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The Triads are back in “Young and Dangerous: Reloaded”, which sees producers Wong Jing and Manfred Wong returning to the hugely popular series following the fortunes of good looking gang upstarts. Though their quality might have been variable, the original films really were for many one of the standouts of 1990s Hong Kong genre cinema, the first instalment back in 1996 having been directed by Andrew Lau (“Infernal Affairs”) and having helped skyrocket the career of Ekin Cheng, along with co-stars Jordan Chan, Francis Ng, Gigi Lai and Simon Yam. And so, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that more than 15 years and some 10 (at last count) sequels and spin-offs later, a reboot now arrives, directed by Daniel Chan, who recently also dabbled with gang action in “Triad”, attempting to revisit the formula for a new generation.
Taking on the all-important lead role is Him Law (“Hong Kong Ghost Stories”) as Chan Ho Nam, who along with buddies Chicken (TVB actor Oscar Leung, “Natural Born Lovers”), Pou Pan (Lam Chi Sin, “Beach Spike”) and Dai Tin Yee (Dominic Ho, “Triad”) joins the Hung Hing Triad society to help them get by on the streets. Taken under the wing of the righteous sub boss Brother Bee (rocker Paul Wong), the boys start to rise up the ranks, though run into troubles when the villainous Ugly Kwan (Sammy Shum, “Lan Kwai Fong 2”) makes a ruthless bid for the gang leadership.
“Young and Dangerous: Reloaded” plays out exactly as expected, and for some viewers this will be a very good thing. Daniel Chan’s “Triad” aside, there’s been a distinct lack of Hong Kong gang films on the market for some time now, possibly due to Mainland influences, and so for fans of the old school, a return to the popular series and style is welcome indeed. This wins the film quite a considerable bit of good will, enough to overlook the fact that it’s an entirely formulaic affair that, whether judged as a remake, reboot or revisioning follows the usual Triad plot to the very letter, from its gang politics and themes of brotherhood right through to Ho Nam’s relationship with sweet natured rich girl Lorraine (Michelle Hu). The film is nothing if not predictable, though thankfully it feels pleasantly familiar rather than simply derivative, with Chan tackling the subject with a degree of enthusiasm, focusing on what made the originals so fun in the first place.
There are changes, of course, most notably the fact that Ho Nam and his friends are a considerably nicer bunch than they were before, now even more dead-set on righteousness and honour, not to mention being against swearing and the over use of curse words. The film certainly has a more clear cut view of good and evil than the originals, with much less in the way of muddied morals, Ugly Kwan being a borderline pantomime villain of comical badness and Brother Bee being a virtual paragon of decency. Though a film like this doesn’t necessarily require depth as such, the overtly heroic treatment of its protagonist detracts from the overall believability, and it would have benefitted from more of a gritty authenticity. This isn’t helped by the fact that Him Law isn’t terribly convincing in the lead role, never nailing the bad boy nuances of Ekin Cheng or managing to get across any kind of internal conflict.
Helping to distract from this is the fact that the film comfortably earns its category III rating, with a great deal of violent action throughout, choreographer and supporting cast member Philip Ng (“Naked Soldier”) throwing in an impressive number of brutal fight scenes and choppings. The film gets very bloody in places, and though the over use of CGI lessens the impact somewhat, it’s a wild and carnage filled piece of exploitation with some nicely handled gory set pieces. Unlike the originals, the film also features a fair amount of sex and nudity, several of the male and female cast members shedding their clothes, and this gives it an at times sleazy air, which might be a good or bad thing, depending on the viewer’s disposition.
This sums up “Young and Dangerous: Reloaded” pretty well, as it’s a film which to a large extent preaches to the converted, or at least to those likely to enjoy violent, trashy Hong Kong Triad cinema. Delivering exactly as promised, whilst it’s doubtful that the film will have the same impact as the much loved originals, Daniel Chan does more than enough to make the clumsily set up sequel an appealing enough prospect.
Daniel Yee Heng Chan (director) / Manfred Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Singh Hartihan Bitto … Bitto
Sui-man Chim … Bullshit Jim
Jacqueline Chong … Wasabi
Yue Ding … Uncle Gut
Denise Ho … Sister 13
Dominic Ho … Dai Tin Yee
Timmy Hung … Prince Edward