i (2000)
Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone


Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 04/09/2006
Summary: deadpan, but dead good...

dante lam's triad drama that has more than it's fair share of deadpan humour and style. tony leung and sandra ng star as a triad boss and his wife as they struggle through a few days after leung is informed that he's to be assassinated. a pretty standard narrative, which is given it's clout and class through the performances of leung and ng; it's great to see sandra ng being given the chance to act, to be glamourous and ruthless, and she's fantastic here.

the stylisation of the film, the moments of quality drama and the real deadpan delivery of the films humour combine with great effect.

excellent.


Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 06/12/2005
Summary: magical

I loved this one. I think Dante Lam may be ready to surpass Gordon Chan as a filmmaker in his own right. Another film that Sandra Ng is magical in her performance.

Copyright 2000 John Crawford. All rights reserved.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 07/10/2002
Summary: Excellent

Considered by many as Dante Lam’s best film, this is indeed very good, and those people have plenty of reasons to come to that conclusion. The best thing about the film is the fact that Dante Lam has gone about a triad movie in a completely different way rarely done in HK cinema, without glorifying it or making a Cat III non-stop violence bloodbath (not to say it’s tame by any means though). Instead, a serious-yet-comedy and almost artistic view which was refreshing in 2000, which didn’t have much competition in a year that didn’t offer so much in the HK cinemas.

Amazingly, there is a large amount of actors in this who can actually act, like Tony Leung, Sandra Ng, Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung and Helena Law. I’m amazed that with the amount of characters, each one is explored enough to keep the viewer interested, and apart from some of the story, this film is virtually flawless. The comedy is not stupid luckily too, and there are some very funny little scenes, a lot of which took place in England.

I think also the ending of the film is perfect, because after all that happens leading up to that point, you don't find out if the gunman pulls the trigger or not, as he begins to close his eyes considering if he should do it or not.

I remember at the time this was released I didn’t find it so good, but watching it again now I have completely changed my opinion.

Definitely a good film, and a standout in 2000 which is only beaten in my opinion with In The Mood For Love.

Recommended.

[4.5/5]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 05/21/2002
Summary: Clever, outstanding parody that redefines the genre

This movie is the perfect mystery. The whole movie is about a mystery, and the movie is a mystery. I initially thought the movie was very straight-forward and, in fact, is one of the least confusing movies I have ever seen (When I finished watching it for the second time, I hardly found anything that I had missed the first time). However, having seen it a third time, it now tops my MOST CONFUSING MOVIE list. Partly contributive is the unchronological order of presenting the events: lots of flash backs and switching back and forth. I still have no idea how the filmmaker intended for the audience to take the movie. Perhaps he was clueless himself; perhaps he wanted it to be the mystery that I think it is. Certainly, it's no ordinary film. I just read some more reviews yesterday, and I was shocked that I had no clue what the central point of the movie was - I totally missed it. Of course, the movie is about Jim trying to find the assassin, but there are so many other subpoints, plus the achronology, that I didn't know what the central point was, until I read the review.

There are many funny moments. When Anthony Wong first appeared in the film, I just could not stop laughing my head off. It is so off the hook. Even when his "character" leaves the film, I was still saying to myself, "did he just...???" And the scene with Tony Leung trying to rescue his opponent (who had a heart attach during their negotiation) is equally hilarious. The whole movie had been portraying Tony Leung as a boss, a hero, a decisive leader, and the heart-attack scene changes all that. Other humorous moments include both lines and actions.

Tony Leung Ka Fai has aged quite a bit since I last saw him in a movie. That was Ashes of Time. He seems like a different person even than from previews of "Lover of the Last Empress (1995)." Though he may not be as charming here as he was in Dragon Inn, Tony was the ultimate actor for the role of Ren Yin Jio. His performance is outstanding to say the least, as is the rest of the cast.

The camera work was excellent. It adds more class and artistic value to the film. I was surprised (with pleasantness) that the film explored one of the most controversial subjects today - gays and lesbians. I won't recite any of the scenes involved with the subject, but you should know that it's there. To me it's not a bad thing to do at all. It is only one of the many surprised hidden in the film. You have to watch it to have them uncovered.

I would have preferred less sex scenes, especially since all of them involved were among my favorites, and Tony Leung is arguably one of my favorite actors. The dialogues spoken pertain much to everyday language, which, unlike regular triad movies, can be understood by everybody. Most triad films can be said to contain their own triad language, which you can think of as ghetto language or southern accent. But not in this movie. I was very surprised at that, and again, pleasantly.

