ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn
Anyone familiar with Hong Kong action cinema will surely be acquainted with the cop/triad subgenre. Tropes include:
1. A sharply dressed, greedy Triad leader who takes great pleasure in killing his enemies in various creative ways.
2. Said Triad almost always has a slew of equally violent men and a bevy of beautiful women working for him.
3. There’s always a dedicated hard-ass cop who’ll do anything to catch said Triad.
The difference between Organized Crime and Triad Bureau and other films of its ilk is the depth of the characters. Triad Tung (Anthony Wong) is not simply a greedy killer. He is a criminal, yes. But he is also a man who lives by a code of honor. He loves his son. He’s also deeply in love with his number one mistress, Cindy whom he rescues from a rapist in a well-placed flashback early in the film. Rarely do we see women given an arc this juicy. Cindy (played by Cecilia Yip) feels betrayed by Tung because of his womanizing but she chooses to stay with him. The emotional debt she feels for saving her life overlaps just enough with her overall lack of self-confidence to justify her continued loyalty.
Danny Lee’s Inspector Lee is not simply a dedicated cop, but an obsessed one who crosses the line frequently by breaking the law to uphold it. Not a new concept by any means, but it is extremely well-executed in this fast-paced actioner. Lee’s motivations for catching Tung are not clear. Perhaps he is so obsessed because the other police officers pick on him for having no life outside work. Maybe he feels the need to prove himself. The movie doesn’t concern itself so much with the “whys” but lets the actions of the characters do the explaining.
This movie resists the clichés right up to the very end. Yes, there is a shootout. But there are no straightforward answers (or easy outs) for any of the characters. A lesser actor than Anthony Wong would not have done triad leader Tung justice. Few actors play complex anti-heroes as well as Wong. When asked about this performance in an interview, he said he felt it was only “tolerably good.” A man with superior standards indeed. He need not be so humble. I watched this expecting a plain cop/bad guy flick, but Organized Crime and Triad pleasantly surprised me. In a subgenre with such a predictable template, it is a standout.