Young and Dangerous 3
Hong Kong 1996
Directed by Andrew Lau.


The triad traditions collapse around our heroes in this third, and bleakest, outing. Lots of people are brutally murdered, lots of references are made to the 1997 handover.

The clock is ticking for the triads of Hong Kong. 1997 and the handover are fast approaching, and there is concern within the community that Hong Kong might not be such a friendly place to do business anymore. Their future uncertain, the old triad code is called into question. What use is righteousness? Or loyalty? When in fact what everyone needs right now is to make as much money as they can as quickly as possible. The triad code and the honorable ways of Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng) face their greatest challenge in Crow (Roy Cheung), who cares only for profit, and nothing for honor. As the film opens, Crow openly curses Kwan (Guan Yu), the legendary God of War whose loyalty to his fellows and courage in battle has made him the favorite God for both triads and police to honor.

Crow antagonizes the Hung Hing boys by not giving them face, and gathering together his boys to intimidate and threaten. In what has now become the standard rascal face-off, two leaders of opposing gangs talk quietly to each other in very respectful terms which nevertheless suggest great insult, while mobs of their boys stand behind them, tense and ready to fight at the drop of a feather.

But the Hung Hing boys have more on their minds than this troublemaker Crow. Ho Nam's girlfriend, Smartie (Gigi Lai), awakens from a coma that she has been in since Young and Dangerous 2, only to find that she has no memory of Ho Nam and the gang. They take her to various places throughout Hong Kong and re-enact scenes from the original film to try to jog her memory.

Chicken (Jordan Chan) has girl troubles of his own, too. He is asked by the priest (Spencer Lam) to look out for his daughter for him, since she just came back from studying overseas. Chicken agrees only to later discover that his daughter is in fact the foul-mouthed rough and tough Karen Mok. Of course, romance blossoms.

Crow is not content to leave the Hung Hing boys alone, of course. And when Ho Nam escorts Boss Chiang (Simon Yam) to Amsterdam, disaster strikes. Of course, Crow had everything carefully planned, and Ho Nam becomes the scapegoat. Chicken retaliates against the Tung gang that Crow belongs to, but then Crow seizes that opportunity to kill his own gang leader and blame Chicken for it. Now both Ho Nam and Chicken have to clear their names and kick some ass in the time honored tradition.

Young and Dangerous 3 was the third movie in the series to come out in 1996. The speed at which these films were being made would imply to many that they are shoddy, hastily shot, and probably pointless. But what is utterly suprising is that each one builds on the last, the stories continue to be complex and engaging, the characters continue to evolve and grow. At last with Young and Dangerous 3, a new level is reached, where the characters have a history, and the scenes in which the Hung Hing boys take Smartie to different places we saw in the first film are effective because these characters have changed, a lot has happened since then, and we can feel a certain nostalgia for their care-free early days. These scenes help build a mood of nostalgia, and of lost innocence, which characterizes Hong Kong as a whole in the days and months leading up to 1997. Everyone is trying, each in their own way, to come to terms with the future, and are having difficulty imagining it. So they take comfort in the past. A particularly entertaining moment comes when Chicken, Pau-pau and Ah Yee visit the old soccer field where they were recruited into the triad so many years ago, thinking they might have some fun with the kids there. But kids are a lot tougher these days! You can remember the past, but you can never relive it. And what of the future?

Crow offers one vision of the future, where law and honor lose their meanings and every man is for himself. But Tai Fei (Anthony Wong) has a different vision, when at the auction he buys a bust of Chairman Mao. "We need to get to know him better," he says, suggesting that, with some modifications, business will continue as usual. Still, most characters seem lost and disoriented. Even the police seem somewhat resigned, unfocused.

In Amsterdam, it is much the same. Mr. Cheung's old triad friends are poor and out of business, out-classed and out-gunned by younger street punks. The city itself has a long history of triad involvement. In fact, Amsterdam is triad society's gateway into Europe, mainly because of its centralized location and its well known tolerance towards drugs. By 1965, Chinese communities were well established in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and Chinese restaurants were common. The restaurants would act as fronts for various triad organizations. In Young and Dangerous 3, Brother Tai reminds us of Amsterdams history by explaining, "When we Chinese came to Holland, If we didn't work in a restaurant, you know what we did? -- We were drug dealers." By the seventies, heroin was sweeping through europe, having been delivered by triads from south-east asia, through Singapore or Hong Kong, to the Netherlands. The business became so lucrative that there were open shootouts in the streets of Amsterdam between rival triad gangs, but after several police crackdowns and gang consolidations, the 14K rose to dominance, making things relatively quiet in the mid-80's.

The arrival of the Big Circle Boys changed all that. They broke up 14K's business and took over with ruthless efficiency. Even today, the Big Circle Boys run heroin throughout Europe, with Amsterdam still considered their base of operations. In 1995 and 1996, just before this film was made, several triad assassinations took place in Amsterdam, leaving several triad officials riddled with bullet holes.

Young and Dangerous 3 is widely regarded as the best in the series, and its easy to see why. Roy Cheung's performance as Crow is chilling. He is the least comprehensible of all the triad opponents the Hung Hing boys have faced thus far. Instead of the petty nastiness of Francis Ng's Kwan in Young and Dangerous, or the earnest ambition of Anthony Wong's Tai Fei in Young and Dangerous 2, Roy Cheung seems to be anarchy incarnate. He kills indiscriminately, and just doesn't seem to care particularly one way or another. He only occasionally backs down, when the odds are weighted heavily against him, like say if an entire neighborhood has surrounded him, or if Chicken walks up to him loaded down with grenades. But even when he backs down, you can almost see him unwinding, slowing down, forcefully willing himself to back off. He is dangerously unpredictable and startling to watch because of it. The body count is higher here than previously, and in the end, when Crow is confronted by Chicken and Ho Nam, everyone is anticipating hopefully that Crow will get the righteous smackdown he so richly deserves. And we are not disappointed.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 04, 2004.


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