Arrest The Restless (1992)

Directed by: Lawrence Lau
Written by: Tsang Kan-Cheung & Joe Chan
Producer: Charles Heung & Jimmy Heung
Starring: Charles Heung, Leslie Cheung, Vivian Chow, Deannie Yip, Fruit Chan, Paul Chun, Ng Gwok-Ging & Guy Lai

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Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1993:
Best Actor (Charles Heung)

Set during the swinging 60s, Teddy (Leslie Cheung) is the leader of the juvenile gang called "Teddy boys". A conflict with Sam, the son of official Chow Tung, escalates into violence though. The case is headed by one of the few remaining morally upright cops, Lam (Charles Heung) but when a murder takes place, corrupt politics within the police force threatens to frame Teddy as the perpetrator. Lam realizes that Teddy not only is innocent but one that has a shot at something greater in life. He's given 48 hours to locate Sam and prove Teddy's innocence. However Teddy is on the track of revenge at the same time since his girlfriend Leung Siu Man (Vivian Chow - The Unmatchable Match) has been the target of Sam's attacks...

Movies set in the 1960s brings out some very unique things for its time. Most notably early on in Arrest The Restless, the government wishes to make youths care less for pop stars, music and movies and instead concentrates on worthwhile values. Harmless activities when viewed with today's eyes but director Lawrence Lau (Gangs, Spacked Out) takes care free characters with those interests into the realm of the comedic and violent in his period piece.

I feel like a record on repeat but it's still a fact that Hong Kong cinema rarely showcases a fear of mixing it up in terms of moods. Arrest The Restless is at one hand farce, resonates dramatically and disturbs greatly with some heavy violent acts. Yet, it's a mixture that is highly effective even though it's not always comfortable to watch. Unlike the similar effort It's Now Or Never, starring Cheung Man, Arrest The Restless comes with several aspects worth caring for underneath the glossy surface. Director Lau early establishes fine production values and cinematographer David Chung provides the eye popping colours of the settings and then we're onboard.

There are several interesting themes baked into the story by writers Tsang Kan-Cheung (now regular Stephen Chow collaborator but no stranger to violence as seen in his disturbing directorial debut Intruder) and Joe Chan (Eighteen Springs). You've got the gang conflicts, of course taking place initially at the big dance with everybody sipping soda pop and a set of buffoon cops (the character of Whiz within this group is played by no other than Made In Hong Kong director Fruit Chan!) but soon the issues underneath turns out to be very real ones. During a time where economy isn't prosperous, both Teddy and cop Lam are struck by hard issues of the real world. Lam is looked down upon by his wife as he's not fallen victim to corruption and therefore not as prosperous economically. Home life for Teddy consists of having to keep his mother (Deannie Yip in a wonderful supporting performance) away from loan sharks and it's no wonder he's not choosing to leave his leader status behind because there's no future to look forward to. What basically becomes a fine dramatic driving force of the film is how Lam sets out to actually provide a social service as a cop and get Teddy on the right track while most other characters within the force just randomly arrests whoever they lay their hands or has an political agenda.

All told with a combination of, again, David Chung's eye for the visual and Lau's eye for social commentary. As I said, you will experience quite a contrast of moods throughout and looking back at them, I see Lau effectively making all of this work to entertaining, funny and painful effect. The comedy, mostly headlined by Fruit Chan, registers well as a storyelement, the low-key drama is felt, the hard hitting doses of violence suitably in your face and the complaints along the way in Arrest The Restless stems from the fact that Lau puts the peaks of the moods a bit too close to one another. It would make more sense to keep a better balanced throughline rather than to jump back and forth between scenes such as the acid torture to the comedy cop fight (complete for sportscaster-like commentary by one of the officers on the scene). Some aspects such as Teddy's and Leung Siu Man's relationship seems lacking also but here's where Lau has a knack for featuring what he needs for the audience to accept this portrayal as full.

In a rare starring role we see Charles Heung, known as a profile within the triads but one of the few along with brother Jimmy that actually cared about producing films, not forcing actors and filmmakers to work for them. Charles heads Chinastar today and his most popular acting gig thus far remains the role as the bodyguard of both Chow Yun-Fat and Stephen Chow in the God of Gamblers series. He received a Best Actor nomination for his performance in Lawrence Lau's film here and while not a great act, Heung brings a well-honed stoic and honorable presence to Lam as well as an aura where he's resigned to his fate as an honest but lowly cop. The late Leslie Cheung is extremely suitable for the setting and as a James Dean-esque heartthrob. He responds well to the journey Lawrence takes him through and is equally tough, caring, sensitive and care free. The almost unspoken father-son bond between him and Heung's character is memorable and helps the otherwise expected climax reach memorable places thematically. Watch out for references to the characters of Limpy Ho and Lee Rock during the film. Two real life characters that were highlighted in the bio-pictures To Be Number One and Lee Rock (also directed by Lau) respectively.

Lawrence Lau's prologue feels like the only substandard bit in Arrest The Restless as it so relentlessly and joyously wraps up the story and sends characters on their way. On the other hand, it feels slightly valid and welcome although audiences wouldn't have walked away with less positive feelings about Lau's work here without it featured. Despite, Arrest The Restless is a hybrid of contrasting elements to an extreme almost and if you've not embraced that as part of the Hong Kong cinema experience by now, you'll most likely frown upon the funny, affecting and painful retro journey that Lau takes us on. If you have accepted, Arrest The Restless takes on gem status with effective execution in all areas.

The DVD:

Deltamac presents the film in a 1.81:1 aspect ratio approximately. Print is mildly damaged but the transfer sports fine colours and details thankfully.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track sounds clear to the point where it becomes slightly distracting at times to listen to the flip flop between synch sound and dubbed dialogue. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.

The English subtitles are sloppy on occasion in terms of spelling and grammar but you're never clueless as to what is going on. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. No extras are however.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson