Young and Dangerous: The Prequel (1998)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-04-25
Summary: Fighting for a different kind of freedom...
Designed to fill in the time between their initial recruitment and the subsequent scenes in the original "Young and Dangerous," Y&D: The Prequel focuses on Chan Ho-Nam (Nicholas Tse)and his three friends as they learn the ropes under Bee (Frankie Ng Chi-Hung). The opening scene is the same, with Ho-Nam and his friends being beaten up by Kwan and saved by Bee, but then we get to see how it is that they are drawn into the triads through circumstances and sly moves by Bee. All four of the teens, especially Chicken (Sam Lee), are rebellious in nature and after they are suspended from school because of a talent show disaster, they are attacked once again by Kwan's scrawny second-in-charge, Piggy. Deciding that they have had enough of being picked on, the three (Chicken has already joined) decide to become soldiers for Bee, hoping that eventually they'll move up the structure and leave their drab surroundings and lifestyle.

I am a relative newcomer to the Triad-genre film and most likely, as a result, I really enjoyed this film a great deal. Yes, there are some cheesy parts at the talent show (along with karaoke subtitles), and the acting is less than stellar in some parts, but overall the movie is very entertaining. Nicholas Tse is actually quite good as No-Ham, and his dynamic with Yu Ka-Ho (who plays Pou-Pan) is very funny. Most of their scenes seem improvised as Tse is trying hard not to break into fits of laughter at Yu's antics. A real stand-out in his scenes is Frankie Ng as Bee, who seems to have the Triad boss role nailed at this point. Menacing yet able to seem fatherly at the same time, you can really see how the kids look up to him and get sucked into the dangerous lifestyle, willing to do anything asked of them to get a leg up. Daniel Wu (credited as Daniel Ng) is also good his big screen debut, playing an established member and boyfriend to Shu Qi. Although her role is limited, the character of Fei (played by Shu Qi) certainly adds some flavor to the story. Her chemistry with Tse (who falls for her) is undeniable and although she abruptly disappears, her reasons behind it are certainly believable and warranted.
In addition, the setting of the movie at the same time as the protests in Tiananmen Square draws a nice contrast to the lives of the protagonists. While students their age are fighting for their rights and freedoms on the mainland, Chan and his friends are fighting their peers for criminal status and ill-gotten gains. The use of constant news reports on TVs in the background during the movie serve to remind the viewer how pointless Chan and his friend's problems are in comparison to what was going on a relative short distance away. In the end, although you can understand what has happened to the group, you can hardly empathize.
Reviewer Score: 8