other triad bosses feel that "Sexy" was to harsh in his action and he is called to answer and be punished. Hung Lok leader Shing[played by Alex Fong] enforces the rules of the society strictly and "Sexy" is beaten by his peers. Although willing to accept the punishment given by Hung Lok rules, "Sexy" holds resentment for Shing.

Meanwhile, Ann[played by Kristy Yeung] has started working as a "club girl" in one of Shing's nightclubs. She's a nice girl tying to earn extra money to help her brother and his friends, David[played by Louis Koo] and Chung[played by Sam Lee], who together run an auto repair shop. Shing takes an interest in Ann and begins to 'woo' or court her. Shing is, of course, a charming triad boss and he sends flowers to Ann at the repair shop. This makes David jealous, as he and Ann share a 'special' relationship.

At a festive birthday celebration for David, Shing and his followers arrive at the same restaurant. Shing asks Ann to join him for a drink. A fight breaks out and the result leaves Chung handicapped after his heroics almost saved his friends. Ann intercedes with Shing and saves the others from a similar or worse fate. David vows to revenge his friend Chung who was beaten by Shing and left brain damaged and paralyzed from the waist down.
Through an interesting subplot that involves repaying a gambling debt of Ann's brother, nicknamed 'Beckham", David is able to join Shing's triad. He aggressively rises to the top of the Hung Lok society. Once David achieves success in the group, he sets his revenge plan in motion, only to achieve tragic results.

Louis Koo gives one of his best performances to date as the tragic David Chow. His dark eyes show the hatred, the sense of loss and the sorrow he suffers through. Alex Fong is very good in the role of Shing, the powerful triad boss who is willing to give it all up for the love of the beautiful Ann.

Sam Lee steals the show, as he has in several recent films. His character is very animated and pivotal in the first part of the film. Once he is beaten and confined to a wheelchair as a vegetable, he still manages a brilliant performance.

David Chow's rise to power in Hung Lok is shown in several montages of fighting scenes with machetes, long knives, and lots of bloodletting. Action Director Ma Yuk Shing[Swordsman 3: The East is Red, Fist Power] has crafted some very tense and scary fights.

The Rules of the Game is an interesting film from one of Hong Kong's promising young film directors. I recommend that you see it, if you can.


copyright 2000 J. Crawford
Reviewer Score: 9