Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Eric Tsang
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a nostalgic delight.
To know Young and Dangerous is to know 1990s Hong Kong cinema. This pulp action franchise, which started in 1995, was the biggest cultural phenomenon on the screen. Based on a popular local comic book, and starring a string of white-hot young actors, it presented the ongoing twists and struggles of an up-and-coming triad gang. By the time the franchise died down, it had resulted in six main films plus seven prequels, spin-offs, and parodies.
Nostalgia is a big seller these days, not simply in Hollywood but in Chinese-language film markets as well. As a result, four of the main stars of Young and Dangerous – Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Jerry Lamb, and Michael Tse – have been re-assembled in a suspiciously familiar action film about a gang of orphans who grew up together on the streets. Instead of joining organised crime, they are taken under the wing of the elderly ‘Papa’ (Eric Tsang) to become good-hearted mercenaries-for-hire.
Golden Job is a globe-trotting, over-the-top action film. There is a sense of Mission: Impossible about it, but also a lot of Fast & Furious and overall retroactive sheen of Handover-era Hong Kong cinema. The emotions are melodramatic. Themes of loyalty and brotherhood dominate. Ekin Cheng’s hair is as lustrous and flowing as ever. Aside from the two decades of the cast getting older and the use of previously unavailable CG effects, this is essentially Young and Dangerous all over again.
That is both good and bad. It is enjoyable to see Cheng, Chan and friends back together again, in slightly remixed but comfortably familiar roles. At the same time, it makes the entire film seem rather out of date. It looks contemporary, but the story feels 20 years old. It has been 16 years since stunt coordinator turned TV host Chin Kar-lok last directed a feature film (2002’s adventure sequel No Problem 2). He returns to direct here, and it is clear he hasn’t learned too many new tricks in the interim. It is solid and capable work, but nothing feels exceptional, nothing feels new.
The lead cast remain charismatic with a great screen presence. Eric Tsang makes for a cheerful mentor, however with the current cloud of an assault allegation levelled against him he is something of an uncomfortable presence these days. Midway through the film Japanese action heavyweight Yasuaki Kurata pops into frame as a kindly sake maker who befriends Papa in his retirement. It seems an odd little cameo until Bill and his mercenaries show up; then it all leads to one of the film’s most enjoyable moments.
If you enjoy the Hong Kong action films of yesteryear, or if you’re keen to discover just what they were like in the comfort of a cinema, Golden Job is a nostalgic delight. It has plenty of action, humour, and overwrought emotion. It is a hugely pleasing victory lap for a great generation of movie stars. It also fails to bring anything new to the table, and that ultimately lets it down. Rather than revisit older glories, it would have been best to see this cast build new ones.