During the mid 90s there was a series of Hong Kong movies by the name of Young, and Dangerous that were released. This series of movies focused on a group of young triad members, detailing their adventures, dangers, and growth in Hong Kong triad society. Aside from the fact it has some Hong Kong actors I like (they even got Simon Yam) I can’t really say anything else on the series since I haven’t seen them. However, it’s during this craze of goo wak jai (asian gangsters/triad members) that inspired many imitators to duplicate it success. Streets of Fury (1996) happens to be one those movie starring one of my favorite Hong Kong actor Louis Koo. In the same vein of Simon Yam, Louis Koo is also an actor who regardless of what he’s in I’ll watch it because I like him that much. Even in his first major film role, Koo striking on screen presence shines through in this horribly misguided movie.
Streets of Fury starts out by introducing the viewer to down-and-out teens Hu (Michael Tse Tin-wah) and Yu-long (Louis Koo Tin-lok) who are repeatedly victimized by local gang leader Short-Sighted (Simon Lui Yu-yueng) and his buddies. From here the movie gives out simple characteristics to our protagonists. Hu loses his temper easily, and gets into fights frequently whereas Yu-Long is more laid back, and caring. Through these defining features the movie does little to expand on them. One of the movie major issues is Hu, and the film attempt at trying to make him sympathetic. It’s impossible to feel any remorse towards Hu when he mistreats his girlfriend, is shown easily sleeping with women despite being in a relationship, and gives his girlfriend money, and tells her to get an abortion as soon as he hears she is pregnant. Not only that, but it’s implied during a timeskip he never went back, and reconcile with his ex-girlfriend after participating in a violent gang fight.
Hu is the antithesis of Yu-long in every way, yet doesn’t commit to making this character entirely unlikable. There’s a point in the story where Hu feels some semblance of remorse for everything he put his ex-girlfriend before the movie ditches that idea to follow Yu-long who’s a more rounded character. When the movie doesn’t need a conflict to push things forward Hu gets written out of the movie. He doesn’t have much of a personality contributing to his static nature, and after a while you’ll easily forget he was originally the main character.
Another major issue is the film’s pacing. Either escalating events to quickly, or meanders around in its attempts to flesh out Yu-long relationship with Shan (Teresa Mak). When it rush it resorts to easy tricks to make you dislike the film’s villain Short-Sighted. He doesn’t just rape Hu’s girlfriend, along with his entire gang, but does it again to Yu-long girlfriend later on in the movie even after Hu chopped up one of his hands! In general, characters don’t learn anything, and if there is a change in them it occurs off screen.
On the meandering side you have Shan, an old schoolmate of Yu-long who immediately falls in love with him. Leading to a relationship where Shan gets decently developed while Yu-long receives a minor character arc. Unfortunately, the writing decides to basically rehash the first act, and this time have film villain Short-Sighted rape Yu-long girlfriend resulting in the same events playing out like act one. You have another gang fight between our leads, and Short-Sighted with the only difference being how the confrontation ends the second time. I honestly can’t recall another movie I’ve ever seen rehashing events of the first act of its story for its conclusion.
The writing is on the nose at times being unintentionally funny; like a brief exchange between Hu, and Yu-long where Hu talks about Hu dead parents. These two grew up under the same household so Hu basically saying “Yu-long, we’re brothers, even if not blood related, or from the same parents” comes off unnatural during their exchange. What the movie is trying go for is uncertain since in a coming of age movie growth is necessary, and our lead characters have little time to reflect on their life. Only two minor characters in the movie actually reflect about the hand life dealt with them, but they’re hardly in the movie. Any thematic exploration there could have been is lost in its jumbled mess of a story. Being incapable of crafting a balance between a coming of age story, and triad crime drama.
By far the most likable actor in Streets of Fury is Louis Koo. His on screen presence is simply natural. He doesn’t try make himself look tough like his co star Michael Tse attempts to do. Making Koo more believable in his portrayal. Another thing Koo does is not dialing up the less favorable aspects of his character. Understanding that his character while misguided should still be sympathetic. Completely the opposite of Michael Tse who goes overboard in making his character unlikable. Whenever Michael Tse has to portray a more gentler side of his character it’s tough pill to swallow because of how unlikable he is in general. Dragging the movie down when he’s the focus.
Tsui Kam-Kong who plays the dreadlock triad leader King. He simply hams up his role being the most laid back triad member in the entire movie. Through his silly mannerism he carefully makes a comedic character who’s also capable of acting tough. Pulling off the difficult task of making a comedy relief convincingly look tough. Ben Lam Kwok Bun who plays brother beast also balances the delicate side with the tough side as Brother Beast. It’s a shame he wasn’t in the movie more since he’s pretty good. Of course there’s also Alan Chui Chung-San as another mobster whose only memorable because he typically carries a miniature fan around with him because it’s always too hot.
Simon Lui pulls in an unlikable performance just like Michael Tse, but this time in the film favors. His character is written to be pathetic, and despicable in every sense of the words. Buying him as a teenager is a bit tough with a receding hairline, and five o’clock shadow, but other than that he’s fine. There’s also the two ladies Gigi Lai, and Teresa Mak whom only act as romantic interest. Teresa Mak gets a bit more to do since she has more screen time. Also, I have to address Jerry Lamb being on the cover of the DVD I own since his only purpose is getting killed. His contribution is minuscule, and considering there’s three other actors who have more screen time than him that’s just baffling he’s on the cover.
Directed by Hin Sing ‘Billy’ Tang he does an incompetent job on filming the fight scenes. Going for a documentary look to it the fight sequences are clearly shot on a hand held camera. This is an issue since the camera shakes a lot making 90% of the fights unwatchable. Considering the movie are simple, large brawls it’s baffling how Billy Tang couldn’t maintain a clear image. The 10% where it is visible the choreography is unimpressive, and needed to be rehearse more to appear more natural than it did. Other than the lackluster music, and okay editing there’s pretty much nothing left to cover. Okay, there’s a magazine Michael Tse reads that had an image of Young, and Dangerous 3 on the cover for all intent, and purposes is a unsubtle hint at what it ripping off poorly.
Streets of Fury is a movie not made for artistic expressions, but to simply latch of the success of a popular movie, and make a quick buck out of it. Movies like Streets of Fury get made in droves not only in Hong Kong, but every film industry you can think of has at least one of these movies. They usually get forgotten about fairly quickly, and even when an actor becomes a superstar in their country film industry like Louis Koo eventually did. Very few of their fans even bother digging up movies like these as they continue to collect dust.