Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues (1991)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-08-11
“Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues” has, in addition to its title, a lot going for it. It could be used in a class on how to make a good, low budget movie: it has characters the audience can identify with, some very well staged and executed fights, heroic sacrifice, treacherous betrayals and Oshima Yukari getting a crush on someone while crushing a bunches of bad guys.

The script is what makes it work. It is a simple and powerful story of loyalty, respect and dignity on one side paired with duplicity, hypocrisy and infamy on the other. The worst of the evildoers are Japanese seconded by their Chinese toadies, paid to undermine their countrymen. The heroes are the brave Chinese, determined to show the invaders that things are different in Hong Kong. Ironically, those who are most vociferous about how things are done in the right way in Hong Kong are army deserters from the Mainland. More to the point, of course, is that everyone in the movie is a violent criminal including Oshima Yukari.

We first encounter Mark Cheng and Benny Lai as a couple of hard-working friends, laboring on a fish farm owned by an uncle. They (and the audience) are thrown into the dangerously unpredictable world of low level triad soldiers when, while relaxing in a bar after work, a chance remark is overheard. Benny says that listening to the singer is like having his ears raped. A friend of the singer overhears them and they are confronted by several tough guys. Mark shows he is as tough as they are by swigging half a quart of brandy and then breaking the empty bottle over his head—showing, if nothing else, that he will be able to take a lot of punishment. The two friends stagger away, holding each other up and congratulating each other for facing down the gang in the bar when a bigger group, including one with a very large chopper, ambushes them in an alley.

This is where we discover that there is more to Mark and Benny than a couple of hard working, hard drinking friends. Benny’ character is a real tough guy, obviously able to handle himself when outnumbered. Mark’s character is more than tough—he is a very skilled martial artist with an effective sidekick. Slim and dangerous as a knife blade, he rips through the attackers, disarming the one with the chopper and sending them on their way. Unfortunately our heroes discover that they are badly outmatched. When they arrive at work the next morning they find their boss tied to a chair and all the fish poisoned. They have stumbled into a world in which events escalate from overheard remark in a bar to the destruction of a business. Each thrust and counter-thrust is more violent and harmful than the last, all of it seemingly inevitable but also obviously unnecessary.

The movie is very well cast. Alex Man is credible as the godfather, even though, as has been mentioned, the sheen of his more typical slimy criminal roles sticks to him. The attempt to make him a sympathetic person would be difficult under any circumstances—he is a triad leader, after all, and takes on Benny and Mark not only because they were deserters from the same PLA division as he but also because they might die for him one day. Ken Lo as the deplorably disloyal Japanese crime lord is the perfect example of why Julius Caesar fears Cassius and his “lean and hungry look” in Shakespeare’s play. Lo is not only lean and hungry but seems a good bit smarter, staying at least a step ahead of his older (and stockier) rival in the struggle for control of the Hong Kong entertainment underworld.

The action scenes flow from the script. The look believably brutal in most cases, especially when Mark and Yukari are in hand to hand combat with the bad guys. When Yukari invades a gym to confront Ken Lo she makes good use of the dumbbells, chining bars and chains that are available. While we know that she won’t actually lose this battle—much to early in the movie for her to check out—we are surprised and a bit anxious when Yukari winds up on the floor, trying to cover up as Lo kicks her. We have seen the fight in the gym before (quite often) but this one is fast and tough enough so that it seems fresh.

Not so the case with a fight on top of a moving bus. This has been done often enough and well enough that simply leaping from an overpass to a moving truck, then from the truck to a bus, then having a fight simply isn’t enough. This is one sequence the filmmakers should probably have skipped. During a gunfight Benny Lai has a really creative (and outrageously impossible) bit with a pistol on the end of a rope made from ripped up curtains that is both original and a lot of fun to watch.

What characterizes the script of “Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues” and makes it superior to most low budget Hong Kong action flicks is what it doesn’t have—no stupid comic relief, no characters who do something and then disappear, no fights dropped in only for the sake of having some action. It is a pared down, organic whole, a story that starts with the merest trifle and keeps moving until almost the entire cast is dead. It is simple, unadorned and effective.

Reviewer Score: 7