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Test DVD : Hong Kong Godfather (Funimation)
DVD Review Page 1
Author(s) : Sylvia Rorem
Date : 30/7/2010
Type(s) : DVD Review
 Intext Links  
People :
Richard Cheung Kuen
Norman Chu Siu Keung
Kong Lung
Leung Kar Yan
Sek Kin
Shum Wai
Johnny Wang Lung Wei
Movies :
Hong Kong Godfather
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
< Previous

Funimation, we salute you. Johnny Wang Lung Wei’s triad revenge story Hong Kong Godfather (aka Heroes of Tsimshatsui) has finally been remastered and released in its full, uncut, original Cantonese glory. This 1985 Shaw Brothers film may not be the greatest story ever told, but Wang, with the help of Leung Kar Yan and villain Shum Wai, definitely cuts the Triad film sub-genre a whole new one.

The Movie

After many years of excellent action in front of the camera, Shaw actor-turned-filmmaker Johnny Wang Lung Wei draws upon The Godfather and other classic gangster stories to deliver an overly ambitious film that falls down a lot, almost becomes a full fledged gangster saga, and then climaxes in a bloody, violent, balls out, last-man-standing mess. It is a flat, cheesy, low-budget affair with mediocre art direction, uninspired photography and mostly subpar acting. And it is pretty wonderful. Had Wang injected deeper meaning into his story, the productions flaws could easily be overlooked and this film would probably be hailed as an early Triad movie masterpiece. It might just be anyway.

The plot is simple. Elderly gentleman triad leader Han (Sek Kin) controls Tsimshatsui East along with relative newcomer Rotten Chi (Shum Wai) and Han’s sworn brothers, ultra-permed Playboy Lung (Norman Chu) and corrupt cop Sergeant Man (Richard Cheung). When dastardly New York triad leader Lan (Wong Chun) and his henchman (Kong Lung) return to Hong Kong and begin to muscle their way into Han’s territory, Han pushes back and a turf war ensues. It is at this point, about 35 minutes in, that the film becomes a personal drama with investable stakes. Han’s favorite sworn brother Mad Wei (Leung Kar Yan) must come out of retirement to protect his brothers, find and stop the mole that is undermining the gang, protect his own daughter, and seek bloody revenge on Lan and his horde of minions. Revenge is sweet. Especially with machetes.

It is a real shame that so few of the characters are three dimensional human beings. Leung Kar Yan does mad rampage like nobody’s business but he just doesn’t display the kind of sadness, confusion and mental pain that the script demands of Mad Wei. When he busts out his machete, however, mirabile dictu, he’s fantastic. Norman Chu straddles the fence as a somewhat likeable, injured and devastated tough guy, Richard Cheung handles his supporting role with some real emotion, and Sek Kin simply cannot not be riveting. Unfortunately, primary baddie Wong Chun is stiff, one dimensional and about as menacing as a cord of firewood. It is his mole, Rotten Chi, played by Shum Wai, who is responsible for almost all the emotional content. The frightened, egotistical Chi is a marvelously disgusting three-dimensional character, the dramatic link between all major events, and an indispensable man-you-love-to-hate. Without Chi‘s emotional content, Hong Kong Godfather might be unwatchable.


Except for the action. Wang Lung Wei may have bitten off more than he could chew with character and story but he is a master of intense action choreography. His fight scenes are mean, desperate, angry and violent; just as they should be for an ugly revenge story. Wang stacks frantic, unceasing attacks and flailing bodies into tight spaces, creating highly chaotic, almost claustrophobic scenes. He escalates the intensity of the action and violence along with the story tension, starting with a brief gang bang and cranking it up with several brutal murders and a couple of bloody good, chaotic brawls. Wang’s outrageous, blood-soaked finale is considered by many Hong Kong modern action film enthusiasts to be top-notch material.

Hong Kong Godfather is a flawed but ultimately satisfying film. In true Hong Kong fashion, Wang Lung Wei damns the production torpedoes and charges headlong into the fray, making a significant contribution to the genre that must be seen to be believed.

Warning: this film is soaked in graphic violence and features full frontal female nudity.


dvd specifications

Distributor: Funimation.com/Hong Kong Connection

Region: 1

Languages: Cantonese Stereo
Subtitles: English

Format: 1.78:1
Run Time: 95 minutes

1 DVD with a handful of mixed-bag trailers

Release Date: April 2010

Price: $19.98




The Funimation DVD is the Celestial Pictures transfer. The restoration ensures a nice picture quality. The sound nicely balances music, dialogue and effects, and the English subtitles are easily readable and error-free. This DVD does not offer an English dub option; it is presented in original Cantonese only. There is no other way to watch this film if you cannot or do not want to read subtitles. The preliminary Funimation promotional reel cannot be skipped but can be fast-forwarded on select players. The chapter selection pictures are numerous and small, making selection somewhat difficult but the main menu is simple and easily navigable.

This DVD is an excellent buy for North American fans.

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