Men From The Gutter (1983)

Directed by: Nam Nai-Choi
Written by: Tony Leung Hung-Wah & Keith Lee
Producer: Mona Fong & Wong Ka Hee
Starring: Miu Kiu-Wai, Lo Meng, Jason Pai, Wong Yung, Parkman Wong Chen Pei-Hsi, Lung Tin-Sang, Billy Lau & Lee Hoi-Sang

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Cult hero of a director (but later on thanks to the likes of The Seventh Curse, Story Of Ricky and Her Vengeance), Nam Nai-Choi's third movie at Shaw Brothers doesn't take as serious of a route as his Brothers From The Walled City, even though it's certainly not veering away from the rough atmos of the streets and its slums. But there's no real statement in that fact and Men From The Gutter rather aims to push the ride button while also showcasing Nam's dual work as director and cinematographer. Therefore, the film is quite a key one for Nam as he then went out in the world and pushed well for excess, be it in hokey ways or hard hitting in the violent areas.

Dealing with ongoing criminal plots for the already frustrated police force, Wang Guangtai (Danny Lee regular Parkman Wong) plans an armed robbery together with girlfriend Lily (Chen Pei-Hsi) and buddies Ah Long (Lung Tin-Sang - Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind) and Brainless (Billy Lau - Mr. Vampire). All while a scarred hitman (Jason Pai - Shaolin Prince) is targeting the boss of a drug syndicate (Wong Yung). The law, represented by cops Qiu (Miu Kiu-Wai - Magic Cop) and Zhao (Lo Meng - one of the Venoms) tries to balance troops and heads in order to solve both crimes...

Pretty much launching us head first into proceedings with no heads up warning of what goes on, because there is no grand statement present throughout the entire film, it's entirely forgivable that the rather reckless gang and hard to kill hitman just starts going about their business shortly into the film. Some interest can be obtained via quite non-subtle scenes detailing the frustration of in particular the police officer played by Lo Meng and certainly a lot of unavoidable but distracting cop movie-clichés turn up. And while you might make yourself a mental note during this very beginning that there's a mystery structure perhaps available in Nam Nai-Choi's quickly launched narrative, it's in fact not but instead an exciting showcase for the studio and one of its premium cinematographers turned reluctant director. Thankfully he was talked into it and co-directed a rather poor first movie (One Way Only) with Danny Lee followed by a well shot, well intended, violent social drama (the mentioned Brothers From The Walled City) but no other output at the studio from Nam Nai-Choi showcased his eye for excess like Men From The Gutter.

The lack of distinction and interest gets immediately turned around as Nam little by little demonstrates how slick this Hong Kong's big studio project can look, utilizing light, colours and the scope photography to high standard effect. Then for the last half hour, gears are cranked up and this late Shaw Brothers production all of a sudden gets a violent action ride of reference status. Nam's shaky cam gets in the middle of the eventual armed robbery sequence that showcases car stunts, violence (even with the distracting light red blood, the effect is fine) and tension that is close to that clichéd edge of your seat thing.

But since Nam Nai-Choi is fulfilling script duties that says feature dual criminal activity, the police needs to head into Jason Pai's direction as he makes his last attempt at eliminating Wong Yung and the night shootout/hairy stunt finale (in particular the fire gags) is a mesmerizing experience where the film truly gets bragging rights as a technical achievement as well as featuring oodles of creativity and an array of vicious killings. Excess was set into place in Nam's head as well as the way you showcase teeth in a production and this visit to his Shaw Brothers days will indeed prove to be an excellent reference and tracking point for those interested.

The DVD:

IVL presents the film in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The remastered print contains fine detail and colours, showcasing the stylized cinematography very well.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track sounds clear and a Mandarin 2.0 option is also available.

The English subtitles have some slight grammar faults that are no problem deciphering and the translation becomes a good representation for the film. Traditional Chinese subtitles are also included.

Standard Celestial extras turn up, starting with newly created trailers for Gang Master, Mercenaries From Hong Kong, The Convict Killer and Godfather Of Canton. Movie Information-section holds 10 movie stills, an image of the original poster, production notes that are actually the plot synopsis from the back of the dvd and basic biographies/filmographies for Jason Pai, Wong Yung, Lo Meng, Chen Pei-Hsi and Nam Nai-Choi.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson