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January 18th, 2000 Issue #44

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

The Blood Rules
(2000; Universe Films Distribution Company / Century Creator Co. / The Stormriders Management Co.) 7/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Hong kwai

Hang gui

Business Rules

In the past year, Universe's film production unit has really gone to town, cranking out a number of low-budget genre pictures intended primarily for video and the ever-expanding ancillary markets. Most have been unremarkable efforts but Marco Mak Chi-sin's THE BLOOD RULES emerges as a welcome exception, in spite of its obvious debt to such recent Milkyway Image productions as THE MISSION (and even utilizes three cast members from that production).

Suki Kwan Sau-mei, Michael Wong Man-tak, and Lam Suet (left to right). Image courtesy Universe.

The film grabs one's attention immediately with an eye-catching CGI credit sequence, followed by a stylish and bloody gangland massacre. Perpetrators Mike (Michael Wong Man-tak), Jean (Suki Kwan Sau-mei), Q (Jackie Lui Chung-yin), and Shoot (Lam Suet) make off with a briefcase full of diamonds, which they turn over to their boss, Uncle Lam (played by Wong Jing's father, Wong Tin-lam). He assures them that their next assignment will be a piece of cake: steal a valuable pearl Buddha bracelet from Taiwanese triad Chicken Sam (Yang Hsiang), who owes millions in gambling debts and is wanted by both his fellow gangsters and the law.

Wong Tin-lam. Image courtesy Universe.

Desperate to impress his girlfriend (Crystal Tin Yui-nei), who only cares about money, Q's spendthrift ways are endangering everyone's safety and Jean is falling deeply in love with Michael (who has a wife and son and seeks to maintain the facade of a happy marriage). Shoot, meanwhile, is in love with Jean, further compromising the team's ability to function as professionals. The Chicken Sam job goes awry, prompting a beleaguered Uncle Lam to sell Michael and company out, resulting in a bloodbath. The surviving assassins then set their sights on Lam, whose betrayal is a violation of the most basic rule in the underworld code.

Jacky Lui Chung-yin and Crystal Tin Yui-nei. Image courtesy Universe.

Many of the usual genre ingredients come into play here but THE BLOOD RULES excels in what it does with them. Some of the plot components are a bit too convenient and Stephen Au Kam-tong's supporting role as an insufferable detective is almost entirely superfluous. However, the action sequences (particularly a memorable confrontation / shootout in Shoot's tiny aquarium shop) are lean and exciting, the melodrama never gets too far out of hand, and the four leads are effective (even Michael Wong, who gives his best performance in ages). It's no groundbreaker but THE BLOOD RULES more than delivers what it promises and is an auspicious directorial debut for veteran editor Marco Mak. Samuel Leung Cheuk-moon appears briefly.

Stephen Au Kam-tong. Image courtesy Universe.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5469
Dolby Digital Stereo (5.1)
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English, Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), Bahasa (Malaysia), and Korean
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.80:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category IIB (for brutal violence, some coarse language, and brief sexual violence)
96 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

The transfer is slightly soft but the image (which often features the flat blue/high contrast look many HK directors favor these days) is attractive and the colors are deep. The stereo mix on the Cantonese track (sync sound) serves Lincoln Lo Kin's splendid score well and adds much to the mood; the Mandarin track is slightly flatter but still effective. The subtitles invariably tone down the coarse language that pops up in the brief bits of English dialogue. Star Files on Michael Wong and Suki Kwan, a theatrical trailer, and trailers for RESORT MASSACRE, THE TEMPTATION OF OFFICE LADIES, and CONSPIRACY comprise the supplementary material.

Suki Kwan. Image courtesy Universe.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review