Portland Street Blues (1998)

portlandstreetblues

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The story of Hung Hing’s female boss Sister 13 is revealed in this prequel that becomes a showcase for lead actress Sandra Ng, plus an actually pretty good turn from Shu Qi.

Fa-Fit, a member of Luen Wo gang, unsuccessfully makes a deal with Hung Hing boss Sister 13 to boost the prostitution trade in Portland Street. When Fa-Fit attempts to threaten 13, he is thwarted by Uncle Pun, the boss of Tung Sing, who also happens to be 13’s birth uncle. 13 learns that her current lover, Sasa, is responsible for the events that took place. 13 has Sasa punished and after a drinking binge, falls asleep in the car of her cohort, fellow boss Ben Hon. Then, the story of 13 is revealed.

13 is the daughter of Tat, a Hung Hing rascal who follows Ugly Kwan. 13 and her best friend Yun watch Coke, a Tung Sing fighter as 13 has a huge crush on him. Meanwhile, Tat has been getting bullied by boss SOB, who thinks he is better than everyone else. When 13 and Yun learn that Tat has been robbed of his Mark Six winnings by SOB, they attempt to get revenge by setting up SOB to have fun with Yun. However, when the ruse is revealed, 13 is nearly obliterated when Tat arrives but accidentally drops the blade to kill SOB. In a fit of rage, SOB kills Tat but luckily 13 is saved by a young woman, “Scarface” Kei, who was once the lover of Tung Sing tyrant James, but left her because he never cared for her as much as she loved him. When 13 finally has the chance to kill James, she gets Kei to help and thus, 13 becomes the new boss of Portland Street. However, when she learns Coke was involved in the beating of fellow Hung Hing member Prince, she finds herself torn between her admiration for Coke and her loyalty to Hung Hing.

After the release of the pretty bad Young and Dangerous 5, the makers of the saga decided to take a break and begin to focus on characters that have made an impact aside from Ho-Nam and the boys. While Once Upon a Time in Triad Society, released in 1996, featured Francis Ng as Kwan, it was seen as a pseudo-spinoff if you will, as the film bears almost no relation to the saga. However, this film, directed by Raymond Yip, a protégé of Wong Jing, does connect to the saga and focus on the character of the androgynous Sister 13, who made her debut in Young and Dangerous 4.

Sandra Ng, who plays the iconic Hung Hing boss, reprises her role in this spinoff and does a great job in this film. The film shifts from present day to past and back to present day very smoothly. We see her off the bat getting threatened all because she is a woman. However, while Hung Hing are known as good fighters, she doesn’t need to fight. She has the street smarts necessary. The viewer learns that she never was swinging for one side as we learn she had a crush on a boxer who was a member of the rival Tung Sing. Alex Fong plays it well as Coke, the Tung Sing boxer and assassin who shows 13 respect and perhaps he is able to be okay with the fact that she likes him.

Kristy Yeung does a pretty good job as Yun, 13’s best friend who makes a mistake of trying to help 13 avenge her father’s beating at the hands of SOB. Surprisingly, it seems she is not playing the annoying Mei Ling, Shu Qi can actually stretch some acting muscle. She nearly steals the show as “Scarface” Kei, a heroin-addicted woman who is always abused by her ex-lover, who warns her to leave Portland Street, after she was pregnant and when he kicked in the stomach, the pain of her losing her baby is so unbearable that she is forced to take heroin to ease pain. However, her climactic scene which becomes 13’s turning point shows why Shu Qi, when given the right roles, can truly be quite a force to reckon with.

The film does have some cameos from members of the saga, including Ken Low as Prince, whose character gets beaten and becomes another turning point for 13. It is clear that Vincent Wan’s Ben has some sort of feeling towards 13 and shows it ridiculously in a scene at their new bar of course with the usual denial. Francis Ng once again dials it down in his brief cameo as Kwan in the flashback with Frankie Ng’s Brother Bee coming to the rescue as we learn she followed him before she became the boss. The finale has an extra special cameo that cannot be revealed, but it was quite a surprise to see this character in the spinoff.

Portland Street Blues is a pretty good spinoff of the Young and Dangerous saga thanks to Sandra Ng’s terrific performance as Sister 13 and Shu Qi’s scene-stealing performance as a woman scorned.

WFG RATING: B+

Golden Harvest presents a B.O.B. and Partners Limited/Everwide (H.K.) Limited production. Director: Raymond Yip. Producers: Raymond Chow, Wong Jing, and Manfred Wong. Writers: Manfred Wong; based on the comic “Teddy Boy” by Cow Man. Cinematography: Lai Yiu-Fai. Editing: “Marco”.

Cast: Sandra Ng, Shu Qi, Kristy Yeung, Vincent Wan, Alex Fong, Ng Man-Tat, John Ching, Peter Ngor, Chik King-Man, Kwan Hoi-San, Frankie Ng, Francis Ng, Matt Chow, Kam Hing-Yin, Jimmy Wong.

 

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