The Blood Rules
"...a quality action-thriller showcasing Michael Wong at his finest hour since Beast Cops."
- Mighty Peking Man
The Blood Rules (2000)
Literally: Business Rules
Director: Marco Mak Chi-sin
Producer: Lee Siu Kay
Writer: James Yuen, Andy Law
Cast: Michael Wong Man-tak, Suki Kwan Sau-mei, Jackie Lui Chung-yin, Lam Suet, Yang Hsiang, Wong Tin-lam, Crystal Tin Yui-nei, Stephen Au Kam-tong
Running Time: 96 min.
Plot: A professional robbery group, steals the money of triad gangs. In their final operation, they lose. Under the attack of both the police and the triad one member is killed. The other two swear to take revenge.
GWAILO'S REVIEW: Master editor Marco Mak's directing debut illicits more style than substance. Understandable coming from Mak, who has spliced together film for the industries top directors the better part of 20 + years. His editing ranges Swordsman to Raped by an Angel 5. His resume is insane. The plot of TBR concerns a gang of four: Michael Wong, Shooky Kwan, Lam Suet, and Jackie Liu, who succeed in riping off mucho dinero from triad kingpins. They live by a code of honor, the 'blood rules' of the title. These rules are as old as heroic bloodshed and are etched into the stones of HK action cinema. On a fatal mission, one of the four forsakes the rules and the gangs numbers diminish. Once the dust settles, revenge is on mind and the remaining must mete out the blood shed. Heck...those are the "Blood Rules". The action contrivances are obvious and ultimately diminish the strength of the film. But whatever the contrivances, merit is found surprisingly in the script.
There are subplots concerning unrequited love within the gang which are well played to balance out the films action. In this, the film does something different than other 'gun flicks'. It reveals depth in it's characters. The subplots do not linger long, but the situations offered are human and reveal emotion in our 'heroes'. Another refreshing aspect is that these characters aren't stiff cut-out's of the genre. They don't act according to the action film handbook. A weak spot in the film would be Stephen Au Kam Tong, he is all but wasted as a smart-alec police officer on the trail of the gang and his comedic performance lends nothing than a smirk to the film. There just isn't much for his character to do(picture one of Danny Lee's many cop roles). Mak's first feature reveals great promise, poise and direction in which classics are made. Whatever the films faults with it's script, are made up with it's first rate cast and entertainment value. One of the better modern day action flicks, but nothing special.
GWAILO'S RATING: 6/10
JOE909'S REVIEW: I guess I'm pretty lucky in that I haven't seen many Michael Wong movies. Before the "Blood Rules," the only other Michael Wong movie I can remember seeing is "Legacy of Rage," in which he was fairly decent. I've always heard how bad of an actor he can be, so I was prepared to laugh derisively at him throughout this movie. However, Wong turns in a pretty good performance, as does everyone else in this Milkyway-like film.
Michael, Jean, Shoot, and Q are thieves who work for fat-ass boss Uncle Lam, who, Pulp Fiction-like, talks often and at length about trivial matters instead of business; in Uncle Lam's case, tofu, and how to properly make it. Lam sends the group out to rip the diamonds off of Chicken Sam's dick, and, due to Q's Lady Macbeth of a girlfriend, Q gets all sorts of thoughts in his head and completely fucks up the job. This leads to some slick gunfights, more betrayals, confessed love, and a pretty cool fight with an SDU squad in Shoot's aquarium.
I should state that Michael Wong is the fucking MAN in this movie. Not only does Jean have it for him, but he's married to one hot lady. And on top of that, he also picks up another hottie at a bar, with the simple line: "Are you lonely tonight?" Mike then proceeds to bang her silly in the bar's restroom (pure class, there), while a heartily upset Jean waits outside.
One interesting thing about the movie is that each of the characters are very fleshed out: Michael has his wife and kid, and a determination to get away from the life, Shoot has his aquarium, his love for Jean, and a local kid he lovingly calls "Fatty" (the scene in which Shoot asks the kid for romance advice is both absurd and touching), Q has his conniving, money-lusting girlfriend (as if there's any OTHER kind), and Jean, well, Jean doesn't have many hobbies, other than pining for Michael and beating the shit out of other women.
Far and away, though, the best character in the film is Inspector Wai, extremely well-portrayed by Stephen Au Kam-tong. A New Age-style police officer, Wai spends his time making funny observations on the world and meditating over his current case. Matter of fact, I got a great line from this movie, to use on the job in the future. As Wai tells his commanding officer: "I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating!" I'd love to see this character in his own film.
