J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Made in Hong Kong ’18: Colour of the Game


They don’t make Triad gangsters like they used to. Wallace is an example of old school quality, whereas Robert, the son of the high-ranking boss Nigel is a perfect example of everything wrong with the new breed—and then some. When Wallace is ordered to whack Robert, he doesn’t have any choice in the matter, but he knows he is getting pulled into some dangerous business. There will be plenty of duplicity and deception in Kam Ka-wai’s Colour of the Game (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Made in Hong Kong Film Festival in DC.

Wallace is a grizzled, disillusioned cat, but he still gets the job done. Nobody messes with him or his new protégé Sky. “Superman,” his eager young apprentice, is a geek, but he handles the business side of things well. Sometimes his punky mechanic daughter Lily also helps out, but for a job this sensitive, he will need to call in two old comrades. Tyson is fresh out of prison and raring to go, whereas the ailing BBQ will need more coaxing.

Of course, Robert is an appalling human being, who totally has it coming. Nobody will mourn for him, least of all Wallace. Killing the big boss Dragon’s trophy wife in a coked-up rage certainly merits getting rubbed out, but it is still pretty reckless from the standpoint of internal
Triad politics. Maybe he should have suspected it was a set-up all along. Regardless, Wallace will not leave any of his team at their mercy, even if one of them is a police informer.

Colour is definitely a throwback to 1990s Hong Kong gangster movies (those white suits are totally cool). It obviously tries to recombine the elements of vintage Johnnie To films (like The Mission), starting with To stalwarts Simon Yam and Lam Suet. It is considered the loosely-tied third installment in screenwriter Jing Wong’s Colour trilogy, but it sure doesn’t seem like they expect much audience familiarity with the previous films.

In some ways, Colour is like a Harry Brown kind of film for Yam and Lam, who take stock of their careers through their aging gangster characters, Wallace, and his direct superior, Slaughter. Yet, it also heralds the arrival of Philip Ng and the promising debut of Sabrina Qiu, as Sky and Lily. Ng took a lot of heat for his cocky portrayal of Bruce Lee in Birth of the Dragon (despite looking like his dead-ringer), but here he truly distinguishes himself in the final smashing fight scene. He also develops some rather appealing chemistry with Qiu.

Nevertheless, nobody upstages Yam, not even Lam. He is hardnosed and hardboiled, but also somewhat philosophical and even remorseful about the state of things. It is the kind of role he was born to play—and watching him do it is always a treat. It is a little odd neither NYAFF or Fantasia programmed Colour, but Made in Hong Kong has it. Highly recommended for fans of the cast and/or the genre, Colour of the Game screens tomorrow (7/15) in DC at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery.

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