The ending is one of the most ambiguous, satisfying and clever in HK movies. If only Tsui Hark or Yuen Woo Ping used this kind of method more... I am deeply impressed with the ending. The beginning is also superb. Tony Leung's dancing reminded me of Fatboy Slim's video "Weapon of Choice," which is nominated for 9 MTV awards this year. In my opinion that video would be better ignored, but that's a different story.

Sandra Ng certainly deserves a mention. She adds just as much to the film as Tony Leung. I don't think Jiang Hu would have been as good without her. The chemistry between everyone is just wonderful. At times the movie is told from several people's narratives, which works very well. This is not a big-budget extravaganza. Rather, it is a dramatic, meaningful explorer. I think the elements in the film as is serves it far better than would special effects or gunplaying.

I do have mixed feelings about the film. Some part just got me very unclear as to its intention. For example, Anthony Wong's character (I'm not gonna spoil anything, because I think this is the biggest surprise of the film - at least for those who know their Chinese history.) and the ending. The movie reveals many things to the littlest extend, but they are never revealled fully, and the film never tells you anything, which most movies do but not here. Again, mystery is the key word here. It really leaves you thinking, which is a challenge to many people, and will likely result in undecided feelings. But ultimately this method usually produces success, as is the case here.

By the way, this is one of my favorite films now.

[9/10]

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 05/27/2001
Summary: Masterpiece

JIANG HU - THE TRIAD ZONE - Absolutely superb. One of the cleverest and funny movies from HK in a while. Deconstructs various aspects of the Triad movie genre. Tony Leung and Sandra Ng give near career best performances. Very stylish too.

Tony and Sandra play a triad boss and his wife, and various other HK B-list stars take on roles around the story of a time in their lives when an assassin is hired to take out Tony. That's ostensibly the set-up anyway. The film is mostly a send-up of the triad genre, where the main focus of the film is the characters, who are complicated and rich, and full of depth. There's some very funny moments, and some very moving moments. Action sections are few and very far between, but absolutely stunningly filmed when they occur. There's definite nods to Milyway in the style, and to 2000AD in one shootout (Dante Lam used to be Gordon Chan's assistant director). The whole film is very well crafted, very stylish and smart. It's vaguely reminiscent of a Wilson Yip film "writ large", if that makes sense.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: jasonlau128
Date: 05/21/2001
Summary: Very Good, Now Sit

This is something different. I won't go into the details the other reviewers have gone into about the superficial aspects of this film. I will say it does entertain you and is very enjoyable to watch and unlike many of HK's films is different, original and unexpected. Leung's performance was very good - he did not over do it, when he easily could have with such a role, as is often seen as many of the actors are trying to fill void of "the Number One comedy actor" since Stephen Chow is hardly working.

It is verging on the Cat III, because of the nudity, but it somehow gets away with IIB, which is quite unusual since HK film authorities are normally very concerned when they see tits.

Great film - go watch it.

PS your lady friend was a devil in the sack.


Reviewed by: Jareth
Date: 04/30/2001
Summary: The best current HK has to offer

Loved this movie. Dante Lam explores the notion of Loyalty by connecting the experiences of a triad boss and those around him under this theme. Big Tony does a fantastic performance here as he confuses the audience: Do you hate him? Do you love him? The movie even ends mildly ambiguously, however I feel that our protagonist will find a way to avoid certain death once more. I recommend that you find a way to watch this movie - Originality proves a hard thing to come by now-a-days in HK movies.


Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 02/27/2001
Summary: Style, Substance and a Plot

Dante Lam has learned a thing or two since his directorial debut in the 1997 film "Option Zero." In "Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone," he displays his knowledge and has crafted one of the most inventive movies to come out of Hong Kong in some time. It has a smart and clever script, thanks to the screenwriters and producers, Chan Hing-Kar and Amy Chin.

As many of the latest Hong Kong films have focused on action over plot, it's good to see a reversal where the emphasis is on structure and character development. In "Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone," the gangster's moral code and the conflict between old and new schools of thought clash. Tony Leung represents the old school running up against contemporary pressures of heading up a triad mob. Using all of the known conventions of the triad genre, Dante Lam has come full circle. The main plot point in the film is that Tony's character, Jim Yam, is targeted for assassination. He tries to find out who is out to kill him. Since he is on top of the heap, anyone around him could be out to dethrone him. The old adage: "the more things change, the more they stay the same," and the themes of "yee-he" and loyalty echo throughout the film. This is embodied by the introduction of the god General Kwan, as played by Anthony Wong. Adding General Kwan to the mix was a delicious choice.

What really sets this film apart is the humor, which is mostly played straight, making it more effective. Interestingly enough, the violence, normally associated with triad films, is less pronounced, taking a back seat to the drama. Some of the violence happens off screen and is set up for laughs, such as the discrepancy over the wording of "rape and kill" in a routine between Tony and his henchmen. It was a treat to hear some of the verbal sparring between members of the cast.

