review by Neo

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With the film panned with negative reviews, the newly hyped, Jiang Hu, with the audience overwhelming expectation of it being the next Infernal Affairs, I must say one thing; the film should not even be compared to it. The reason, I am saying this, is saying Jiang Hu is not a good film, but the fact that they are two totally different movies. Sure, the premises are immensely similar to Infernal Affairs 2, but the movie is a totally different one. With this in mind, one must think that I am going to pan this movie like the other critics, but in fact I actually thoroughly enjoyed this movie, from the very first minute up till the very end. The final black and white sequence actually makes me ponder on one point and one thing that will raise questions among viewers, or may be I just misunderstood the B/W ending: are Edison and Shawn young versions of Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung?

Sure the director, Wong Ching-Po is only directing his second film, but without doubt he does have tricks up his hands. The direction is not only stunning, but is actually beautifully shot, except for maybe the slightly overused slow motion near the end fight scene. Without doubt the standout performances here is Jacky Cheung and ever since a break from movies with a serious comeback performance in July Rhapsody, Cheung has mature a lot as an actor and his at time comical appearance adds to his menacing presence. His eyes of anguish are terrific to watch. A somewhat layback performance may actually be a lesser role for newly crowned best actor, Andy Lau. His performance is very stone faced throughout, and probably gives out one of his lesser performance out of his impressive last couple of years. However, his role and presence still makes his presence somewhat adequate. Of the biggest shock, is the acting chops shown by the two youngsters. The worst actor ever in the world, Edison, impressed me for the first time in his large body of wooden and wanna be cool roles, with his first role that is actually show his more relax nature and slightly comical. Without any doubt this is Edison by far best performance to date. One actor of notable mention is the scene stealing Shawn Yue, who portrayed his character to his best potential that may one day land him the stance of the next Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Although he is still a long way from that, his performance here is of standout and the scene where, Edison stop Shawn from rushing to help his brother, is one strikingly memorable scene, as his eyes actually glows and gives a layered performance that remind me with a hint of a younger Tony Leung in Hard Boiled.

The premises of the story is indeed slightly similar to Infernal Affairs 2 and it goes like this after the baby is born, Hung, the Kingpin of the triad society has decided to retire for a simple life. However, if he ever steps out from Jiang Hu, gang leaders from different branches would all rise to fight for the throne. Rumors swirling that in less than twelve hours there will be bloodshed everywhere due to Hung's departure. Two young gangsters are struggling for power in the underworld, hungry for fame, Wing is nominated by gang leader for the job, carrying only a cleaver as weapon, he asks his sworn brother, Turbo to join. When night falls, their mission begins but eventually collides with a mysterious woman that caught Wing in his eyes...

That summary is from the official site, but now comes to the reason whether this movie is actually any good. From its panning reviews, I actually watched this movie without the same type of expectation as I watched Infernal Affairs and the result is that Jiang Hu is an engaging action drama that captivated me from the very first minute. I read that many found the slow motion shot of triad entering cheesy, but that’s just personally opinion, as I felt that it was adequate and quite stunning cool, expectually the opening entrance of Jacky Cheung. The performance of the supporting cast is also terrific, some notable would be the face switching emotions of Eric Tsang and also the prostitute that Yue falls for. The movie is surprising not lead by Andy Lau or Jacky Cheung, but instead Shawn and Edison actually moves the story along. It is of notable mention that the toilet scene between Lau and Cheung is one of the best scenes and also with some comical touches. The kau lui situation of Yue and the prostitute is also sparking up the screen and showing signs of hope in this very break epical triad drama.

Overall, Jiang Hu is a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed in the first viewing and without doubt I will definitely watch it again for a deeper meaning and sections that I didn’t or may have misinterpreted it. Despite the numerous negative reviews, I found Jiang Hu the best movie of the year so far, and if you really have to compare it with Infernal Affairs 2, of which I also rate quite highly, Jiang Hu may have more plot holes, but on this very personal opinion, I liked it better.

I rate it 9/10

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Product Title : Jiang Hu
Artist Name(s) : Jacky Cheung | Andy Lau | Edison Chen | Shawn Yue
Language : Cantonese, Mandarin
Duration : 84 minutes
Reviewed by Neo (Andrew) - May 2004