Young and Dangerous -- The Prequel
Hong Kong 1998
Directed by Andrew Lau.

Nicolas Tse plays Ekin Cheng, only much more lifelike, in this prequel in which we learn how the boys got so righteous.

In the first Young and Dangerous movie, the boys are introduced in a fight on a soccer field, where they get harassed by Ugly Kwan (Francis Ng), and helped by Brother Bee (Ng Chi Hung), who the young Ho Nam swears to follow. Then ten years later, the story begins, and the boys are triad members. Now with Young and Dangerous -- the Prequel, we are taken back to that same soccer field, and see a re-enactment of that opening scene, this time with fresh, young actors playing the same roles, and the story continues from there. This is the very beginning of the story of the Hung Hing boys, and we learn the origins of some of the reknowned facts of our heroes lives (as all origin stories do). Here, we see our noble hero, Chan Ho Nam (Nicolas Tse), getting his first tattoo. And Chicken (Sam Lee) nails his first prostitute. Ah, its so nostalgic. The boys coming of age and introduction to triad life plays out against a backdrop of political turmoil in China, of which the boys know nothing of and care even less.

The boys are still in High School when the story begins, except for Chicken, already expelled. They are best buddies, and have entered into the school talent concert as a rock band. They do their mop-headed, early-Beatles best but are thrown out by the principal. Just outside the school Pigsy, a follower of Ugly Kwan, attacks the boys with his followers and smash their guitars. When the police come and arrest them, Pigsy and his gang are immediately released on bail, while the innocent boys have to stay in jail. Injustice after injustice befalls them until it becomes inevitable that they follow the kind and upright Brother Bee.

In fact Brother Bee is so righteous, he takes the boys out on a negotiation. They have their first prostitutes, their first hot bath and massage, their first beatdown of some innocent sap. Then, the big day finally arrives, their first kill! It's so exciting to be a Hung Hing boy! The action culminates in a gang fight at a construction site where Pigsy and a hundred followers ambush Brother Bee and the boys.

Meanwhile, students are massing at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to appeal for freedom of speech and democracy, in the wake of several communist party liberals coming out to appeal for the release of political prisoners. The death of prominent liberal Hu Yaobang and his funeral bring thousands and thousands more students to the square. As April wears on, the situation becomes more and more tense, with Deng Xiaoping condemning the student movement as a planned conspiracy on April 25th. On May 4th, 100,000 students march through Beijing. By May 17th, that number has reach 1 million, and grown to include workers, officials, and people from all walks of life. The entire world knows what happened after that: In the early morning hours of June 4, 1989, the Square was violently cleared by Communist troops. People are shot, gassed, run over by tanks. The call for democracy is violently crushed.

But no one seems to care very much. It's on TV a lot, in the background, and occasionally someone glances at it. But Ho Nam even screams at one point, "I don't care about Tiananmen Square!" It doesn't really seem like many people do. Instead, they talk about movies that they saw. Young girls in the school talk about how much they love watching As Tears Go By, and how handsome Andy Lau is. Even the gangsters refer to films, one of them saying he is going to dole out punishment using an idea he got from The Long Arm of the Law. In fact it seems like the only one who cares about Tiananmen Square is the director. The characters in the film are unaffected by the events. Unless perhaps that is the point -- something of really important historical significance is happening, but the triads of Hong Kong don't even notice. They have their own rules, their own laws, their own riots, their own killing. Reality does not intrude, though they may be influenced by the media. And here is the interesting part -- the gang leader in this film gets his inspiration from another one. Are audience members, too, learning these things and yearning to imitate them in real life? Is the Young and Dangerous series nothing more than a series of Triad recruitment films? I cannot answer that and yet I have no doubt that these films do influence people -- especially those already in street gangs. Whether that influence is bad or potentially good is another matter entirely.

The story moves along at a steady pace, and the acting is admirable, especially from newcomer Nicolas Tse and fresh-faced Sam Lee, as Ho Nam and Chicken respectively. Chan Ho Nam becomes a fleshed out character, we meet his mother and step-mother, his brother and sister. We meet his grandmother for the first time, not quite as old nor as crazy. Although there are a number of sub-plots that seem to go nowhere, this film is an enjoyable effort and a satisfying addition to the Young and Dangerous series.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on May 08, 2004.



Posted by: bOa..~ at January 18, 2005 06:24 PM
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