Before going on to become one of Hong Kong's biggest film directors Wilson Yip made a number of low key films, a world away from from the huge Donnie Yen movies he makes these days. One of the earliest was Mongkok story, a triad movie made in the wake of the success of the first Young and dangerous movie. It has a similar feel to begin with but is more leisurely paced and becomes much more off kilter, while still using many of the genre tropes established by that influential movie.
Leung Ping (Edmund Leung Hon Man) is a waiter in a Mongkok cafe frequented by triads who follow Brother Ching (Roy Cheung). Leung sees the triad lifestyle as being glamorous and longs to be involved, inevitably he does gets drawn in to the rivalry between Brother Ching and Brother Lone's (Anthony Wong) gangs. A rumour started by one of Ching's gang about Lone begins an ever more destructive sequence of events, resulting in much posturing and machismo between the gangs before things spiral downwards to the point of no return.
Mongkok story's biggest failing is lead actor Edmund Leung, who lacks the charisma required to carry the movie as his own story. Leung is not helped here by the pairing of Roy Cheung and Anthony Wong who have charisma to burn, the screen comes alive when either are on screen and doubly so in the scenes they share together. Roy Cheung is effortlessly cool in his role as Ching, while Anthony Wong is hilarious as another in his long list of sleazy bad guys, this time as part triad leader part actor, a scene in a cinema showing him starring in an El Mariachi rip off is worth seeing the movie for alone. Wong has his hair long here and I think always looks sleazier that way. Chan Wai Man provides solid support as usual, he must have one of the most recognisable faces in all of Hong Kong cinema.
The movie really picks up pace once Brother Lone comes onto the scene, changing from a triad lifestyle film into an almost Shakespearian tragedy/farcical black comedy. That Wilson Yip pulls this transition off is pretty impressive for a movie so early in his directing career. The action scenes are also very impressive, the gang fights certainly being better than similar scenes in the Young and dangerous movie. Mongkok story could have been improved by giving more depth to Leung's character, although I feel the filmmakers may have thought the actor wouldn't have been up to it. This may be the reason a sub plot set up in the movie, where Leung is shown to be in love with Ching's wife leads to absolutely nothing.
|You do not want to be in Edmund Lung's position, trust me|
While no classic, Mongkok story is a solid entry into the endlessly popular triad genre and stands up pretty well, thanks largely to the screen presence of Roy Cheung and in particular Anthony Wong who raises the movie to greater heights than perhaps the material deserves. I can't believe I managed to get through this without mentioning the Anthony Wong oral sex scene, oops!