Director: Chang Cheh
Writer: Chiu Kang Chien
Producer: Runme Shaw
Cast: Ti Lung, Li Ching, David Chiang (Da Wei), Chen Hung Lieh, Angela Yu Chien, Chen Yan Yan, Goo Man Chung, Fong Min, Hsu Hsia
Running Time: 100 min.
By Mighty Peking Man
Zhang Chun (Ti Lung, in one of his first starring roles for Shaw Brothers) is a good natured, twenty-something playboy who loves his family, despises his office job and envies the rich. At a glance, he’s a happy go-lucky ladies man; but deep down inside, he’s frustrated with his ant-like 9 to 5 work routine. Burnt out and depressed, his mind becomes more and more self-destructive; he even fantasizes about “living fast and dying young” like his idol, James Dean.
It’s only when he meets a rich girl, named Wen Rou (Li Ching), that his world is turned inside out. The two fall madly in love with each other and Zhang Chun’s pessimistic nature begins to see a happy light.
Trouble begins to boil when the girl’s older protective brother, Wen Qiang (Chen Hung-lieh), finds out about their relationship. Because of Zhang Chun’s unsuccessful white collar status, Wen Qiang immediately disapproves of him and requests that the two stop seeing each other. Zhang Chun ignores his request and the two collide in a bloody opposition, leaving Wen Rou caught between the two in a helpless situation.
First of all, hats off to Celestial Pictures for their newly produced trailer for DEAD END. In a word, brilliant. The trailer’s perfect edits and choice of music grabs your immediate attention. In fact, the trailer’s vibe is so positive that I’m beginning to second guess my disappointing thoughts that followed watching the actual movie.
DEAD END marks a change of setting for your typical pre-1970s Chang Cheh flick. The sword is now a gun; feudal China is now modern day Hong Kong. Also, it’s the first in a series of endless urban tales of troubled youth (i.e. Chinatown Kid, The Delinquent, Friends, The Generation Gap…like I said, endless.) and their association with violence. In addition, DEAD END marks the first real team up of the Chang Cheh, David Chiang and Ti Lung collaboration, dubbed “The Iron Triangle,” because of their successful line of films together which would last several years.
The main problem with DEAD END is its story line. Sometimes, it’s a little too much to-the-point; other times, you’re wondering which way that point is facing. Plot elements come in, then plot elements disappear. More than anything, there are just too many moments of plain stupidity that are extremely evident. When the film comes to a conclusion, we never really know WHY anyone did what they did.
Despite the film’s line of talent and it’s visually-hip 1960′s yester-year style of filmmaking, DEAD END is a rushed mess. Unless you’re a super-duper Cheh/Chiang/Lung fanatic, or you just like to stare at Li Ching’s unbelievably cute face, skip it. It’s just a friendly reminder that not everything Chang Cheh touched turned to gold; however,it would only a take a couple of years for him to do a much better job with similar films like the ones mentioned above.
Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 5/10