An often surprisingly subtle comic riff on a triad leader past his sell-by date, "Jiang Hu -- 'The Triad Zone' " provides meaty roles for stars Tony Leung Kar-fai and Sandra Ng, as a status-conscious boss and his trashy wife, before becoming a more conventional crime drama in its final half-hour.

An often surprisingly subtle comic riff on a triad leader past his sell-by date, “Jiang Hu — ‘The Triad Zone’ ” provides meaty roles for stars Tony Leung Kar-fai and Sandra Ng, as a status-conscious boss and his trashy wife, before becoming a more conventional crime drama in its final half-hour. Festgoers and Asiaphiles who grooved on Johnnie To’s “The Mission” will spot many comic refs to that pic in Dante Lam’s movie, as well as cameos by well-known names whose recognition provides many of the laughs.

With slicked-back hair and a flashy wardrobe, Leung has a ball as Jim Yam, who uses a failed assassination attempt as an excuse to dispose of his rivals and reassert his power. Playing midway between a cheap spiv and a clever manipulator, Leung has many of his best scenes opposite Ng, especially in a one-reel flashback to their first romantic idyll in London. Main fault of the episodic script is not properly developing the theme of old-style gangsters caught in a fast-changing criminal landscape, the latter repped by a young wannabe, Tiger (Samuel Pang). “Jiang hu” is a traditional (Mandarin) term for the underworld.

Jiang Hu -- 'The Triad Zone'

Hong Kong

Production

A China Star Entertainment Group release of a China Star/One Hundred Years of Film Co. presentation of an Icon Pictures production. (International sales: China Star, H.K.) Produced by Charles Heung. Executive producers, Chan Hing-kao, Amy Chin. Directed by Dante Lam. Screenplay, Chan Hing-kao, Amy Chin.

Crew

Camera (color), Cheung Man-po; editor, Chan Ki-hop; music, Tommy Wai; art director, Ringo Fung; action director, Wong Wai-fai. Executive in charge of production, Tiffany Chen. Reviewed on videodisc, London, Nov. 11, 2000. (In Berlin Film Festival -- Forum.) Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Tony Leung Kar-fai, Sandra Ng, Anthony Wong, Eason Chan, Lee San-san, Lee Siu-kay, Jo Koo, Roy Cheung, Chan Fai-hung, Helena Law, Robert Su, Samuel Pang, Eric Tsang, Lee Lik-chee, Richard Ng, Ann Hui. (Cantonese dialogue.)
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