Impressive but not enjoyable.
Reviewer Score: 7
There's much to admire. A fairly intelligent script, plot twists galore, a number of well-drawn and multi-dimensional characters, excellent pacing and direction, acting pretty good if overly melodramatic, some terrific cinematography.
Also, for the women, the star Alan Tang at perhaps his most charming and handsome. And, because he and his real-life brother Rover (I kid you not, that's his name) own the company, this is Alan's film all the way, and he appears in at least 3/4 of the frames.
There's even some well-done genre mixing. This is mainly a crime film, but it slots in horror and thriller elements as well. There are two horror scenes which stand out for several reasons. Forty minutes in, there's a scarifying scene in which a man is bound and gagged while gangsters perform "surgery" on him without anaesthetic. All the classic techniques of horror are used here - distorted lensing, disturbing giggles and smirks, flowing blood. I've watched quite a few horror films, but I still found this scene shocking. The other scene, closer to the end, has a man who has betrayed Ho being manipulated into hanging himself by means of an elaborate setup. This scene is even more eerie, and is one I will long remember.
Apart from these horror scenes, there are a few fisticuffs and some gunfire, but not much blood and gore, compared with the average gangster opera. Alan does a terrific job with a very unsympathetic character, in perhaps one of the best performances of the middle of his long career.
And the theme is a terrific, stirring tune, which I was happy to listen to both at the beginning and end. Frankie Chan scores yet again.
This is a dark story about nasty characters. Even Alan's character, who has some redeeming virtues, is difficult to like, and this is probably the main reason I didn't enjoy this film. Another would be that most of the major characters are dead by the time the credits role, and I personally detest films which do this.
So, apart from the above comments, who might want to see this film ? Certainly Alan's many fans would have to see this one, especially those who'd like to see him play a real nasty for a change. If you're sick of the same old revenger which HK produces by the truckload, this one certainly gives the theme a much more varied treatment. And it's a film which, like a vivid nightmare, is either memorable or difficult to forget.