Young and Dangerous

YOUNG AND DANGEROUS 1 & 2 Hong Kong, 1996
97 minutes and 101 minutes w/intermission, 35mm, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Andrew Lau
Starring: Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Gigi Lai, Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Jerry Lamb, Chingmy Yau
Director and cinematographer Andrew Lau will attend the screening.

YOUNG AND DANGEROUS isn’t a movie, it’s way of life. A series of 15 films (six movies, four prequels, three spin-offs, and two all-female versions, as well as a parody movie and a reboot) covering the life and times of the plastic-pants-wearing Hung Hing criminal fraternity (triad) and the bevy of studly young things who make up its members, it’s the brainchild of Andrew Lau and Wong Jing and the first two movies are the kind of shot-on-the-run movies that captured lightning in a bottle and became cultural events.

Based on a comic called “Teddy Boys,” Y&D follows the lives of a handful of low level triad kids, the most notable being the noble, broody Chan Ho-nam (Ekin Cheng, he of the flowing locks), and the girl-crazy bigmouthed Chicken (Jordan Chan, all cigarette voice and rubber faced). They’re the Martin & Lewis of the streets, ready to rumble at the drop of a hat, wearing ghetto fabulous 90’s fashions (shiny pants and tight t-shirts), with girls draped over either arm, and a chopper shoved in their belt. The first film finds their loyalty tested when Ugly Kwan (Francis Ng, chewing the screen) tries to bribe them to betray Uncle Bee, their boss and the head of the Hung Hing triad.

Shot on the fly by Andrew Lau, who also directed, the first movie was a get-rich-quick scheme masterminded by producer Wong Jing, but the movie’s accurate representation of youth culture, its hair-trigger temper, and breathless plotting turned it into a hit. Phrases from the film became slang sayings, politicians denounced its glorification of the triad lifestyle, op-eds were written, protests were planned, students swarmed the box office, tickets were bought. It was such a hit that Andrew Lau and Wong Jing rushed into production on a sequel that was written, directed, edited, marketed and released within eight WEEKS of the first movie’s release. And, surprisingly, it’s even better than the first.

This time the tone is darker as we jump back in time to Chicken’s exile in Taiwan (that was largely off-screen in the first film). Here his old boss is trying to take over the Hung Hing turf, making Chicken a casualty of his power play. It’s a more realistic look at triad life, grimmer, and even more violent, with an emotional power only hinted at in the first movie. The joy of these movies isn’t just the sheer energy but the rogues gallery of famous faces in some of the best character roles of their careers.

Anthony Wong is the “legendary” Tai Fei, rude as a drunk with one finger permanently lodged up his nose. Francis Ng is hilariously hair-triggered as Ugly Kwan, Chingmy Yau turns up as a femme fatale girlfriend, and Simon Yam is a paternal father figure par excellence. But it’s the Hung Hing boys who own these cinematic streets. Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan became huge stars thanks to these films, and so did Gigi Lai playing Ekin’s girlfriend. These movies are pop culture magic that sizzles on the tongue and sparkle with energy as they crack a bottle full of technicolored champagne over your spinning skull.

Part of Hong Kong Cinema Now and Beyond

Thursday July 4, 1:00PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets