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Colour of the Loyalty
"Is this pork fully-cooked?"     "Go ahead: call me Edison again!"

(left) Eric Tsang wonders if his crab is cooked, and (right) Shawn Yue shoots the chef.
Chinese: 黑白戰場
Year: 2005
Director: Wong Jing, Billy Chung Siu-Hung
Producer: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Shawn Yue, Suki Kwan Sau-Mei, Emme Wong Yi-Man, Liu Kai-Chi, Lam Suet, Roy Cheung Yiu-Yeung, Samuel Chan Kin-Fun, Eddie Peng Wai-On, Wu Qing-Zhe, Chapman To Man-Chat, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Colour of the Loyalty isn't as good as Colour of the Truth, and it's light years away from the heights of Infernal Affairs. Still, this is okay genre stuff for those looking for genre stuff. Don't get too enthusiastic though. Had this film been released in the late nineties, it would be getting a much worse reception.
by Kozo:

Wong Jing attempts seriousness with Colour of the Loyalty, and he succeeds at just that: being serious. He also succeeds at producing a halfway decent motion picture, but the qualifier here is "halfway decent". Eric Tsang dons screwy eyebrows to play Brother Dragon, a charismatic gang leader who's retiring. However, he's sitting on a whole bunch of triad money, and many of his colleagues aren't too pleased about it. When word arrives that a hit is out on Brother Dragon, the immediate suspects are his triad brothers, who ostensibly would gain tons of dough were he rubbed out. His solution: to pretend to do nothing. He reasons that increased security would tip off his foes, so he pretends to not care. How crafty.

In secret, however, Brother Dragon has a plan: a group of hidden hitmen will protect him from the shadows, thus making them unable to take a bullet for him because they're too far away. This fault in the plan is revealed to the audience when Dragon gets into an underground garage shoot-out, which leaves everyone but Dragon dead, whereupon his band of protectors shows up too late to do anything important. This lapse of logic can be attributed to poor screenwriting, a.k.a. Wong Jing. Regardless, nobody in the film seems to realize that this "protect from the shadows" plan is pretty stupid, so they keep it up. The group is led by Brother Dragon's old comrade (Liu Kai-Chi), plus a bunch of young Turks looking to take their first steps into the triad underworld.

In particular, there's Fat (Shawn Yue), a tough SOB who's obviously the main brawn of the gang. He's also ultra-intense to a fault, and seems to be in inner turmoil 24-7. It's clear to Brother Dragon that Fat has skills, so he pumps up the young kid with praise and the promise of something greater. However, there are rules to be followed, namely "Hung Kwai", the wacky rules of the underworld that prevent a simple job promotion or congratulatory slap on the back. Basically, to climb the triad ladder you have to sacrifice and demonstrate your extreme loyalty. In Fat's case, he has to endure seeing his buddy get beaten up out of loyalty to Brother Dragon, and he has to endure the "stealth action hero" role that Brother Dragon has assigned him.

There are other problems: it's not entirely clear who's out for Brother Dragon's head, and the number of possible players seems to extend beyond Dragon's triad colleagues (one of whom is played by Roy Cheung, in a charismatic but too-short performance). Plus, there's a dopey lower-level triad (Peng Wai-On) who has it in for Fat, and there are the obligatory females (Suki Kwan and Emme Wong) sporting worried expressions in the background. Plus, people must die. That's what these films are about, right?

Saints be praised: Wong Jing manages a semi-decent genre picture with Colour of the Loyalty, though the actual success of the film has more to do with a dearth of similar product than an actual standout film. The title recalls the excellent 2003 picture Colour of the Truth, though that's where the similarities end. Instead of a compelling, fleshed-out crime thriller, Colour of the Loyalty tries to subvert the conventions of the "hero" film. In "hero" films, the honorable triad dudes believe in loyalty and honor above all else, and when they get backstabbed, they still band together for some rousing heroic bloodshed.

Colour of the Loyalty takes a different tack, and puts the hero in an even crappier position. Basically, the triad underworld has big rules (those pesky "Hung Kwai" again), and you have to follow them. And if you don't like the Hung Kwai? Well...then life sucks, especially since there's something called Murphy's Law which makes the Hung Kwai bite even harder. Wong Jing attempts some thematic depth by mashing these concepts into ninety minutes of triad genre goodness, and basically promising that by the end, something's gotta give.

Well, something does give, which is probably the film's signature moment and biggest surprise. However, it's not completely earned. Previous to the film's final compelling moment, we're treated to a predictable plotline and workable though uninspired performances. Eric Tsang is charismatic as Brother Dragon, though he creates little sympathy for the man. The same can be said for Shawn Yue, who apes Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in intensity but not in actual acting skill. Fat is the central figure of Colour of the Loyalty, but the character isn't as fleshed-out or as complex as he should be. The girls are similarly uninteresting, and seem to be around to show up at the wrong times and cry. The best performance is turned in by Liu Kai-Chi, and the rest of the cast is hit or miss. Thankfully, Billy Chung and Wong Jing pace the film fairly well, and add some harrowing violence to get your attention. Even if you're largely bored, the sight of someone getting their fingers sledgehammered should make an impression.

Ultimately, Colour of the Loyalty is interesting mainly because it's a decent attempt at a triad thriller in a time when there are none. Back in the late eighties - and then the late nineties - gangland thrillers were a dime a dozen, and Colour of the Loyalty is more-or-less average when compared to the entire field. It's got dark atmosphere, bad guys who glower in an ineffectually menacing manner, and sudden bursts of violence that should make you wince. It's also got a decent premise that isn't ably supported, and the usual marks of sloppy Wong Jing filmmaking, including bizarre dialogue (Lam Suet spouts more than a few weird lines as the presiding cop), and a cameo that's jarring in its complete lack of necessity (Chapman To shows up as a cop who looks and acts like Chapman To). Colour of the Loyalty isn't really a standout Hong Kong film; it's just passable stuff in a time where there's frightfully little stuff out there. So, Wong Jing did all right. This time. (Kozo 2005)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment

16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles


images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen