Lau Ching Wan taking advantage of the “pure” Athena in HK Triad
The last work Athena Chu did for Wong Jing, in 1999, was more interesting. Around that time, Wong was in the middle of a surprising attempt to direct/produce “serious” movies such as his True Mob Story. The HK Triad is one of his last try and amongst his most interesting. It doesn't mean it's a complete achievement, in fact, it suffers from the usual weaknesses of Wong Jing's product: clumsy characterization and uneven rhythm. But Wong made a good choice in entrusting Clarence Ford to direct. Even if the latter is also uneven in his own way, he has much more directing abilities than the rotund producer and does his best to give style to this HK Triad. The final product is a long triad epic, reminiscent of To Be Number One, done in a Wong Kar Wai's fashion (massive use of musical success of the time, careful artistic direction). Maybe because of the conventional script of Wong Jing, the performances of the actors were not as flawless as one could expect. Francis Ng, for example, alternates between his usual professionalism and some clowning performance..
Athena, on the other hand, remains consistent in her character from the beginning to the end. Luckily for her, she got to play the most interesting female lead of the film (Diana Pang's role disappear quickly after a promising introduction). Her Fei Fei is a character torn between her love to Ho (Lau Ching Wan) and the obligation/debt she has to Lok (Francis Ng). Throughout the film, we see the evolution of Fei Fei, from an innocent (if slightly teasing) girl to a frustrated, bitter and sexually active woman (materialized by a smart wardrobe). It's worth pointing that this evolution mirrored the one of the actress, starting as a good looking and pure love interest for the heroes (the flower pot syndrome) to more dramatic parts with her feminity in full mode. It's not sure she would have been able to pull out such a part during the first stage of her career but, at this time, her skills were sharp enough to make it real and credible. Her performance is one of the best elements HK Triad has to propose.
Time to breakthrough!