Hong Kong Bronx (2007)
Directed by: Billy Chung
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Released after a long prison sentence, Neil (Jordan Chan) wows to leave his gangster lifestyle behind and care more for the well-being of his sisters. But with them, close friends (among others Faye played by Sammo Hung's son Timmy) and other families ending up taking the trip along that same downward spiral and a ferocious wannabee boss Johnny (Ricky Chan) after Neil, it seems inevitable that the only way to leave is to head hard into it again. Especially when matters turn personal...
Wong Jing doesn't care yet knows a thing or two, that's a fact. Cheapness and recycled elements could in the hands of any filmmaker turn out either way but Wong Jing draws attention to himself because he is a master of the low, lazy and oddly enough, the surprisingly surprising, hard hitting and poignant. Maybe he's lucky, maybe he is a genius but Hong Kong Bronx proves that there is something to be said for efforts fed to the the market, sorted under the folder "Yet Another". Hiring his Colour of The Loyalty co-hort Billy Chung (also behind Love To Kill and Last Ghost Standing), there is a truth to his and Wong Jing's movies (especially as of late) that darker, even if recycled, atmosphere gets them places. And still, I could probably take any review of a recent Wong Jing effort of this ilk and just replace the movie title with that of Billy Chung's latest here. Or rather any movie with a "hero" trying to leave his old life behind. Why waste one, two, three, MULTIPLE paragraphs on essentially the...same...old...thing? I like being entertained, I like my beloved Hong Kong cinema to dabble in the small in addition to the big and yes, somewhere in there Wong Jing has a place. So does Hong Kong Bronx
There's a quote at the beginning of the film which doesn't make proceedings turn original in any way but the image of a totally lost Jordan Chan hearing "How did it come to this?" has us admiring the fact that clearly director Billy Chung has quite a great tool in his leading man. The tool to embody the usual downward spiral of once triads wanting to turn good. That is until the post-production crew comes in and sinks the film. Warning us ahead of time via some amped audio and visuals, this shot on video exercise gives us glimpse of comic book images during the credits but at the end of the day is your ol' daytime (only more violent) gangster soap opera. And it ain't that bad of a choice because casting gives this production a bigger impact than should be expected.
As Chan's Neil tries to steer clear of trouble but bloodshed is splashed in his face wherever he goes, director Chung is wise to very quickly do a back story on Neil that in some selected voice over tells of his infatuation with the lifestyle that then turned into disgust as he got older and wiser. No lingering on Neil's feelings, just establishing them and through the presence of Jordan Chan, we feel what he's trying to accomplish. We also know beforehand that any type of attempt at leading a life, dabbling in romance and dreams is pretty much not a concept worth it after you made even a tiny, tiny step into the triad world. It's once again a gallery of wacky looking triads acting in the most feeble ways imaginable but the way any authority can easily be suppressed is why Billy Chung's frame takes on some effective darkness.
As anyone and everyone is dragged down, one step outside your front door and you're on a path of doom towards getting stabbed in the back, raped and it doesn't matter if you're a kid or not. Wong Jing and Billy Chung spare no one and Hong Kong Bronx, as much as it speaks of nothing new, is fairly on the edge stuff for a soap opera. Jordan Chan puts in effort not destined for awards but is the consummate professional to the point that he takes this arc seriously. Thank god for someone doing that despite the cheapness involved but unfortunately that professionalism includes taking part in the ultra-gory climax that pretty much sinks Hong Kong Bronx into cheese-territory it really wasn't close too before.
Yes, somewhere along the line of time, the effort to create physical on-screen blood got lost and with the advent of computers, apparently Wong Jing feels he should do every effect in post. Almost all well and good if there was some smoothly integrated realism to the limb chopping, beheadings and Peter Jackson-level of gory mayhem to the finale of Hong Kong Bronx. Adding comic book imagery to enhance the rage on display, it's concepts gone horribly wrong and sadly it's also proof of someone probably wanting to do this again. For a while, Hong Kong Bronx has dramatic grit. In the end, it preaches and loses. I think I'll eject the disc before the climax next time. At that point, Billy Chung, Wong Jing and Jordan Chan will truly have something to put on their list of credits.
Kam & Ronson presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The video image is clear and sharp.
Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.
The English subtitles are coherent almost all the way, with only some minor, totally comprehensible errors to report. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Only extra is the trailer.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson