Young and Dangerous 5
Hong Kong 1998
Directed by Andrew Lau.

An old friend of Ho Nam's gets out of jail and together they defeat another chap who by some weird coincedence is also named Ho Nam.

It becomes increasingly apparent that producer Manfred Wong and director Andrew Lau are determined to cover every single aspect of Triad life, no matter big or small, exciting or dull. As Chan Ho-Nam (Ekin Cheng) continues his rise up the Triad ranks, he becomes increasingly distanced from the street fighting that characterized the earlier movies in the series. Instead, he wears a business suit, and tries to be righteous in the boardroom. Instead of a heated discussion followed by an ashtray to the side of the face, there are protracted negotiations followed by complicated contractual obligations. Getting a liquor license for his new nightclub, getting permits for a new bus line, buying shares in a cruise ship and getting a slice of a shady real estate deal, this is the world of the Triad boss. Being a Hung Hing boy has never been so dull.

Ho Nam has his hands full, this time. His boys, constantly dwindling, are now down to two: Pou-pan and Banana Skin. Not even Chicken is around to back him up. The rascals have to defend their territory against a tough Tung Sing newcomer, who, much to Ho Nam's irritation, is ALSO named Ho Nam, Szeto Ho Nam (Mark Cheng). He is a cool customer, and although things never quite break out into open conflict, there are a lot of scenes where big groups of triad boys stand really close to each other in a menacing fashion. Trying to keep the peace between the two gangs is Officer Lee (Danny Lee), the new captain of the Anti-Triad Bureau of Wanchi. Apparently his anti-triad methods involve sternly lecturing the boys every once and a while, and checking I.D. cards if he really feels tough measures are called for.

Meanwhile Mr. Chiang (Alex Man) and the usual group of Hung Hing branch leaders head to Malaysia to make connections and celebrate business as usual. An establishing shot of Kuala Lumpur and its twin Petronas Towers sets the stage. And I have to say, I hate Petronas Towers. Now, they CLAIM it's the tallest building in the world. And well, I have to reply, it depends on how you measure it, doesn't it? Let's take Chicago's Sears Tower and compare, shall we? And just in case you are wondering, the fact that I am from Chicago in NO WAY affects this very rational and objective assessment. Now, if you measure from the highest arial antenna, well, the Sears Tower is still the tallest. If you measure from the highest decorative pieces of the building, excluding the antennas, then Petronas Towers is the highest. But if you measure from the highest occupiable space, the Sears Tower wins again. And not just by a few feet. You can stand two hundred feet higher in the air in the Sears Tower than you can in the Petronas Towers. Two out of three, I'd have to conclude that the Sears Tower is still the tallest building in the world. I would love to see a taller one, don't get me wrong. But let's not try to beat the record by just a few feet of tacky ornamentation. It's so cheap.

In Malaysia, Ho Nam gets involved with a Mr. Chan (Paul Chun), who also likes to call himself 'Mr. Datuk.' Ho Nam signs a contract with him to co-own a new casino cruise ship. But Mr. Datuk also invites Szeto Ho Nam, and although Ho Nam keeps cool about everything, it eventually becomes obvious to everyone that Mr. Datuk is a crook. Imagine! A crook doing business with the triads! Who would have guessed?

While in Malaysia, Ho Nam also meets the beautiful Mei Ling (Shu Qi), and he falls for her. He would have to be blind, stupid, and missing all of his limbs including his head not to fall for her. She is awfully cute. Sometimes, I must admit, annoyingly so. But if it wasn't for her I never would have known that Marlboro actually stands for Men Always Remember Love Because Of Romance Only. You read it here first.

Back in Hong Kong, Ho Nam runs into Big Head (Chin Kar-Lok), an old Hung Hing boy who took the fall for their boss Bee back in the old days, and ended up serving quite a bit of jail time. Now that he's out, he tries to keep away from triad business. But how? As Ho Nam and Pao-Pee remind him, there is nothing in Hong Kong that the triads do not have a slice of. Sure enough, even though Big Head got a legal government permit to sell magazines on the street, some Tung Sing boys rough him up and burn it to the ground. Big Head had been angry at Ho Nam for becoming branch leader while he rotted away in jail, but they make up using the time honored, manly tradition of beating each other up for a while. Ho Nam helpfully explains, "There should be two sets of laws in any society. One is governed by the government. The other is governed by the triads. The underground laws."

In the end, Mr. Datuk shows his true colors and sides with Szeto Ho Nam. He organizes a boxing match between a Tung Sing representative and a Hung Hing representative for control over Causeway Bay. The two Ho Nams make a side bet on a fight with each other -- whoever loses has to leave Causeway Bay forever. The boxing is fierce and the police come to break things up using Officer Lee's tried and true method of hanging out until the it is most convenient for Ho Nam to make the bust.

Ho Nam's activities have completely moved out of street level crime. Nor does he manage his own restaurants or nightclubs anymore, these duties being taken on by Pao-Pan, who is moving up the ranks right behind him. Ho Nam has entered the complicated world of international business. If there is one thing that has made him successful in this world, it seems, it is his ability to keep his mouth shut. Never a big talker, whenever he is confronted he tends to stand for the most part quietly and not lose his temper. To have seen his friends and his girlfriend die horribly in the past may also have had their effect, removing him a few steps from everyone else. In his relationships, he keeps distant. Only through constant, almost obnoxious effort, is Mei Ling able to get through to him at all. He voices his regrets now more often than his satisfaction. But once you are on this road, he laments to Mr. Chiang, it seems there is no turning back. His friend Big Head learns the same thing. And this time, when another Hung Hing boy dies, it almost seems routine. The triad lifestyle claims another victim, and by now, no one is suprised.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 04, 2004.

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