The vivid characters in "Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone" are alive, because they are treated with respect and attention to detail by the director. With fully developed roles, more thought is given to the characters' idiosyncrasies as people and not as stereotypes. The actors can really get into a role when they have more to work with. Roy Cheung, for instance, has a heartfelt moment with Tony that is both very refreshing and amusing for a triad flick. All of the cast members do a laudable job with their performances. The actors' interactions and reactions were well played. Even small roles like Tiger, played by Pang King-Chi are given more than one dimension. Dante Lam had plenty of visual touches, but didn't overdo it. All of the humor, action and drama was restrained and focused on the story. These aspects helped "Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone" to be a rare commodity: an intelligent and marvelous movie.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Fuck You
Date: 01/25/2001
Summary: Who the killer?

After watching this film I had a question in my mind, wherever Tony Leung Ka-Fai gets shot or not but what I really want to know is why didn't we get to see or find out who was trying to kill Tony Leung Ka-Fai?
So is there anyone out there that have seen this movie and can tell me who it is?

A master piece, it has to be one of the best movie in 2000, even if I did get to find out whos the killer. Top marks 10/10

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 01/25/2001
Summary: One of the best of the year

Despite the awkward title, this is one terrific movie. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's one of the three best Hong Kong film I've seen this year, along with IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and JULIET IN LOVE.

And it shares much with the latter movie. Same composer, similar theme music. And there's a character in JHTZ named "Wilson Yip"!

What a fun, hilarious, moving, jam-packed full-of-plot kind of movie. It reminded me of the experiences I used to have watching back-catalogue HK films from the recent "golden age" (mid 80s to early 90s), when many films, stuffed with a wonderful cast, were just too outrageously over-entertaining to be believed.

Here, Tony Leung Kar-fai and Sandra Ng are the stars: two rich, meaty, substantial roles for two terrific actors. I've never seen Leung better: his performance dominates the film, with several unforgettable set-pieces (disco dancing on the table top!) and a sustained, coherent integrity that just accumulates strength. His rolling laughter in the dinner with Luk See is as chillingly brilliant as his over-the-top physical comedy. Sandra Ng is equally good as Leung's wife, associate, and (in an extended flashback to London, England) girlfriend. She adds a bucketful of erotic power to her dramatic and comic strengths. What a joy to watch this actress grow, from FOUR FACES OF EVE to JULIET IN LOVE and then to JHTZ.

Lots of terrific secondary roles, and an amazing set of cameos make casting one of JHTZ's high points (Ann Hui is Sister Thirteen! Lee Lik-chi as Ox Turd! Piggy Chan from Chungking Express! ...) And
Eric Tsang, in perhaps the best single scene of his career to date, a sustained, fixed camera, extremely long take (out of someone else's art house cinema) sequence-shot of a conversation with Tony Leung in jail. Leung's reaction-acting in this scene is a marvel on its own. And Anthony Wong is just brilliant as Master Kwan (the God, who has a substantial role to play in the film). His scene with
Sandra by the swimming pool, as they both attempt to come to terms with how shockingly the world has let them down, takes off and soars,. He dances, slow mo Beijing Opera-style, as Sandra swims. Best supporting actor award, if there is justice.

Dante Lam, ace editor Chan Kei-hop and d.p. Cheung Man-po have much uninhibited fun with their catalogue of editing and cinematographic tricks (whip pans, high profile zooms in and out -- more than I've seen in any other film -- , quick flurries of montages verging on the abstract).

At a more substantial level, JHTZ, like JULIET, is a play on genres. While it refers to the gangster/triad film, it's not a well-behaved one: it adds layers of depth and unpredictability by folding in a mature romance / partnership story. And it has a slightly ironic (though not at all nastily parodistic) attitude towards the gangster, romance, and melodrama films to which it refers. Director Dante Lam and screenwriter Chan Hing-kar (Gordon Chan's usual partner) have a deep affection and respect for Hong Kong film genres, but aren't blindly committed to them. They seem to be writing for an audience who loves and knows Hong Kong films, and who enjoys a film that, in
a witty, lightly self-conscious way, plays with those genres.

Maybe the rather grim action scenes went on a bit long? but maybe not. And the restrained, mature ending just caps a thoroughly entertaining, sometimes deeply moving, confidently impressive film. Don't miss it, if you get the chance.


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 12/25/2000
Summary: Quite good!!

This movie has a little of everything!!
IT has strong drama, violent action scenes, very funny comedy with a little G rated sex scenes!!

I won't go into detail about this movie since the 2 reviewers did below me, but i did miss parts of the movies because i couldn't read the subtitles!! Either people were wearing white or the table was white!! So i do feel like i did miss out on something because the whole Eric Tsung part i didn't have a clue what he was saying!! And i did miss parts when Roy Cheung and Tony Leung talk!!

