Colour Of The Loyalty (2005)
Directed by: Wong Jing & Billy Chung
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Awards at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2005:
Triad boss Dragon (Eric Tsang) receives word from cop friend Sgt. Mi (Lam Suet) that he's a target for assassination. With his money lying in the wait and the powerful position to take over, Dragon doesn't take any chances and loads up with bodyguards not previously in his organization. The boys, amongst them Fat (Shawn Yue - Just One Look, Infernal Affairs II), have unknowingly been trained for this day under the watchful eye of Brother Chai (Liu Kai-Chi - Cageman, SPL)...
It's worth acknowledging whenever Wong Jing seemingly turns his head away from the low-brow and once commercial comedy to deliver something with a straight face. In later years, with A True Mob Story and Colour Of The Truth (1*), he's proven his worth as a slacker filmmaker and writer that can at times churn out something complex. Ending up unexpectedly winning the critics award for his screenplay and co-directing with Billy Chung (2*), Wong Jing crafts what you might call an old school tale that was run of the mill back in the 80s and 90s but is a rare injection in today's Hong Kong cinema. Is Colour Of The Loyalty a healthy or poisonous injection however?
The colour of loyalty is blood and when are them gangsters going to figure out that love, family and the jiang hu way are elements not meant to co-exist? As long as movies exist, there's always that template to fall back on and that's what Wong has done here, feeling way too comfortable with what he's created. If anything it was the screenplay for Colour of The Truth that genuinely should've raised attention with the critics because Colour Of The Loyalty does not come with substance of that kind. But if you want awards handed out in just ways, expect armageddon shortly thereafter.
Wong recycles some chess imagery highlighted literally in Colour Of The Truth in the initial stages here and goes on to prove that the triad genre holds little to be amazed by. So he falls back on the plot threads of Dante Lam's Jiang Hu - "The Triad Zone" and Wong Ching Po's Jiang Hu but in reality it's the recycled element from a gazillion other movies. Wong in this instance settles for the requisite power struggles, betrayal, meaning of loyalty and external characters sure to meet doom if they fall in love with a gangster. The only trace of actual success here does comes through the featuring of the latter element with Eric Tsang's Dragon attempting to leave his old life behind in favour of marriage with long time friend Shan, played by Suki Kwan (3*). When away from all killings and goofy looking triads, Wong Jing and Billy Chung allow the relaxed interplay between the actors rule to fine effect. Despite a predictability looming on the horizon in regards to character fates.
Twists are expected to come and while adding unexpected conclusions, it's still wrapped up within a screenplay that would've only surprised if it was the first triad movie ever made in Hong Kong. It's easy to respect the serious decisions though, mostly humour free (did Chapman To's cameo really need to be in the film however?) and the director's add some good old fashion excessive violence in order for viewers to get a little bit nostalgic when viewing this genre effort from 2005. Various detours into style feels Marco Mak-esque more than anything else and I would also like to give Wong Jing a suggestion for future directing of so called poignant moments. It really is ok for a character in the moment to not be accompanied by artificially created slow-motion and a manipulative score. The likes of Eric Tsang can pull of this all by himself with no added "oomph". Class dismissed.
While I enjoy watching Shawn Yue's slow development into something greater and he's certainly not embarrassing in the film, it isn't progress on display when working with Wong and Chung here. He's given a cool exterior, wits but also directions to go bug eyed whenever proceedings turn intense so it leans ever so slightly towards a singer or a model trying to act. I.e. a bit grating. The young selection therefore has to give way to the veterans who invest the film with a decent amount of dignity. Thankfully Eric Tsang's eyebrows doesn't upstage him and in these days this role for Tsang is something of the tailor made kind. Possessing the requisite doses of humanity and cunningness with an added secret, Wong Jing can easily rely on Tsang to deliver tension in a scene as well as non-verbal acting that becomes concrete when projected through this particular performer. Liu Kai-Chi is the typical loyal, lowly follower but by adopting an exterior to correspond to that, it's much more workable than it sounds.
Colour of The Loyalty is welcome but by the gathered Hong Kong director's quality measuring stick, it's only a minor blimp in the genre. Or rather would've been had it come out 10-12 years ago. It's appearance today is more rare, its depiction of violence even more so and it's a script that may seem to come more to life through the spit polish of 2005. Genre familiarity is clearly unavoidable when approaching this story though and that's the thing Wong Jing doesn't manage to dodge. He gets mileage out of the story when concentrating on characters wanting to break out from the downward spiral triad life offers but that depiction also sounds dead on familiar, doesn't it? We appreciate the attempt, Wong Jing.
Mei Ah presents the film in a 1.78:1 framed aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. A sharp and spotless transfer as to be expected from a new film.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track involves to a good degree via effects and score. Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 options are also selectable.
The English subtitles enters some low levels at points in terms of grammar- and spelling execution but are clear in meaning most of the time. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Extras includes 2 trailers for Colour Of The Loyalty and Mei Ah's inept Databank with the usual nothing (minimal cast & crew listing and dual language plot synopsis).
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Colour of The Loyalty is not a sequel however, only shares the genre to a degree. Judging from Eric Tsang's funky eyebrows though, viewers could be fooled into thinking it's a sequel to Marco Mak's Cop On A Mission!
(2) Co-directing may be a key for Wong Jing nowadays, at least when dealing with serious matters as evident by the decent collaboration with Marco Mak on Colour Of The Truth. However he did bring Billy Chung onto his slammed cheapie and bonafide flop Kung Fu Mahjong so you never know the rationale of Wong Jing sometimes.
(3) Suki also starred in Marco Mak's best film A Gambler's Story and played a slightly similar role also opposed Eric Tsang in Cop On A Mission.