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.