Though i felt like the action scene was a little overdone (meaning someone should of been killed after so many slashes!!) and there is only 2 action scenes!!

The ending, well doesn't really end.....or does it??

I really liked the music at the end to the credits, i must mention that!!

Anyway one of the better films of 2000, with a blend of everything!!

7.25/10

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 11/27/2000
Summary: Head-spinningly weird, but very good.

Dante Lam showed promise as an action director on Option Zero (though the movie as a whole was weak) and as a director of more calm romantic fare with "When I Look Upon the Stars." (A pretty good movie ruined by Hsu Chi.) His best work, though, was on the wild, high-impact finale of Beast Cops, which "Jiang Hu" most closely resembles.

"Jiang Hu" is not a movie for people who demand a fast-paced or complex plot. The only real plot is that Tony Leung's triad boss has been targeted for assassination, and he and his men are attempting to find out by whom. Most of the running time, though, consists of flashbacks and digressions.

Digressions they may be, but they are fabulously varied and entertaining. There's slapstick comedy just shy of the Stephen Chiau level; there's also several violent scenes and Eric Tsang's 3 1/2 minute single-shot dramatic scene. The cinematography is great throughout with many shots that are clearly shot for maximum gorgeousness. Even the less "interesting" shots typically feature good compositions.

The number of actors is huge, and there's scarcely a weak link among them. Eason Chan has a scene or two during which he seems to be uncertain what to do when he's not the focal point, but that's the closest thing I can think of to a complaint. Tony Leung and Sandra Ng are terrific and versatile as the leads; Roy Cheung has improved tremendously since his early days as a snarling bad guy. Anthony Wong's guest role... Well, if you haven't heard who he plays I'll keep it a secret, but it's a jaw-dropping character, and Anthony does it justice. Everyone else, newcomers and bit-players included, is at least solid.

In the end, it's hard to say exactly what it all adds up to. Despite a certain number of scenes that are just flat-out comedy, there is a sense that there's something else at work here; I have yet to figure out what it is. In that sense, I'm reminded of Riley Yip's "Metade Fumaca;" great looking and satisfying on a number of levels, but difficult to sum up. Still, if you liked MF, Beast Cops, or maybe Task Force, you'll probably find "Jiang Hu" enjoyable, if not necessarily consciousness-raising.


Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 10/31/2000

Here is a gangster movie that mixes styles and moods, sometimes within the same scene, to such a degree that one never really understands just what the filmmakers are trying to achieve. The effect is entertaining and confusing, and ultimately so diffuse as to leave little impact.

"Jiang Hu", literally "rivers and lakes", connotes the wandering swordsmen of ancient days and in modern parlance refers to the triad underworld. It is a world that has virtually taken over Cantonese celluloid in the decade-and-a-half since the box office success of A Better Tomorrow. And while triad movies no longer command the public adulation they once enjoyed, they still manage to hang on and, in the case of The Triad Zone, attempt to redefine themselves.

As interpreted by director Dante Lam Chiu-yin, it is a world where blood-splattered battles and tear-wrenching emotions share centre stage with witty farce and low humour. It is one of those stories that defies easy summary, involving mob boss and master manipulator Yam (Tony Leung Ka-fai) and his efforts to enlarge his empire even while a contract is out on his life. He is aided by an intellectual politician (Chan Fai-hung) and a loyal bodyguard (Roy Cheung Yiu-yeung), but the real power behind the throne is Yam’s hard-as-nails yet endearingly vulnerable wife Sophie (Sandra Ng Kwun-yue).

Leung and Ng have a field day with their roles, with each called upon to swing between understated dramatics and over-the-top scenery chewing. Tony even gets to display the rump he made famous in The Lover. More flamboyant is Sandra’s punk look, complete with big hair and nose ring, when she meets Tony during a flashback shot on location in London Chinatown. The locale is just another indication that this is no ordinary triad picture.

But just what it is never comes into focus. Stylistically it is all over the place. At turns realistic and expressionistic, there is suddenly an otherworldly dimension provided by the appearance of the legendary god Kwan, played by none other than screen eccentric Anthony Wong Chau-sang. And this is just the tip of an iceberg that contains a skilled turn by Law Lan, as an elderly triad widow who is more than she seems, and several star cameos, most surprising that of director Ann Hui as one of Sandra’s mahjong cronies.

While the whole is somehow less than the sum of its many intriguing parts, Jiang Hu demonstrates that "the triad zone" is a lot broader than previous screen portrayals have indicated.

2 1/2 stars

This review is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No part of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reviewer Score: 5