This prequel to the Young and Dangerous saga marks the film debut of Nicholas Tse, who gives it his all in an award-winning performance as the young Chan Ho-Nam.
1989, Hong Kong. Chan Ho-Nam is a seventeen-year old high school student who has a rock band with his friends Chicken, Chou-Pan, and Pou-Pan. He is somewhat unhappy due to the fact that he is forced to live with his grandmother while her mother has married a police officer. On top of that, he has run-ins with Piggy, a young rascal who follows Hung Hing member Ugly Kwan. When Ho-Nam and his friends are kicked out of school after performing an objectionable song at a talent contest, they are attacked by Piggy and his boys. All arrested except for Chicken, Chicken asks Hung Hing member Bee to bail them out as Chicken is part of Hung Hing. Realizing that with he has no other alternate routes, Ho-Nam decides to join Hung Hing with Chou-Pan and Pou-Pan.
When their first job as rascals almost goes bust, the boys adapt and eventually find themselves attacked again by Piggy. Nam suffers a near-fatal strike on his chest and with no other choice, Chicken resorts to using heroin to help Nam’s pain. Unfortunately, Bee, who is against drugs, finds out and punishes Chicken and Nam. However, after a speech from Bee about family, Ho-Nam and the boys, including Big Head, a kickboxer who becomes Ho-Nam’s fighting instructor, begin to slowly rise up the ranks. However, an internal conflict ensues when Nam tries to console Big Head’s girlfriend Fei. Eventually, that conflict is over and done with as Bee’s boys are about to get into something they never expected until it is too late, thus making Nam the sacrificial lamb in a deadly game with a rival gang, Tung Sing.
This prequel, released shortly after the godawful fifth installment of the saga, is how we learn what causes Chan Ho-Nam and his friends to become the heroic members of Hung Hing we know today. The film’s opening is a recreation of the prologue of the first film with some obvious differences, such as Bee’s hair and Nam doesn’t tell him right away he wants to follow him like he did in the original film. However, with the input of original Teddy Boy creator Cow Man with the script, this is a welcome back of the tone that had set the Y&D saga in stone.
Making his film debut as the young Chan Ho-Nam is seventeen-year old Nicholas Tse. Tse, who is today one of Hong Kong’s biggest talents, is excellent in his film debut of Nam. He conveys Ho-Nam from high school student with a crush on good girl Kelly, played well by Lillian Ho, to the rascal who will be destined to make an impact on Hung Hing. As Nam, Tse clearly must have studied Ekin Cheng’s performances and visualized himself as that plus as the high school rebel version. Interestingly enough, when the film was released just two months shy of his 18th birthday, due to its rating of Category III, Tse wasn’t allowed to attend the premiere of his own film debut. However, the hard work paid off as he won the Best New Actor award at the 1999 Hong Kong Film Awards and rightfully so.
The young cast did quite an impressive job in their roles as they channeled their elder selves. Sam Lee brought his own form of Jordan Chan’s Chicken, but with the high school hormones mixed in, making it somewhat an amped up version of Chicken. Benjamin Yuen and Yu Ka-Ho do well in their roles of Chou-Pan and Pou-Pan. Francis Ng takes it down a notch but still impressively pulls off his breakout role of Ugly Kwan while Frankie Ng once again brings his real-life experiences with his portrayal of Bee. The scene after the punishment for the heroin use, when he talks to Nam, is quite emotional and shows Bee as a true father figure to Nam, which explains why Nam gets emotional in the first film when his mentor is brutally killed. Daniel Wu is great to watch as Big Head, who while being a good fighter, seems to let his ego get in the way when it comes to his relationship with Fei, played by Shu Qi, in a welcome departure from her annoying Mei Ling in Young and Dangerous 5 and Born to be King. Look out for a certain Sandra Ng in a cameo as a pre-gangster Sister 13 in a cameo appearance.
Young and Dangerous: The Prequel is a perfectly made prequel that brings back the saga’s original tone and is driven by the performances of the young cast as the characters’ younger selves. If you like the saga, then this is a must see for your list.
WFG RATING: A
Golden Harvest presents a B.O.B. and Partners Limited production in association with Fitto Movie Ltd. Director: Andrew Lau. Producer: Manfred Wong. Writers:Manfred Wong and Candy Cheng; based on the comic book “Teddy Boy” by Cow Man. Cinematography: Andrew Lau. Editing: Marco Mak.
Cast: Nicholas Tse, Sam Lee, Francis Ng, Frankie Ng, Benjamin Yuen, Yu Ka-Ho, Shu Qi, Daniel Wu, Lillian Ho, Michael Chan, Ricky Ho, Helena Law, Lo Hung, Mary Hon, Karel Wong.