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新邊緣人 (1994)
To Live and Die in Tsimshatsui

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 06/30/2012
Summary: 7/10 probably better than it should have been

Undercover cop Jacky Cheung feels his loyalties begin to tear... can he really betray the Hing Dai who treats him well, to please a superior officer who seems solely intent on furthering his own career and fucking Jacky's girlfriend? The conflicted undercover cop story is almost a genre in its own right, and TO LIVE AND DIE IN TSIMSHATSUI doesn't deviate too much from expectations. The Triad brothers Jacky must betray are almost conspicuously honest and decent (do they ever commit any crimes in the film? Their source of income remains mysterious) and the self-serving superior officer is entirely unsympathetic even before he worms his way into the girlfriend's knickers. When it's announced that Jacky's original superior is retiring in three days, we know what his fate will be long before he casually declines the offer of a bullet-proof vest when leading a raid on a Triad safe-house.

Still, despite an excess of predictability and a subtext that sometimes reads like a Triad recruitment film (wonder who bankrolled it?), TLADITST works quite well. The characters have just enough personality to give the actors something to work with, and most of them do a good job of getting into them. The story is melodramatic but engaging, and the whole thing is visually very stylish (as you'd expect from Andrew Lau - fresh from shooting Chungking Express by the looks of things).

TLADITST was actually one of the first Hong Kong films I saw, and it made a strong impression at the time. 15 years later I'm a more experienced and critical viewer, and the film's flaws are more obvious to me, but I still enjoyed watching it. Credit for this primarily goes to Wu Chien Lien, Jacky Cheung, Roy Cheung and Tony Leung Kar-Fai (in that order) for getting into their roles and taking the film more seriously than it perhaps deserves, and thereby giving it just enough substance to overcome any lack of it in the base material.

The film is more or less impossible to find, as far as I can tell - somewhat surprising given a fairly respectable cast and the director's future popularity. Glad that the VHS tape I recorded off Channel 4 and recently found in my mother's attic still played fine.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 06/27/2006
Summary: It Earns Respect

I can't improve on Mr. Blue's review below; he's spot on.

This is a movie with a plot that's familiar but competent, acting that's adequate but not award-winning (I thought Jackie Cheung overdid his despair in a couple scenes), writing that's tight but not flawless (e.g. Wu Chien Lien's movie brother, Roy Cheung, tells Jackie that their parents died when Chien Lien was very young, but later she makes reference to something her mother said when she had reached puberty).

Dissected, a lot of the elements seem average, but as a whole it rises. It's not a great movie, not a must-see movie, but one that is rewarding and sustains multiple viewings. I recommend you pick up a copy before it disappears forever (I had to get a vcd, couldn't find it in dvd).

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/27/2005

An undercover cop Ah Kit (Jacky Cheung) and his best friend Ah Bong are sent in to get evidence on a crime boss known as Coffin Tung. After a raid goes wrong and Tung is killed, his gang splits into two factions. Kit is sent to infiltrate the one led by Roy Cheung and Bong is sent into the other gang. Being separated from his best friend (not to mention feeling responsibilty for the death of Tung, someone who he had admired) sends Kit into a downward spiral. It doesn't help things out when he gets drunk at his girlfriend's (Lai) mother's birthday party and makes an ass out of himself, which causes Lai to run to Kit's sleazy superior. Kit's only solace is the occasional night out drinking with Bong. During one of these drinking sessions, the two hook up with low-level hood Tony Leung Ka-Fai, who is having his own domestic problems, but manages to help Kit get in good with Roy Cheung and his bitchy sister Wu Chien-Lin. As you might imagine, all these loose ends draw together near the end of the film and Kit must decide whom to help -- the cops he hates but feels he has a duty to or the hoods who he has grown to treat as his family.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed To Live and Die. The plot has been done many times before, especially by Lau, who would go on to direct several similar movies in the next few years, including the Young and Dangerous series. But the script is well-written and manages to give all the characters enough room to develop so that they don't become the cookie-cutter gangsters and cops all too present in this type of movie.

Even the romantic subplots (which normally ruin or drastically slow down most crime films) are well-handled, with very little in the way of melodrama. Speaking of which, Lau's direction keeps the pacing tight and thankfully free of the overacting which can destroy this type of movie. All of the actors work well in the movie, especially Jacky Cheung, who manages to restrain himself enough to give a believable portrayal of a cop that's gone too far undercover. Wu Chien-Lin (probably one of the most under-rated HK actresses) also gives a good performance, elevating her character above the one-dimensional female seen all too much in films on both sides of the ocean. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Gigi Lai, who seems to only be in the film as window dressing. But thankfully her character doesn't figure too heavily into the plot in the long run. Roy Cheung does his standard cool gangster role to near perfection and Tony Leung Ka-Fai is also quite good as a cowardly Triad who holds secrets of his own.

Though there is little in the way of action, what is in there (mainly a shootout in the middle and at the end, which were directed by Wong Jing) is well done, and, actually, adding Woo-style gunplay to the film would have probably taken away from the plot. The only real detriment to To Live and Die is the ending. The plot is wrapped up much too quickly and the tone is just too happy compared to the bleak setup of the finale. It comes off as very "Hollywood," where everything is wrapped up into a nice little package just to satisfy the audience. But otherwise, To Live and Die is a good mix of action, drama and romance that's well worth watching.

[review from]

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 12/26/2002

This triad flick was directed by Andrew Lau and suffers from the usual weaknesses typical of Lau's work, such as poor character development, a somewhat unstructured script and a hyperkinetic camera that seemingly cannot stay still but is constantly moving about. The movie is visually quite stylish and good-looking at times, but mostly feels like an early, still somewhat unsure test run for his later Goo Wat Jai films.

The story is quite confusing and narrative coherence is not helped by the truly awful subtitles. Nevertheless, the elements of the story are all familiar enough from myriads of other triad movies. Jackie Cheung plays am undercover cop who has infiltrated a triad gang and has become so embroiled in this lifestyle that he begins to lose his balance and his remaining links to a normal existence (such as his girlfriend, played by Gigi Lai). A similar storyline was covered in the superior Cop on a mission, but while TLADITST doesn't quite measure up in terms featuring a clever and coherent plot, it does nevertheless showcase some impressive performances (notably from Jackie himself) that raise this film above mere average.

The movie also stars Roy Cheung as the triad boss, Tony Leung Kar-Fai as another undercover cop and Wu Chien Lien as Roy Cheung's sister. Her relationship with Jackie is a little underdeveloped, but both actors have enough charisma to make the audience care about them anyway.

Action choreography is average at best and consists mainly of gangsters running around chopping each other, as well as a few gun battles.

Marginal recommendation.

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

A strictly run-of-the-mill crime drama. Double-agent JackyCheung penetrates a triad organization and siphons information to the police, but starts to feel a sense of obligation to bad guys who don't seem half as dishonorable as he is. In the process, he loses his girlfriend, only to fall for dangerous triad babe Wu Xian Lian. Plot goes all over the place, but somehow keeps your interest.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6