Born to Be King
by Del Harvey
One of the best of the Hong Kong films about the Triads, this film ranks right up there with the best crime films of Coppola or Scorsese.
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Directed by Andy Lau, Born to Be King is actually the sixth film in his Young and Dangerous series. He directed almost all of the films in that series, and several of the actors return here.
The actors are outstandingly good, and most impressive is Jordan Chan as Chicken, who reminded me of Lee Marvin in his prime. There is that cocky swagger and a mean grimace on a half-handsome face in Chan’s characterization of the youthful mobster, which is a pure joy to watch.
The very good looking Ekin Cheng co-stars as Chicken’s partner Chan Ho-Nam. When he learns his friend Chicken will be marrying the daughter of a Japanese Yakuza lord, he throws his support behind his fellow Hung Hing Triad member.
The lord, Kusakari Ichio (played by the great Sonny Chiba), turns out to be much more open-minded than many Chinese Triad members, who end up opposing the marriage.
Added to the mix is the return of another friend from their youth, Lui (Peter Ho), who has returned to Taiwan from his studies in the States with the intention of unifying Taiwan’s underworld under the San Luen Gang.
Meanwhile, just as the incredibly beautiful Mei-ling (Shu Qi) is pushing Chan Ho-nam toward marriage, he stumbles across the living image of his one true love, Tuen-muk, in Taiwan. This woman is a schoolteacher with a well-organized life who is intrigued by Cheng’s attentions, but finds it all very confusing.
As all parties move inevitably forward towards their individual destinies, the various feuds and gangs converge in a surprise climax. Born to Be King is a very enjoyable film with superb acting, directing, and story. It is one of the very best Hong Kong films of the past few years. I recommend it highly.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of FM, a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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