The Prince of Temple Street (1992)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-11-15
Summary: Inept
“The Prince of Temple Street” has no center. It veers from a moody love story set in deserted urban cityscape underlined by jazzy piano score, a madcap romantic comedy in which opposites attract, and brutal tale of small time triads in a turf war. It doesn’t know if it wants to be “Guys and Dolls”, “The Philadelphia Story”, “A Better Tomorrow” or “Romeo and Juliet”. The climactic fight between Prince Twelve and Lap Ling is poorly lit, badly framed and shot from too far away. It is about as exciting a bingo game in a church basement. There is Joey Wong although the costume department and cinematographer do everything in their power to make her look like a dowdy Christian missionary from the countryside. They fail because of her drop-dead sexiness—she would look great in a burkha.

If the two credited screenwriters were paid anything it was too much. They concocted a great hook—a gang boss is emigrating, a boss who has just that day discovered an abandoned baby and who brings the child to the last meeting of the triad governing council—and then it seems that they simply threw a bunch of scenes together and called in a screenplay. One good (meaning bad) example of this is when Theresa asks Master Twelve to show her around Temple Street, his domain. He takes her to a subterranean opium den, with the smokers sitting on a concrete floor separated from each other by billowing, diaphanous curtains. Shocked, she stumbles into another room which is either a slow motion orgy or a coed drunk tank. Even more shocked (and anyone would be at least puzzled by now) she makes it back upstairs to Master Twelve. This very dramatic revelation, that Twelve is running a narcotics operation in the middle of his territory, isn’t referred to again, as if it was simple tossed in for shock value, which it was.

This movie has a cobbled together script, lackadaisical direction and unimaginative editing so it is not surprising that the only actors who really shine are Ng Man-Tat and Deannie Yip Tak-Han, old pros who can deal with and take advantage of a chaotic production. Their characters, a garrulous old hustler and a past her prime madam, are the only ones that the audience can identify with or care about. Andy Lau looks petulant, peevish and generally uncomfortable, like someone who is carrying out an unpleasant duty and simply wants to get over it. Chin Ho portrays a really disgusting bad guy with obvious glee. As is often the case the villain is the most energetic character in the film and Chin is maniacal as a grand guignol scenery chewer. Lee Yee-Ha adds a bit of an edge to the proceedings as the long-legged, tattooed and deadly consort to the villain.

While there are a few excellent scenes, including an emotional confrontation between Peter Pan (Frankie Chan Chi-Leung) and Master Twelve and a loving if a bit rough interlude with the injured Tong Chao Tao and Phoenix who is nursing him. Unfortunately these short scenes stand out because everything around them is so poor.

I can’t think of a reason to recommend this movie to anyone.

Reviewer Score: 1