Sexy And Dangerous (1996)
by: Billy Tang
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Billy Tang, the man behind the famous, the infamous but frankly the best Category III shockers such as Run And Kill and Red To Kill. Every era has its own limited time (for Category III, the golden years would be 1992-1996 roughly) and Tang has moved on to not so much better things (there's no more anger to vent perhaps) but he's still working, still showcasing his fine visual sense.
Accomplished cinematographer and not so celebrated director Andrew Lau had hit it big with the triad genre exercise Young And Dangerous in 1996, which Billy Tang went along with in Street Angels (also produced by Andrew Lau) but there were some profiles in the industry that had other ideas for the depiction of triads. One of them being Wilson Yip who directed the underrated Mongkok Story (another Phillip Kwok Wai-Chung penned script as well) and another unlikely one to, in this case, spin the set genre elements. His name is Wong Jing and before the Y&D series received their actual female spin-off (Portland Street Blues), there was Sexy And Dangerous.
The all female triad gang in Causeway Bay, led by Marble (Loletta Lee) and newcomer Van (Karen Mok) gets into trouble with a rival gang led by Lurcher (Ben Ng). Reason having to do with Lurcher's god sister Aids (Lily Chung) rivalry over the love of Brother One (Michael Tong). Marble is also oogled over by triad loser George (Francis Ng) to boot....
Despite having some of his best past cast and crew onboard (director of photography Tony Miu and actors Lily Chung & Ben Ng), Billy Tang undoubtedly have little to work with here from a visual standpoint. On the other hand, this look and budget were utilized to great effect in similar productions that came out the same year such as the Once Upon A Time In Triad Society movies (starring Francis Ng). Those had wonderfully quirky scripts, making fun of the fact that these honorable triad characters literally are comic book creations. In Sexy And Dangerous, the comic book aspect is also true, only played up comically which in my mind makes for the better entertainment and furthermore, it does not glorify the triad lifestyle. With its gimmick if you will of an all female gang of triads, the filmmakers does find it hard to go their own way though. Which means that for most of the opening, this sadly does resemble a very unfunny and episodic Wong Jing production. Having said that, the atmosphere and actors, particularly as you will read many times in this review, Francis Ng adds spark. But Billy Tang finally manages to add some of his own, right about the time when you see the teddybears...
There's a definite flow found after that image, not necessarily visually, but Tang finds many opportunities for inspired and quirky gags, many of which involves Francis Ng's George character and that's really it to be honest. That notorious jarring jump in moods results in slight character journeys for Loletta Lee's Marble and George however. Now, to further wax Ng's car, there's really nothing earthshattering to work with here and it doesn't exactly fit in with the prior comedy or even the typical harsh violence, that in this case feels more like a Wong Jing addition. There's a slight sympathy in George's plight to be found though as he must further himself to even get to Marble's level of class and a possible long lasting relationship. In a refreshing twist however, the resolution to this journey is unexpected and rings more true to a reality, even though this movie is rather detached from reality.
Talking again about how Hong Kong cinema can inject any mood at any time, and not being an exploitation vehicle either, you will simply go along with the film or be disgusted by the violence that the women gets subjected to (although Ng's George takes the most beating throughout). Tang certainly is no stranger to abusing his characters but that was within the Category III fences of filmmaking. As I said, the tone shifts definitely feels more like Wong Jing's hand at work, which is not all good. It can however be argued that his involvement in the production also provides a service to Hong Kong cinema as he rightly joins the followers who likes to screw around with the triad genre, even if the Once Upon A Time In Triad Society films were the most successful at the time in terms of that. Love him or hate him, there's sometimes slight good to be found in the almost always commercially driven Wong.
Francis Ng's definite big break at least as a character actor happened during this heyday of triad movies that came spurting out of Hong Kong cinema. However, despite having first appeared in Andrew Lau's first Young And Dangerous, it was when joining Cha Yuen-Yee on Once Upon A Time In Triad Society that he came into his own fully as the repulsive Ugly Kwan. Then in the unrelated part 2, he really does play the exact same character as he does here in Sexy And Dangerous; the wimpy, low-level triad who has to conquer his shortcomings. Despite having much of the same feel, it's still a marvelously entertaining performance that obviously leans more towards the comedic but for those small moments of potentially cheesy drama, Ng so wonderfully draws us in and makes us feel for George. It would be another thing if the character never showcased any ambitions but he really does. The final test is a hard-hitting confrontation with Ben Ng's Lurcher (and Ben overacts suitably in tone with the comic book character image). I detect a small homage to The Young Master and its finale but even if it's not the case, it's a memorable ending plight for the character that doesn't really track back to any drama but we've come to want him to step up and be a man. Again, when reprising the same characteristics once more in Raped By An Angel 2: The Uniform Fan, Francis even on autopilot as the dopey triad can redeem other shortcomings of a film.
As for the actual main cast of females, no one here really stands out as the script, if there ever was a complete one, is too episodic for us to get to know each and every one of them. The women are game for the action and displays some fair chemistry but even Loletta Lee or Karen Mok aren't given much to do. They have to rely more on their character image, which makes Karen's performance stand out more as a matter of fact. Cat III favourites and underrated actors Lily Chung and Ben Ng appear in support as villains here. Even though it never leans towards quirky, naming Chung's character Aids is an odd inspired moment. The roles are beneath these two but they rarely got a chance after the Cat III era to seriously act. Ben Ng did the independent film The Accident however which is a terrific dramatic performance that I urge you to check out. Lee Kin-Yan (the nosepicking transvestite from Stephen Chow's films) gets to act a little for once (as well as in the mentioned Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 2) plus Vincent Kok, Shing Fui On, Johnny Wang, Lee Lik-Chi, Maria Cordero and Wong Yat-Fei logs cameos.
Any intentions Billy Tang had with Sexy And Dangerous for it to be the ultimate stab in the back of the stoic triad genre, popularized by Young And Dangerous, doesn't so much fail but more sporadically feels inspired. At other times, this is a Wong Jing movie in the worst of cases. At many others a showcase for Francis Ng to take on the loser triad character once again. Something he does with aplomb, making Sexy And Dangerous very memorable for the times it does try.
Early Mei Ah dvd that is fairly hard to obtain now and no word is yet out regarding a remastered edition. Aspect ratio seems to vary between 1.66:1 and 1.75:1 approximately throughout. Derived from a cinema print, the reel changes has tons of damage while the rest of the film is clean. Limitations in sharpness and blacks are apparent but it's a decent presentation for its cheap price.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track works off the center channel only and aside from an audio dropout at the end and a few instances of censored dialogue (in the form of bleeps), the track sounds clear. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.
The imbedded Chinese/English subtitles are readable at all times and feature only a few inaccuracies overall. There is no menu and therefore no extras.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson