Last week, while feeding my hobby of watching (and re-watching) old Hong Kong films, I found myself watching “Young and Dangerous 3” again.
Though the “Young and Dangerous” films (and their spin-offs) were immensely popular, there is just something about them that did not click with me. I always thought they are poorly filmed and extremely cringeworthy. The way how some characters tried to act all tough and hooligan-like when the actors themselves do not look the part, is downright embarrassing.
Maybe the movies are trying to tell us about how anybody can be a cool triad member if they really put their mind to it, which is a rather disturbing message. Then again, I am probably overthinking, it is more likely due to poor casting effort by the producers.
Films about Hong Kong triads are not something new. There is an abundance of triad movies made before the Y&D ones and even today, they are still being produced. At the time of this post, the most recent one which I know of is Donnie Yen‘s “Chasing the Dragon“.
The stories are usually self-contained, often with both the protagonists and antagonists meeting tragic ends. Lots of saxophone playing, over lots of neon lights that the streets of Hong Kong is so famous for. Overall, they are very gritty and grimy. Buckets of blood are shed and plenty suffering for both parties, a bleak reminder for the viewers how a life of crime always never pays.
Not the “Young & Dangerous” though!
One thing the Y&D films did drastically differently from the rest, is how they glamorized the triad members and their lifestyles.
Throughout the series, we follow the criminal careers of reoccurring main characters. We watched them start out from the bottom of the gang (fighting on the neighborhood streets with “watermelon knives”) to renown leading figures of major criminal organisations all over the world (fighting with automated firearms, wearing tailored-made suits).
The Y&D protagonists (the good triad members) are always made to look as cool as possible no matter what they are doing with hip, rocking music blasting.
There are a lot of scenes where our Y&D heroes gathered hordes of “little brothers” behind them, in similar (very loosely) fashion with what armies in medieval war movies do before a major battle. While such scenes may be cool to many others, but personally I find them to be comical.
I have a habit of scrutinizing the background when I am not watching a film for first time (or when I have lost interest halfway through), in search of anything more compelling. The “little brothers” are obviously made up of many extras there just to flesh things up; their lack of acting ability really shows whenever I caught them reacting strangely. I must admit, though for all the wrong reasons, these extras who act outlandishly actually made the films ever slightly more entertaining.
While I was never a huge fan of this movie franchise, but I remember the impact the movies had on the young minds of my fellow secondary schoolmates. Granted, my secondary school was not exactly an “Elite School” by any standard; it was a normal secondary school located in a really common neighborhood. Strangely, whenever I thought of my old secondary school, its dimly-lit canteen is always the first thing which pops in my mind.
The influence Y&D films had on my fellow schoolmates was prevalent. A lot of them tried to imitate their favourite triad movie character in every way possible. They started dressing up differently; in school, it basically means wearing their school uniform as inappropriately as possible. Most of the boys grew their hair way longer than what was acceptable and they spent a lot of time trying to keep their long fringes hidden either by using hair product to keep them from falling, or constantly hooking their fringes behind their ears.
Sticking out of the back pocket of their school pants, were wallets which were way too long, along with orange plastic combs with long pointy ends. I was surprised that it was uncommon to hear an unfortunate schoolmate accidentally stabbing himself at the back with his comb.
Most of them were pretty rowdy, especially so in their little groups. Now I know cliques are the norm every where, but something about the way these students behaved in their squads certainly reminded me of the Y&D films.
It was almost like my schoolmates drew inspirations directly from the movies and tried to faithfully reproduce them in every aspects of life.
Since I had little in common with them, as much as I could, I avoided interactions with these copies of “Chan Ho-Nam“. For me, it was amusing enough to observe them from afar. Just like the extras in the films, they kept me entertained through my secondary school days.