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Friday August 30, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday September 1, 2013 MYT 1:39:16 AM
by michael cheang
Young And Dangerous: Reloaded' just didn't have the impact of the original." (Default Alternate Text: "Young and Dangerous: Reloaded just didn't have the impact of the original.
YOUNG gangsters point guns at the camera, posing for a “cool” picture of themselves. Some of the gang members don’t look more than 14 years old, but the nonchalant way they wave their guns around while posing and sneering makes the scene even more shocking to behold.
That the carefree, almost frivolous scene is interrupted by one of these kids getting shot in the chest, sparking a violent gunfight between rival gangs, makes it all the more shocking. It sends a potent message – gangsters may look cool waving their guns around like they own the place but sooner or later, they’re going to get a bullet in the chest. Or head.
The above scene is one of the most striking and iconic sequences from Fernando Meirelles’ City Of God, about violent organised crime in the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The reason we chose to start this article with this movie instead of easier choices such as, say, The Godfather or Goodfellas is because Meirelles’ uncompromising film is such a far cry from the usual Hollywood and Hong Kong gangster movies, steering clear of glamorising the life of a gangster, instead capturing the visceral violence and shocking insanity that permeates the life of a gang member in those slums.
The opening line of Goodfellas has Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill boldly declaring: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” While the character was referring to his childhood growing up idolising the gangsters in his neighbourhood, you have to wonder: would growing up watching gangster movies have the same impact on someone?
When someone mentions “gangsters in movies”, the first image to pop into one’s head is usually that of Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, rasping about how he’ll make a certain film producer an offer he can’t refuse. While the Mafia is probably the organisation that is depicted the most in classic Hollywood gangster movies (The Godfather trilogy, Goodfellas, Casino, to name a few), more recent additions to the list also feature Harlem gangsters (American Gangster), the Irish mob (The Departed), and in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York, the rival street gangs in 1860s’ New York.
Do these movies glamorise the life of a gangster though? In a way, you could argue that they do, especially when so many of them touch on the code of honour amongst mob families, and the sense of brotherhood among the members. Hollywood aside, it’s probably the Hong Kong triad movies that would have a more direct influence on us in this part of the world.
Since the 1980s, movies about the triads have been common in Hong Kong, with John Woo helping to popularise the genre with movies like Hard Boiled, The Killer and A Better Tomorrow (Chow Yun-Fat also made the “sunglasses and trenchcoat” look seem cool way before The Matrix did), many of which featured protagonists who are honourable criminals on the path of redemption.
While Woo was criticised for glamorising the triads in his movies back then, in hindsight, they seem rather mild compared to Young And Dangerous.
Released in 1996, Young And Dangerous chronicled the rise of two gangsters, Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng) and Chicken (Jordan Chan), into leadership roles within the “Hung Hing” triad society, and became a massive hit, spawning 14 direct sequels and spin-offs, the latest being Young And Dangerous: Reloaded, a remake of the original.
Featuring lots of violence (scenes of the triads going after people with machetes were common) and depicting triad members as honourable, selfless, and closer than brothers, the original Young And Dangerous movie was unsurprisingly slammed for glamorising the triads in Hong Kong, and for its realistic depiction of gang fights (during its filming, policemen reportedly turned up to stop a “gang fight” that was actually a scene from the movie).
These days, with so much focus on breaking into the lucrative but morally strict China market, the Hong Kong film industry seems to have toned down on the triad movies somewhat. Some of the more prominent gangster-related fare include the stellar Infernal Affairs (which Scorsese remade into The Departed) and Jiang Hu (starring Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung), which were more like character dramas than actual gangster movies.
Although Young And Dangerous: Reloaded was released just this year, it just hasn’t had the same impact that the originals had (it also wasn’t very good, but that’s beside the point). Still, if history is any indication, one thing is for sure though – we haven’t seen the last of gangsters in movies yet.
A fascination with gang life
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Entertainment, Entertainment, gangsters, The Godfather, Young And Dangerous, Hollywood, Hong Kong
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