"The Blood Rules" isn't perfect, though. Some of the action scenes weren't as impressive or heated as others I've seen in HK cinema, and it also suffers from the current problem with introducing its Villain too late. Even Chicken Sam, who promised to be a GREAT villain, is wasted fairly quick, and we're left with Uncle Lam as the main villain. Michael launches a suicide attack on his former boss, blasting away at his armored car and his gwailo cronies with a pair of pistols. And speaking of which, that's one thing I've always wondered about HK movies: why don't these guys ever use assault weapons? If I'm taking on a group of armed toughs, give me an AK-47. But I guess "the double pistol" motif is more in tune with the Heroic Bloodshed genre.
I'd say the main trouble with "The Blood Rules" is its coincidence factor. For example: one of the team members gets stabbed by a former loved one. As he lays there in his own blood, a teammate happens to walk by, just out of the blue, and finishes off the job. Uncle Lam's murder, at the very end of the movie, also reeks of coincidence: killed by someone who just happened to be in the right exact place at the right exact time.
"The Blood Rules" is a fairly interesting action pic with a few slow spots, great characters, and good acting. The directing as well is good throughout, as is the music, and, most importantly of all, the melodrama isn't as thick as you'd expect it to be in a love triangle-themed movie. If anything, the Michael-Jean-Shoot triangle is handled subtly and capably.
JOE909'S RATING: 8/10
ALEXANDER'S REVIEW: "The Blood Rules" is aptly titled. It refers to an "honor among thieves"-like pact but better describes the carnage that erupts after every betrayal and double-cross. Not to sound like some crazed masochist, but I welcomed the sight of so much bloodshed after watching such relatively tame fare like "Gen X Cops", "2000 A.D.", "Tokyo Raiders" and, er, "Save the Last Dance". This film reminded me in many ways of John Woo before he sold his soul to Hollywood and I was left thinking at times that if Michael Wong could speak better Canotonese he'd be on par with an early Chow Yun Fat. (In fact, there are two suspensful scenes that rival anything Woo has done, including one involving Hong Kong's elite SDU and another featuring a woman with a very large shotgun.) This film isn't quite "The Killer", but with its stylish, well-choreographed gun battles featuring a wide array of weaponry; a tight, suspenseful story; an unusually reserved Micheal Wong (at his absolute best here); and some innovative direction and camera work, "The Blood Rules" is one of the finest and most recent films in the "heroic bloodshed" genre.
Wong is actually quite good as a hitman with a double life. When not committing brutal hits on wealthy adversaries he is at home with his unsuspecting family. He is entirely believable in a role that doesn't require his usual clenched-jaw and chest-thumping persona. Instead, he is convincingly conflicted between his love of his son and his kinship with his partners in crime. "The Blood Rules" is definitley Wong's best performance to date.
NOTE: The subtitles are, at times, nearly incomprehensible, but they improve as the movie progresses as if the translators were able to track down a Cantonese/English dictionary sometime around the middle of the film. Also, there is a hilarious, informative, and surprisingly embarassing bio of Michael Wong on the disc that is an absolute must-read.
ALEXANDER'S RATING: 8/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Looking at the DVD box-art of this movie and it's credits, it's easy to assume that this is yet another cheesy, low-budget, Michael Wong adventure that follows the same footsteps (as far as production value) as the laughably stupid "Super Car Criminals" and the horrid "Violent Cop" (the Hong Kong version, NOT the brilliant Beat Tekeshi one). My assumption was wrong. "The Blood Rules" is a quality action-thriller showcasing Michael Wong at his finest hour since "Beast Cops". Everything from the music, to the "fishy' cgi opening-credit sequence is done with "quality" in mind.
The plot involves a gang of assassins/robbers that consists of Suki Kwan, Lam Suet and Jackie Lui, headed by Michael Wong. All four work under Wong Tin-Lam, who is constantly seen munching on some kind of fried tofu. With cops hot on their tail, Michael and the gang decide that after one more job, they'll have to call it quits and go separate ways.
Predictably, everything imaginable goes wrong during the final job. Not to mention a heap of surprises within the gang including secret admiration, extra marital affairs and more importantly, betrayal - which leads to some serious tragedy.
The entire cast seem loyal to their parts - take extra note on the cop played by Stephen Au Kam-tong. He adds some humor to the dark tone of this film, not to mention a great supporting role.
To sum it all up, "The Blood Rules" is a sharp, stylish, action-packed, quality-heavy production with a bit of messy plot flaws that stop it from being what it was trying to duplicate: a Milkyway Image film. Still, it's worth watching, especially if you're a fan of Michael Wong. After viewing this, I can say that I'll look forward to seeing more from director Marco Mak Chi-sin.
The Blood Rules can be purchased at HKflix.com
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 7.5/10