Issue #208a           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES             April 19th, 2004

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On The Wrong Track
(1983; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Wai mit hou dei che
Mandarin: Hui mie hao di che
English: Destroy Numbered Ground Cars


RATING: 5/10


Juvenile delinquent brothers Paul (Andy Lau Tak-wah) and De (Yen Chiu-hua) act out as a way of rebelling against their police officer father, Larry Chen (Yueh Hua), and his break-up with their mother. An unflinchingly strict parent, Larry is embarrassed by his sons' crimes and worried that their actions will cause him to lose a forthcoming promotion. Paul feels that Larry favors De and, when he is denied entry into a Canadian university because of poor grades, Paul becomes less and less certain of his future. Meanwhile, De is becoming increasingly reckless and he leads Paul and their circle of friends to commit more brazen acts of mischief and theft. His outspoken resentment of Larry's new girlfriend (Chien Hui-yi) is also growing by the day. Paul's situation is assuaged somewhat by his relationship with Vietnamese teen Shi (Prudence Liew Mei-kwan), who is struggling to look after herself and her baby in one of the colony's refugee camps. When Larry decides to send his sons to join their mother in Taiwan (which not only means the loss of their friends but also compulsory military service), the brothers commit an act that balloons from simple vandalism into a major criminal incident. The situation is made even more volatile by King Kong (Lau Kwok-shing), a belligerent cop with a major grudge against Paul.

Andy Lau Yen Chiu-hua (left), Andy Lau Yueh Hua

Fresh from his lead role in Ann Hui On-wah's acclaimed BOAT PEOPLE, Andy Lau is effective as Paul but this second directorial effort from Clarence Fok Yiu-leung (NAKED KILLER, REMAINS OF A WOMAN) is too heavy handed to work as social drama. This same lack of subtlety also mars his next film, BEFORE DAWN (1984), which is similar in some respects (a disenfranchised teenage boy gets into trouble with the underworld and is forced to sell himself on the streets) but even less effectual. While most of the problems faced by Paul and De were very real concerns of the time, the film piles on tragedy after tragedy, experienced, observed or perpetrated almost exclusively by stereotypes (aside from Shi, about the only truly sympathetic character is an elderly shop owner who always treats Paul with kindness). There are moments that demonstrate the visual prowess seen more conspicuously in Fok's later work (notably, the impromptu demolition derby matches used by rival gangs to settle their disputes) and Andy Lau's fans will treasure this early look at the rebel persona he would further refine in films like A MOMENT OF ROMANCE. Ultimately, though, the liberation of ON THE WRONG TRACK from two decades of obscurity in the Shaw Brothers' vaults poses no threat to the reputation of long admired works like NOMAD, GANGS, or SCHOOL ON FIRE.

Andy Lau (left), Prudence Liew Lau Kwok-shing Andy Lau


Celestial has inexplicably stuck the ShawScope logo on the beginning but the movie unfolds at its correct 1.85:1 ratio. The digitally restored image looks first rate, with no wear or transfer problems worth mentioning. It might actually be a bit too good under the circumstances, almost entirely removing what one suspects to have been conceptual grittiness from some scenes. Both audio tracks have a slight echo but no serious drawbacks. The standard extras are present and accounted for (a photo gallery, bios/filmographies, and promo spots), and a card-sized 12 month calendar (with an image of Andy Lau from the original theatrical poster on the other side) is tucked inside the keep case.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd. #101298
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.85:1)
  • 88 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: 18+
  • Singapore: BANNED
  • Contains moderate violence


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful