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
The Blood 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.
Suki Kwan. Image courtesy Universe.