Writer/director Dennis Law's film Bad Blood, puzzlingly retitled King Of Triads for its North American DVD debut, starts off with an amazing fifteen minute sequence in which a gang boss named Lok Cheung On (Eddie Cheung) is caught red handed in a counterfeit operation in China and shot dead on the spot. Back in Hong Kong, Lok's gang is now trying to figure out who will replace him, the front runner in the race being a middle aged gangster named Funky (Simon Yam). As it turns out, however, there are plenty of other people who would relish the chance to replace the late Lok, including his son Jason (Chris Lai), his daughter Audrey (the lovely Bernice Liu), a guy with a facial scar named Calf (Andy On), and pretty much every woman Lok ever slept with, whether he was married to them or not.
Soon enough, the various candidates for the empty spot atop the Triad ladder start getting killed off, one at a time and in some fairly grisly ways. If that weren't complicated enough, there's all manner of bizarre (and seemingly inserted at random) subplots going on, with various character involved in various schemes involving embezzlement and other criminal activities. For the most part though, the story revolves around trying to figure out who is killing off Lok's would be heir to the throne.
As mentioned, this one starts off incredibly strong, looking for all the world like it's going to be an amazing action film, the kind we see only too rarely these days coming out of Hong Kong, the kind that leaves us with our jaws on the floor. After that amazing opening sequence, however, the film becomes amazing in its erratic ways and tendency to shift focus. If these shifts in focus helped to further the plot, that'd be one thing but they don't, in fact they don't even come close. There are so many bizarre and completely random bits where characters are inserted and then taken out of the storyline along with various segments of people involved in the most mundane of day to day activities that, when the sporadic violence peppered throughout comes back to the forefront of the film, it results in a bit of a cinematic suckerpunch.
Not only is the film disjointed and very uneven, but it also somehow manages to deal almost entirely in clichés, not just from the gangster and crime film genres it tries to work its way into, but also from the thriller and horror movie genres, which it borrows from in obvious and liberal doses. Performance wise, top billed Simon Yam is more of a supporting player here than the male lead, that dubious honor instead falls on Andy On who proves himself to be a pretty legitimate bad ass when it comes to lay down the law in the fight scenes. If you saw On in the recently released True Legend you know he can handle himself and he proves it once again in this film, making him on to watch if you're into martial arts films. With fight choreography from Li Chung Chi and cinematography by the great Herman Yau, the film always looks nice - it's slick, violent, and appropriately atmospheric.
The storyline, however, is so random and bizarre that you can't help but laugh throughout the film, even you're not supposed to. Everything here is played with deadly serious intent, there's no irony to any of the performances and you don't get the impression at all that the script is working on any sort of level of self awareness - instead, it all comes across as a sincerely screwy film, benefitting from Law's kitchen sink mentality in that if it's not at all put together well in terms of flow or sense, it's at least crazy enough to be entertaining.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and as colorful as the filmmakers probably wanted it to be. There aren't any issues with print damage and only some mild compression artifacts visible in a few of the darker scenes to note. The film frequently uses a cool color scheme and leans towards the dark side of the pallet, obviously a stylistic choice and fairly appropriate in the context of the movie, but the DVD handles this well. Detail is good, contrast is fine and overall the movie looks quite good.
Audio options are offered up in the original Chinese language track by way of a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or by way of a noticeably inferior English language dub, also presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Both tracks sound fine but the dubbing doesn't suit the film particularly well, even if it comes through as clean and clear as you'd want it to. The 5.1 track not only presents the movie in its preferred original language but also has the added benefit of a few extras channels which it uses well to spread out the score and the sound effects. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
There aren't a ton of extras here, really, but once you're done watching the movie if you want to learn more you can dig into some fairly light and fluffy cast interviews with pretty much all of the principals actors involved in the production. There's not much substance of any of this, it all feels very much like EPK material. Aside from that, there are a few trailers in addition to some menus and chapter stops.
King Of Triads isn't really very good at all but it's just screwy enough that, for better or worse, it's pretty entertaining. The fight scenes, as randomly inserted into the film as they may seem, are handled with an appropriately violent approach and handled well and the frequent lunacy of the storyline can, if you're in the right frame of mind, deliver some kicks. Ultimately this movie takes itself way too seriously, which somehow adds to the fun. Not a masterpiece at all but an interesting mish mash of crime thriller, martial arts and horror movie elements with an interesting cast. A very solid choice for a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.