The first in a series
of popular Shaw Brothers True Crime movies, THE CRIMINALS features
three stories, each helmed by a different director and reportedly
shot at the locations of the real incidents. The results are not as
graphic as the early '90s cycle typified by movies like THE UNTOLD
STORY and REMAINS OF A WOMAN but should not be mistaken for anything
other than pulpy exploitation entertainment. On that level, it provides
some worthy diversion and a smattering of white-knuckle suspense.
Cheng Kang's "Hidden Torsos"
stars martial arts favorite Shih Szu (LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES)
as Jenny Wang, who is trying to escape from her abusive and thieving
boyfriend, Wang Rongsheng (Szu Wei). Planning on sneaking away to
Macau with their young, mute daughter, she is caught in the act. A
struggle ensues, with tragic consequences. The survivor must decide
what to do now, a task not made any easier by the arrival of some
interested parties. Things are not as cut and dried as they initially
seem and Cheng is able to milk the situation for some effective tension.
"Valley of the Hanged,"
from director Hua Shan (THE SUPER INFRAMAN), concerns the travails
of slow-witted construction worker Hong the Bull, whose mahjong addicted
wife Tang Meijiao (Terry Liu Hui-ru) is sleeping around with smooth
operator De (Tin Ching). When Hong almost catches the pair in the
act, he grows more and more suspicious. Following them one night,
he overhears that Meijiao is now pregnant, even though she has denied
him sex for months. The trajectory of this story is all too easily
predicted and the exaggerated performances (particularly by Terry
Liu, as the screeching adulteress) grate on one's nerves after awhile.
One bit of violence in this segment has obviously been cut short,
evidently to appease censors during the original release.
The final story, "The Stuntmen,"
was helmed by Ho Meng-hua of BLACK MAGIC fame and partially takes
place during the production of a SB movie. Thanks to a friend putting
in a good word, penniless Chen Zhong (Lo Lieh) gets hired to do stunts
for a period swordplay picture. On location, he is dazzled by the
beautiful Tanny Tien Nei (playing herself) but she pays him no heed.
Chen's obsession is at least partially rooted in a local prostitute
(also Tien), who is a dead ringer for the actress. Chen decides that
the pair can make a lot of money fooling johns into thinking that
she is really Tanny. The scheme is a success and attracts the attention
of goons in the employ of a local triad boss. Chen's underworld ties
grow deeper and he is soon in over his head. This is the most interesting
and involved of the three stories but one is still a bit disappointed
when the movie angle is dropped and a more conventional triad scenario
takes over. Yueh Hua also appears as himself (complaining about having
to jump into cold water -- the director assuages him with some booze!),
and Wong Yue, Chan Shen, and Ku Feng have supporting roles.