Organized Crime & Triad Bureau (1994)

Directed by: Kirk Wong
Written by: Winky Wong
Producer: Danny Lee
Starring: Danny Lee, Anthony Wong, Cecilia Yip, Fan Siu-Wong, Li Fai, Parkman Wong, Roy Cheung & Eric Kei

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A hunt for a dangerous gang of robbers, led by Tung (Anthony Wong) with his mistress Cindy (Cecilia Yip) by his side, leads the Organized Crime & Triad Bureau to Cheng Chau island outside of Hong Kong. In order to cut off all escape routes, Inspector Lee (Danny Lee) isolates the island which eventually leads to the capture of Tung. However, he is cunning and his gang is not about to give up on him...

From Kirk Wong comes this 1994 action-thriller, Wong's last directorial work in Hong Kong before leaving for Hollywood. The action comedy The Big Hit starring Mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips was Wong's stab at Hollywood stardom and while it did ok, I personally, maybe wrongly, never made it through the film's combination of so called humorous banter and action. I should really give it a full on chance now that I've experienced some of Wong's Hong Kong work. Making his debut with The Club in 1981, a gritty triad story starring Chan Wai Man, Wong has since established himself as a dependable man to have in charge of action movies and Gunmen, despite flaws as a character piece, is one terrific example of that.

You can clearly see why Hollywood wanted to bring over Kirk Wong. In my mind, he's no John Woo, consciously so, Ringo Lam or Tsui Hark but true to the Hollywood way, all these guys were brought over to be John Woo. However, there is only one John and definitely only one Kirk, whose style, if one had to compare, resembles Ringo Lam's more than anything. His talents stands out perfectly fine on its own and in Organized Crime & Triad Bureau, he showers the viewers with most clichés of cops and robbers thrillers but makes them work to a good degree.

Winky Wong (where do they come up with these English names?) wrote Rock 'N Roll Cop for Kirk the same year and underneath Organized Crime & Triad Bureau's surface, there lies some pretty decent character depth that depends much on the casting to work at least well. The gallery of characters are ones that seem to have come to the end of the line in life and has to perform one last desperate act to at least go out with fulfillment in their hearts. That description holds true for Lee (also nicknamed Rambo) and Cindy, who respectively have been abandoned by those who meant something and are pursuing their only option in life, on different sides of the law. They are not arcs that consciously aim high depth-wise but Wong directs his actors so he'll get the absolute most out of them, making the characteristics believable.

Danny Lee of course can play a cop in his sleep but when there's more dramatics to be performed, even rather simple ones like an early scene in a bar, I think Danny has always been up to the task. It's impulsiveness and the downtrodden traits to his character that we indeed have seen before but Danny's skills makes it believable once again. His side of the story also brings in the subtext that the Tai Seng tagline on the dvd cover talks about: how far can you go? And it's not the first time in a Danny Lee production that bending the rules, avoiding police procedure is the way in order to bring justice to the people. It's an age old debate, one that's very hard for filmmakers to balance, and it should. Director Wong does that however and he's not creating sympathy for the criminals but it's always open to debate, as the film showcases in the clash between the OCTB and the CAPO unit, regardless.

On the other side you have the main female character of Cindy who's lost everything and really, the one she encounters first, at the end of her line, is Tung. What other options are there besides pursuing a criminal path when a law abiding one isn't helping? It's again an recognizable character arc but it's got an engaging performer in Cecilia Yip.

The film starts so abruptly without any warning as to who characters are and why they are what they are. However, Wong adopts a flashback device a few times throughout the film that nicely helps to build on character relationship's, especially that between Tung and Cindy. It's clearly a laid out relationship where she is often left behind in favour of Tung's desires (often sexual) for the moment. But a surprising tenderness between them comes through during their fugitive stint and it's clear that a certain amount of care by Tung towards Cindy is there. As is, his care for his son. This is all textbook stereotypical devices but I'll say it again, you aim only fairly high, cast the right people and it can grow unexpectedly well. Anthony Wong has struck a nice balance here, ranging from the typical mean glare to the cunningness of a fox in combination with the slight humanity in him. There's no reason why he should be redeemed in any way so it's fascinating how Wong gets all these positives out of him in certain situations. Roy Cheung and Fan Siu-Wong appear in supporting roles. Fans of Cat III efforts such as Dr.Lamb and The Untold Story will also recognize faces such as Eric Kei and Parkman Wong, again playing part of Danny Lee's team of cops.

But this is not just slow-paced boring character stuff, Wong delivers a brisk pace to this chase-thriller that largely involves. From the opening attempt to bust Tung, to the wonderful scenery of Cheng Chau island, Wong achieves a calm AND intense tension all throughout, even with only two real action set pieces. The action choreography is not so much stylized, save for a few ballistic moments (one that involves martial arts and should've been cut) but succeeds when adopting more of a realism and putting the danger amongst the people.

Organized Crime & Triad Bureau is well-done, engaging decently on a character level and featuring acting with suitable touches that are catering to each main performers talent. Kirk Wong may not be up to the level of other action masters out of Hong Kong cinema but this film showcases several doses of enough carnage and humanity to warrant respect and attention.

The DVD:

In order to avoid a Cat III rating, cuts were required at the time of cinema release in Hong Kong and the City Connection dvd is therefore cut as well. Tai Seng have been able to access the uncensored print however, making this the only uncut version of Organized Crime & Triad Bureau on dvd.

The approximately 1.67:1 framed picture doesn't boast the greatest colours or depth. Mild grain can be seen, night scenes do suffer from being a bit too dark but on the plus side, print is quite clean and is watchable throughout.

The Cantonese mono presentation sounds clear and gets the job done. A Mandarin and English mono dub is also available.

Tai Seng have a good reputation of producing good English subtitles and presumably, Frank Djeng has again reworked Organized Crime & Triad Bureau's translation to good effect. It's is flawless in terms of grammar and conveys situations and plot very well.

Main supplements comes in the form of an audio commentary with director Kirk Wong, not advertised on the dvd cover. Largely anecdotal in nature, Wong touches upon the real case the film is based on, how the final film differs from the actual events, working with writer Winky Wong (a former cop himself) and the benefit of having Danny Lee on the production. As many of you know, Lee once tried out to be a policeman but for whatever reason never became one. Since then he's developed good relationship with the Hong Kong police, by constantly playing one, and Wong talks about the knowledge Danny has as well as his connections. Also of interest is the discussion regarding the challenge of filming on the actual locations where the events took place and shooting without a permit on the busy Hong Kong streets. Wong is a charming and amusing presence but this track only becomes decent due to the many gaps of silence between his comments.

Other extras include the Tai Seng created trailers for Organized Crime & Triad Bureau, The Heroic Trio, Wing Chun and The Bride With White Hair 1 & 2. Good but by now a bit outdated biographies/filmographies for Anthony Wong, Cecilia Yip, Danny Lee and Kirk Wong rounds off a good release.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson