In 1996, the film Young and Dangerous broke new ground in the world of the gangster film, revolving around the trials of friendship between rascals in the world of the Triads. The film made stars of Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan, who played the two best friends in which the film series (1996-2000), revolved around. Seventeen years later, a new cast headlines this reboot of the original. Sadly, they lack the charm and charisma that made the original formula work.
Since being high school dropouts, four best friends have been members of the Hung Hing Triad gang in Hong Kong. Chan Ho-Nam is the level-headed one. Chicken is the promiscuous one. Pou-Pan is the buffoon. Dai Tin-Yee is the hot-headed one. When Dai Tin-Yee learns his cousin was brutally raped and killed by Tung Sing member Med King, he vowed to avenge her and gets his friends to help. Med King decided to switch to Hung Hing under the maniacal Kwan. Yet, it proves to be too late when the young boys beat Med King so bad they put him in the hospital.
Originally following Uncle Tong, the now elderly underboss decides to retire and recommends that the boys follow Brother Bee, a level-headed underboss of Hung Hing who loves two things: music and fighting. To test out their skills, Bee asks Ho-Nam to spar with his right hand man, Big Head. When Ho-Nam proves his skill, Big Head and Ho-Nam find themselves becoming friends and Bee offers a deal: get one hundred lackeys in three days and they will be allowed to follow him. When it is discovered it was only a prank, Bee welcomes the new boys.
Meanwhile, still upset over what happened to Med King, Kwan demands that Ho-Nam and the boys be punished for what had happened. During a meeting with Hung Hing Dragon Boss Chiang Tin-Sang, the boys are let go because of Med King’s original allegiance to Tung Sing, making Kwan even madder. What Chiang doesn’t know is that Kwan has been seeing Chiang’s woman Anna behind his back and the two have hatched a plan to not only get rid of Chiang, but Bee as well, so Kwan can become the new Dragon Boss. When it all comes down and both Chiang and Bee are brutally killed by Kwan, Ho-Nam and the boys decide it’s time to get even and stop Kwan once and for all…
As a fan of the original Young and Dangerous film series, hearing the news of a reboot, I came in with low expectations. That was until Manfred Wong was onboard not only as producer, but returning to pen the reboot. Manfred Wong was someone I always respected when he wrote the original film series, and I was a little excited that he wrote this one. I understood he wanted to up the ante with more sex and violence (a soft-core scene between Winnie Leung and Sum; lots of blood and even a disembowelment), but I can’t blame Wong on this one. This is one where we have to blame the new cast. The major issue here is that the new cast didn’t have the charm or chemistry like Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Jerry Lamb, and Michael Tse had. Even more of a bad twist, there is no Chou-Pan in this one. Instead, that character is replaced by Big Head, the kickboxing member of the Hung Hing gang originally played by Daniel Wu in the prequel and Chin Kar-Lok in the last two installments of the original saga.
Him Law looked too robotic in his performance of Chan Ho-Nam. He didn’t have that charm Ekin Cheng brought to the role. The biggest problem aside from his acting here is that when Ho-Nam does the “hair scratch”, Ekin Cheng makes it look cool while Him Law looks like he’s got a bug in his hair. Oscar Leung’s Chicken was not too bad though, yet it was more akin to Sam Lee’s Chicken in the prequel rather than Jordan Chan’s cool Chicken. Jazz Lam was not too bad as Pou-Pan, but he has done his share of Triad-like roles (Shaolin Soccer and The Legendary Tai Fei), so he has the most experience in the genre. Dominic Ho’s Dai Tin-Yee was not given ample screen time and when he did get it, he ended up overacting too much. Individually, the support was good, but together, the chemistry was lacking. As for Philip Ng, he didn’t need to talk as he let his martial arts skills do the talking for him. Ng also doubled as the film’s action director and does a decent job in terms of the Triad battles and giving himself a chance to show what he can do.
Sammy Sum really hammed it up, and not in a good way, as Kwan. He definitely wasn’t close to Francis Ng’s performance and even attempted to look like a poor man’s version of the Joker with his hair and eye makeup. In other words, he was extremely annoying. When he gets the punishment from the priest, similar to the original film, I actually was ecstatic as this was one of the high points of the film. Paul Wong does his best and does quite decently as Brother Bee, the boys’ mentor and his fate is more shocking that Frankie Ng’s character in the original.
The romance between Ho-Nam and rich girl Lorraine, played by Michelle Hu, seemed more forced because it just didn’t have that spark that we saw with Ho-Nam and Smartie in the original series. I was just waiting for his romance to fail, especially because again, Law just acted more like a robot and not natural like Ekin had done.
So, stick with the original film series, because this is one film that proves that reboots don’t always have to be the answer!
WFG RATING: D
A Mega-Vision Pictures Limited (Hong Kong) Production. Director: Daniel Yee-Heng Chan. Producers:Wong Jing and Manfred Wong. Writer: Manfred Wong; based on the comic “Teddy Boy” by Cow Man. Cinematography: Wade Muller. Editing: Matthew Liu.
Cast: Him Law, Oscar Leung, Philip Ng, Jazz Lam, Dominic Ho, Sammy Sum, Paul Wong, Michelle Hu, Winnie Leung, Pal Sinn, Calvin Poon, Timmy Hung, Simon Loui, Alex Man.