Director: Chang Cheh
Writer: I Kuang, Chang Cheh
Producer: Run Run Shaw
Cast: David Chiang (Da Wei), Alexander Fu Sheng, Lily Li Li-Li, Lo Dik, Wai Wang, Wong Kwong Yue, Bruce Tong (Yim Chaan), Chow Yun Gin, Lee Yung Git, Tino Wong Cheung, Yen Shi-Kwan, Fung Hak On, Alan Chan (Gwok Kuen), Yuen Shun-Yi, Huang Ha, Got Dik Wa, Leung Gwing Wan, Fung Ging Man, Chen Wo-Fu
Running Time: 104 min.
By Mighty Peking Man
Unlike Chang Cheh’s usual recipe for films like “The Young Rebel,” “Chinatown Kid” and “The Delinquent,” “Friends” is not another story revolving around a troubled teen who gets mixed with up all sorts of gangster shit. Instead, we get seven troubled teenagers who get mixed up with all sorts of gangster shit. However, the movie mainly centers around the two characters played by David Chiang and Alexander Fu Sheng. The rest of the guys are thrown in for backstory (so don’t worry about about a convoluted character-heavy plot).
“Friends” starts out 10 years after the events of the movie. All seven friends are getting together for a reunion and are talking about the “good old days” of partying and causing trouble in night clubs. Following this quick opening scene, the rest of the movie is one long flashback.
Jiaji (Alexander Fu Sheng) is the son of a strict billionaire. Hua Heng (David Chiang) is a starving artist trying to make a living. One day, Jiaji bumps into Hua Heng during a brawl. After the two successfully outdo their opponents, the two become friends. Hua Heng introduces Jiaji to the rest of his buddies and they all form an unbreakable friendship. Thrilled with his new peers and bored of his lavish and sheltered lifestyle, Jiaji decides to run away from home to hang out with his new mates.
It’s only when Hua Heng’s girlfriend, Gao Xin (Lily Li), fails to to pay off some debts owed to local gangsters that serious trouble starts to brew. To help pay off the debt, Jiaji decides to trick his father into giving up some money. However, this sneaky move ignites a series of events that puts them all into a deadly situation.
Watching the late Alexander Fu Sheng in “Friends” makes me realize how much he makes David Chiang look like Bruce Lee’s cardboard cut-out performance in “Game of Death.” Well, maybe not that bad, but who WOULDN’T lose 50% of their charisma standing next to Fu Sheng?
And speaking of Alexander Fu Sheng, what a waste of talent. Sharp looks. Charming personality. Natural screen presence. In fact, if Jackie Chan hadn’t proved that he could routinely defy death, Fu Sheng would have been the man (imagine Fu Sheng in “The Tuxedo” instead of Chan). He’s known around the world as “The James Dean of Hong Kong.” (Come to think of it, why do Asians always have to take their legendary stars and equate them with iconic American talent? Anita Mui, the “Madonna of Hong Kong”; Chow Yun Fat, the “Cary Grant of Hong Kong.” I mean, you don’t see Americans saying things like “Steven Spielberg, the Tsui Hark of America.”
Anyway, for more on Alexander Fu Sheng, be sure to check out the documentary that’s included as an extra with the Celestial DVD. It’s short but sweet. It also could have been more informative, but it still offers a quick and easy way to get to know this great talent.
Choreography greats Lau Kar Leung and Tong Gaai do their thing. Whatever. Typical mid-1970s Shaw shit. If it’s not interesting, it’s boring. I mean, seriously, who the fuck watches a tale of scrawny little bad-asses in a Chang Cheh flick for the fluid action? For me, it’s story time!
“Friends” has a great soundtrack, especially if you’re into the funkiest of obscure ’70s music. Other songs contain original music with lyics written by Chang Cheh (like he did with “Singing Killer”). Also, it’s nice to see that Chang Cheh “borrowed” Ennio Morricone’s theme from “Death Rides A Horse,” which was recently resurrected in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Vol. 1.”
If you’re expecting lots of blood and a high bodycount, then you might be disappointed in “Friends.” I wasn’t, however. (And believe me, I live for Chang Cheh bloodfests.) Though it’s lighthearted, it still has lots of action and the plot is very entertaining, enjoyable and refreshing. It’s also nice to see the rare pair up of David Chiang and the late Alexander Fu Sheng.
Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10