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May21st, 2001 Issue #57

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.

Gangs 2001
(2001; Matrix Productions Company): 5/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Tung dong 2001

Tong dang 2001

Child Gang 2001

In addition to being one of 2000's most acclaimed films, Lawrence Ah Mon's SPACKED OUT has also proven to be surprisingly influential, spawning a handful of similar (but more exploitative) pictures about troubled HK youth. This particular one even tries to pass itself off as a follow-up to GANGS, the director's 1988 feature film debut.

...and this is your fevering on drugs. Image courtesy Universe.

Teenager Lam Kit-lung (Sung Poon-chung) and his buddies head across the border to Shenzhen for a night of "fevering" and Ecstasy. While stoned out of his mind, Kit-lung gets some fatherly advice from hip social worker Ma Siu-mang (the always entertaining Blackie Ko Shou-liang, making like a dancin' fool during much of his screentime here), warning the boy not to mess with any of the local toughs. Back in HK, the kids pass their time goofing off in school and using blackmail and theft to raise money for more Shenzhen party nights. During a dispute over an unpaid debt, Kit-lung brains his opponent with a wrench and ends up being pinched by the police. Ma tries his best to get the kids back on the right road but it is clear (to the viewer, at least) that nothing less than a tragedy or two is going to accomplish that.

Sung Poon-chung. Image courtesy Universe.

There is no story to speak of, just a series of vignettes following Lung and company through their paces, shirking responsibility at every turn and always on the lookout for diversion. Writer / director Samuel Ho Shu-pui (PROSTITUTE KILLERS, ROMANCING BULLET) never really tries to make a statement about these kids' lives, save for the obvious inadequacy of the various parents and teachers, and there is nothing approaching subtlety to be found. Still, the young performers are energetic and there is a good amount of low-budget style (particularly during bits showcasing the frenzied, drugged out dancing in the club), making this a welcome improvement on some of Ho's earlier films, some of which rank among the worst local productions of recent years.

Blackie Ko. Image courtesy Universe.

In one unusual bit, Ma (who is a former triad boss) tries to dissuade the kids from getting involved in further violence by detailing his past for them. This is accomplished by having Blackie Ko lip-sync a rock song playing on the movie's soundtrack, while we cut back and forth between him and a montage of his criminal activities and time behind bars! The sequence ends up merely being silly but at least provides a change of pace from the way this mandatory "Don't Follow In My Footsteps" lecture is usually presented. SPACKED OUT's Christy Cheung Wing-yin co-stars as Lung's equally irresponsible sister, while Hui Shiu-hung, Law Koon-lan, and Ha Ping have secondary roles as concerned adults.

Law Koon-lan (left) and Hui Shiu-hung (centre). Image courtesy Universe.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5576
Dolby Digital 5.1
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.84:1)
Category III (for frequent drug use, mild violence, and mild sexual content)
93 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

The image is very hazy at times and the filmstock is cheap but the presentation isn't bad overall. Considering that the original was almost certainly monaural, the 5.1 tracks have some good separations and reasonable presence. Extras consist of the trailer and trailers for HIT TEAM, LAVENDER, and THE ACCIDENTAL SPY.

Christy Cheung Wing-yin. 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