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Return to a Better Tomorrow
"Okay, you be Chow Yun-Fat and I'll be Ti Lung!"

Ekin Cheng and Lau Ching-Wan attempt to Return to a Better Tomorrow.
Chinese: 新英雄本色  
Year: 1994
Director: Wong Jing  
Action: Dion Lam Dik-On, Poon Kin-Gwan  
Cast: Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Lau Ching-Wan, Michael Wong Mun-Tak, Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, Lam Kwok-Bun, Ngai Sing, James Wong Jim, Paul Chun Pui, Lee Siu-Kei, Chan Chi-Fai, John Ching Tung, Parkman Wong Pak-Man, Lo Meng, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Passable action helps compensate for a clichéd and frankly uninteresting gangland thriller which is meant to evoke warm and fuzzy memories of the John Woo original. Not surprisingly, the film fails at doing so.
by Kozo:

Not related to any of the John Woo films, Return to a Better Tomorrow attempts to ride the coattails of the famous film franchise. However, instead of Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo, we get Ekin Cheng and Wong Jing. Not surprisingly, the attempt is only mediocre at best.

Ekin Cheng is the hero, a too-cool triad guy with a hot girlfriend (Chingmy Yau) and much respect in the underworld. His runway model good looks and extreme righteousness earn him great pals like the dopey Lau Ching-Wan (with floppy pre-Milkyway Image hair), as well as the esteem of his sleazy boss (Lam Kwok-Bun). Like in the later Young and Dangerous films, being a triad guy can be a fulfilling, respectable career. Or, at least that's how Wong Jing makes it look.

Unfortunately, being a golden boy triad has its negatives. Cheng becomes the victim of a frame-up when bad, bad drugs are found in his possession. Of course, an awesome triad fella like Cheng would never traffic in drugs; he just engages in all sorts of other illegal activities. That factual nugget swept aside, Cheng gets freed by Holland Boy (Ngai Sing), the psycho lackey of his boss.

The two escape to the mainland, but Holland Boy tries to grease Cheng, which makes the obvious even more obvious: Cheng's boss is evil, and wants him out of the picture because he's so damn righteous and makes him look bad. Also, he's incredibly good looking and has a hot girlfriend like Chingmy Yau. Cheng is forced to regroup and exact his revenge, though giving away the how and why may make the film unnecessary to see.

Then again, "unnecessary" may be the best word for this regurgitated gangland thriller, which has competent action and decent themes, but is poorly made in nearly every other way. Wong Jing attempts "seriousness" with the film, but the result is a plastic dramatic tone that's close to laughable. Wong has never been known for artful direction, but it's easier to forgive that with screwy comedies. On a serious gangland piece, the ultimate effect is boredom. The Young and Dangerous films are like The Godfather when compared to this flick.

Compensating for the film's artless look and feel are decent action, and the performance from Chingmy Yau, who gets to play with a few more layers of darkness than she usually does. Then again, her character's trials are only compelling because they're so sordid (Wong Jing and women have never had the most equal relationship). The rest of the cast is uniformly passable, with Ekin Cheng showing his patented plastic presence, and Lau Ching-Wan acting annoying in the wacky sidekick role. Michael Wong shows up as Lau's righteous follower, which does absolutely nothing for the film or Wong's reputation as a lightweight actor.

However, the actors really don't make this a recommended film. For HK cinema junkies who have to see everything, Return to a Better Tomorrow is a required stop because of the stars, but for those seeking a standout crime flick—or worse, watch the filck because of its title—will probably feel like throttling somebody. This is one average, average film, and near-passable entertainment for the bored. Still, do you really have that much time on your hands? (Kozo 1995/2001)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen