Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone (2000)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2002-05-21
Summary: Clever, outstanding parody that redefines the genre
This movie is the perfect mystery. The whole movie is about a mystery, and the movie is a mystery. I initially thought the movie was very straight-forward and, in fact, is one of the least confusing movies I have ever seen (When I finished watching it for the second time, I hardly found anything that I had missed the first time). However, having seen it a third time, it now tops my MOST CONFUSING MOVIE list. Partly contributive is the unchronological order of presenting the events: lots of flash backs and switching back and forth. I still have no idea how the filmmaker intended for the audience to take the movie. Perhaps he was clueless himself; perhaps he wanted it to be the mystery that I think it is. Certainly, it's no ordinary film. I just read some more reviews yesterday, and I was shocked that I had no clue what the central point of the movie was - I totally missed it. Of course, the movie is about Jim trying to find the assassin, but there are so many other subpoints, plus the achronology, that I didn't know what the central point was, until I read the review.

There are many funny moments. When Anthony Wong first appeared in the film, I just could not stop laughing my head off. It is so off the hook. Even when his "character" leaves the film, I was still saying to myself, "did he just...???" And the scene with Tony Leung trying to rescue his opponent (who had a heart attach during their negotiation) is equally hilarious. The whole movie had been portraying Tony Leung as a boss, a hero, a decisive leader, and the heart-attack scene changes all that. Other humorous moments include both lines and actions.

Tony Leung Ka Fai has aged quite a bit since I last saw him in a movie. That was Ashes of Time. He seems like a different person even than from previews of "Lover of the Last Empress (1995)." Though he may not be as charming here as he was in Dragon Inn, Tony was the ultimate actor for the role of Ren Yin Jio. His performance is outstanding to say the least, as is the rest of the cast.

The camera work was excellent. It adds more class and artistic value to the film. I was surprised (with pleasantness) that the film explored one of the most controversial subjects today - gays and lesbians. I won't recite any of the scenes involved with the subject, but you should know that it's there. To me it's not a bad thing to do at all. It is only one of the many surprised hidden in the film. You have to watch it to have them uncovered.

I would have preferred less sex scenes, especially since all of them involved were among my favorites, and Tony Leung is arguably one of my favorite actors. The dialogues spoken pertain much to everyday language, which, unlike regular triad movies, can be understood by everybody. Most triad films can be said to contain their own triad language, which you can think of as ghetto language or southern accent. But not in this movie. I was very surprised at that, and again, pleasantly.

The ending is one of the most ambiguous, satisfying and clever in HK movies. If only Tsui Hark or Yuen Woo Ping used this kind of method more... I am deeply impressed with the ending. The beginning is also superb. Tony Leung's dancing reminded me of Fatboy Slim's video "Weapon of Choice," which is nominated for 9 MTV awards this year. In my opinion that video would be better ignored, but that's a different story.

Sandra Ng certainly deserves a mention. She adds just as much to the film as Tony Leung. I don't think Jiang Hu would have been as good without her. The chemistry between everyone is just wonderful. At times the movie is told from several people's narratives, which works very well. This is not a big-budget extravaganza. Rather, it is a dramatic, meaningful explorer. I think the elements in the film as is serves it far better than would special effects or gunplaying.

I do have mixed feelings about the film. Some part just got me very unclear as to its intention. For example, Anthony Wong's character (I'm not gonna spoil anything, because I think this is the biggest surprise of the film - at least for those who know their Chinese history.) and the ending. The movie reveals many things to the littlest extend, but they are never revealled fully, and the film never tells you anything, which most movies do but not here. Again, mystery is the key word here. It really leaves you thinking, which is a challenge to many people, and will likely result in undecided feelings. But ultimately this method usually produces success, as is the case here.

By the way, this is one of my favorite films now.

Reviewer Score: 9