Review: ‘Jiang Hu’

A three-card trick that thinks it's far more clever than it actually is, "Jiang Hu" is an average Hong Kong triad movie with a big-name cast and a cheap Big Twist. First solo effort by writer-director Wong Ching-po ("Fu Bo") performed credibly last spring, and wide fest exposure since autumn indicates a solid afterlife in ancillary.

A three-card trick that thinks it’s far more clever than it actually is, “Jiang Hu” is an average Hong Kong triad movie with a big-name cast and a cheap Big Twist. First solo effort by writer-director Wong Ching-po (“Fu Bo”) performed credibly last spring, and wide fest exposure since autumn indicates a solid afterlife in ancillary.

Wannabe young gangsters Yik (Shawn Yue, good) and Turbo (Edison Chen, lightweight) compete for a do-or-die assignment to kill a major hood. Yik gets the job, and the duo set out on the night streets to find a gun. Meanwhile, top mobster Hung Yen-chiu (Andy Lau, unbelievable), who’s just become a father, hears someone is out to kill him in the coming hours. His best pal, Lefty (Jacky Cheung, with Rasta haircut), urges him to retire; but Hung wants to find out who’s behind the planned hit. Smooth opening reel, cross-cutting between the parallel strands, is promisingly atmospheric; thereafter, pic becomes an increasingly empty series of stylistic conceits, neither consistently quirky nor especially cohesive. Title (literally, “Rivers and Lakes”) denotes a heroic landscape, either criminal or chivalrous.

Jiang Hu

Hong Kong

Production

A Go Film Distribution release of a See Corp., Media Asia Films, Focus Films, SMI Corp. presentation of an Anytime Pictures Co. production. (International sales: Fortissimo Film Sales, Amsterdam/Hong Kong.) Produced by Alan Tam, Andy Lau. Executive producer, Eric Tsang. Co-producers, John Chong, Bruce Ren. Directed by Wong Ching-po. Screenplay, To Chi-long; story, To, Wong.

Crew

Camera (color), Charlie Lam, Kenny Lam; editor, Pang Ching-hei; music, Mark Lui; production designer, Yank Wong; art director, Lam Ching; costume designer, Petra Kwok. Reviewed on videodisc, London, March 15, 2005. (In Berlin Film Festival -- Forum; 2004 San Sebastian Film Festival -- Open Zone.) Cantonese dialogue. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Shawn Yue, Edison Chen, Wu Chien-lien, Chapman To, Lin Yuan, Gao Lei, Eric Tsang, Miu Kiu-wai, Tsui Siu-keung, Lam Ka-tung, Xiao Hai, Wai Ying-hung, Donna Chu, Iris Wong, Lam Suet, Tony Ho, Ng Doi-yung, Wong Shee-tong, Wong Ching, Billy Ching, Onit Suka.
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