Property developer turned film maker Dennis Law continues his onslaught on Hong Kong cinemas with another genre outing in “Bad Blood”. As with his former outing “Fatal Move”, the triad thriller sees him working with acclaimed cinematographer Herman Yau and action choreographer Li Chung Chi, and reunites him with cast members and industry veterans Simon Yam, Eddie Cheung, Pinky Cheung, and Lam Suet. Law also manages to attract a few more action stars in the form of Andy On (recently in “True Legend”), Xiong Xinxin (“Once upon a time in China”), Ken Lo (also in the Jackie Chan films “Police Story 2” and “The Myth”) and rising martial arts talent Jiang Luxia (another “True Legend” alumnus), along with TVB’s Bernice Liu and Chris Lai.
The film kicks off in fine, action packed style with Tung Luen Shun gang boss Lok Cheung On (Eddie Cheung) being caught during a botched counterfeit money job in Mainland China, and then summarily executed. This leaves a power vacuum for the gang back in Hong Kong, with the oddly named but ambitious Funky (Simon Yam) being first in line to step up and lead the family. However, many others are also vying for position, including Lok’s naïve son (Chris Lai), recently returned from the US, his seemingly quiet and obedient daughter Audrey (Bernice Liu), and Calf, a young man with a disfiguring birthmark on his face and a massive chip on his shoulder – not to mention Lok’s many wives, mistresses and other triad henchmen. It soon becomes clear that one of them is only too willing to kill for the job, as cast members start dropping like flies, forcing the others to try and figure out who the murder is before they find their own throats cut.
There’s no denying that, by traditional cinematic standards, “Bad Blood” is a bit of a mess. Law has never been much of a storyteller, showing a strange predilection for alternately ignoring his characters and then spending far too much time focusing on their more mundane activities. Despite its basic high concept premise of being a triad murders whodunit, the plot has a real tendency to go off on odd and pointless tangents, though thankfully less so than in other recent Law efforts such as “Womb Ghosts”. The good news is that all of this actually works well to make “Bad Blood” extremely entertaining, if perhaps not for the intended reasons. With all of the cast playing strange, larger than life and not quite believable cartoon figures, their infighting and scheming makes for some wonderfully hysterical melodrama, most of which is all the funnier for being played straight. Once the identity of the assassin is revealed, wisely quite early on in the proceedings, things get even better, with some top notch ruthlessness and wacky murders. Here, Law shows his usual taste for randomness, with characters being abruptly dispatched with no thought to generating tension, something which also makes for some unexpected, laugh out loud moments.
The film does see Law making some advances as a director, being better paced and less prone to needlessly excesses of tacky style than his earlier outings, “Fatal Move” in particular. With Herman Yau as cinematographer, the film certainly looks good, and though not exactly gritty, it does at least have vaguely hard edge and some decent visuals. Law does have the good sense to keep the action coming thick and fast, and though a lot of these scenes are disconnected from the plot, they are exciting and violent. Li Chung Chi’s choreography is of a decent standard, and most of the martial arts scenes are pretty impressive, benefitting from not showing too much obvious CGI. The film is quite brutal and bloody in places, though is really too much fun to ever be truly nasty.
This feeling pervades the film as a whole, and “Bad Blood” is a very enjoyable piece of glorious trash. Although by no means an accomplished or substantial piece of cinema, it entertains and amuses throughout, more so than many other more po-faced or supposedly meaningful thrillers. Indeed, there is certainly something to be said for Law as a director of straight up, old fashioned, Hong Kong style exploitation fare, and if he tightens up his skills and storytelling, there’s a real chance of his films becoming an established and welcome antidote to some of the more mundane, increasingly export friendly genre efforts currently being produced by others.
Dennis Law (director) / Dennis Law (screenplay)
CAST: Wai-Man Chan … Zen
Pinky Cheung … Lucy / The Seventh Wife
Siu-Fai Cheung … Andy
Luxia Jiang … Dumby
Suet Lam … Peter Wong
Bernice Liu … Audrey
Ken Lo … Hung
Andy On … Calf
Xin Xin Xiong … Kong
Simon Yam … Funky