Andy Lau and Donnie Yen star in Wong Jing and Jason Kwan’s reboot of two classic Hong Kong gangster flicks, 'To Be Number One' and 'Lee Rock.'
As Hong Kong’s premier schlockmeister, Wong Jing has never been shy about mining his own legacy to depletion. This is the man, after all, who managed to drain whatever fun there was left in his own trademark gambling comedies with his recent From Vegas to Macau franchise. With Chasing the Dragon (Jui Lung), Wong and co-director Jason Kwan offer a pale reboot of the mobster-biopic genre Wong helped make a cornerstone of Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s. Revisiting the characters and stories from two classics of that era — Lawrence Ah Mon’s Lee Rock, which Wong himself produced, and Poon Man-kit’s To Be Number One — the new pic is thick in visual bombast but thin on story, characterization and period details.
Zeroing in on those mainland Chinese audiences who have yet to experience the famously irreverent originals, Wong steers very clear of imagery and themes that might trouble the country's stringent censors. There's hardly any sex and gore, two things he used to trade in with abandon during his trash-peddling heyday in the last century. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's complicated social and political turmoil during the 1960s and 1970s is portrayed as simply a consequence of British colonialism, its misrule embodied in the film by brutal British police officers lording it over their local underlings. In fact, the film's final stretch is focused on the showdown between its Chinese protagonists and their British nemesis — the result of which will certainly please patriotic mainland audiences to no end.
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