Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m
When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – out on Radiance Blu-ray from Monday, August 21st 2023 following its screening in the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2021
Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.
Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage. Jo Jo (Wu Chien-lien in her debut role) thus finds herself taken in a car to the gang’s meeting place in the middle of nowhere. She ignores Wah’s advice to keep out of sight and Trumpet, spotting her, wants her dead because she’s a possible witness.
Wah and Jo-jo fall for each other which is unfortunate since they’re from mutually exclusive worlds – the gang member from the wrong side of the tracks and the little rich girl under the thumb of her parents. Director Chan does little to dispel these clichés, preferring instead to milk the stereotypes for all they’re worth, staging some highly effective fight scenes with knives and machetes and exploiting the boy meets girl material by piling on the sentiment in oodles of Cantopop montages. What makes it all work is the two leads’ charisma and performances.
Wu would go on to appear in two unrelated sequels (1993 and 1996) and, perhaps more importantly, American-produced, Taiwanese hit Eat Drink Man Woman (Ang Lee, 1994). Here, she exhibits just the right amounts of fragility and naiveté to make her role as a hostage believable, later coming on like the girl next door as she becomes smitten with her former captor, refusing to betray him to the police in line-up or identikit reconstruction. Lau is terrific as the self-loathing gangster who looks out for her back but won’t allow himself to become emotionally involved, drowning his sorrows in drink.
In the end, Wah can’t keep up his resistance to love, throws a newspaper stand through a store front and steals wedding dress and bridegroom suit for the pair’s brief bike ride through the city at night before on steps outside an empty church he tells her to pray to God for whatever she wants then abandons her for a final, fatal fight with the other gang members leaving her to walk the streets bereft in her wedding dress as she searches for him and the credits roll, a truly iconic scene.
The film launched the career of director Chan who want on to make another 25 movies, the last of which Raging Fire (2021) opens this year’s LEAFF.
Trailer (Raging Fire):
LEAFF 2021 Official Trailer: