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Genre: Action/Thriller
Starring: Shawn Yue, Francis Ng, Dylan Kuo, Annie Liu, Masato, Leung Siu-Lung, Ryo Ishibashi, Terri Kwan, Hiromi Nakajima, Takuya Suzuki, Pei Weiying
Director: Cheang Pou-Soi
Rating: NC-16
Year Made: 2007







Languages: Mandarin/Cantonese
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Simplified/Chinese Traditional
Aspect Ratio: -
Sound: Dolby Digital 6.1
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins
Region Code: 3




Based on the Japanese Manga by Izo Hashimoto, Shamo tells the tale of Ryo Narushima who's sentenced to a correctional institute as a juvenile delinquent after he witnesses his parents murdered in blood and is accused of murder. He is abused, buggered in the reformatory which has deeply hurt his spirit. However, a karate master, Kenji Kurokawa who is imprisoned after trying to assassinate the Japanese Prime Minister is moved by Ryo's tragedy. Ryo trains in karate and becomes stronger under Kenji Kurokawa as his apprentice. When he's released from prison he begins a lengthy trawl through every seamy red light district in Japan looking for his sister. He is used by the leader of the Banryukai and the organizer of box fighting and unknown life under a snake arrangement...


This is definitely not a good movie that will garner critical acclaim from self important reviewers who believe that films should be all serious and well meaning. One look at leading male star Shawn Yue’s portrayal of a karate fighter will give you an indication that this is going to be one campy ride. In fact, the opening credits will catch your attention (Hong Kong star Yue’s fresh red bloody eyeball is something you cannot escape from) that you feel compelled to sit through the movie’s entire 105 minutes.

Based on a Japanese manga, the story’s protagonist is Ryo Narushima (Yue in an all out performance), your usual talented and college student who sees his parents killed in cold blood, and ends up accused of their murder. He is sent to a reformatory centre where he is trained in karate under Kenji Kurokawa (Francis Ng giving an unexpectedly subdued performance), a man jailed after trying to assassinate the Japanese Prime Minister. Two years later, Ryo is released and leads a brand new life as an ultra violent professional fighter. And as all movies go, resolution comes in the form of seeking the truth about his parent’s deaths.

Director Cheang Pou Soi continues his visually shocking style after making Dog Bite Dog (another movie not released theatrically here). If you have watched that 2006 movie starring Edison Chen and Sam Lee, you would know what to expect here. You wouldn’t see normalcy in terms of storytelling. Everything in this flashy production feels fragmented and alienated, and it isn’t the most comfortable viewing experience – especially when it stars some of the prettiest faces in the Hong Kong movie industry. Other than Yue’s outrageously violent performance, you’d also get to see other familiar faces like Dylan Guo (TV’s Fighting Fish), Annie Liu (L-O-V-E) and Terri Kwan (My DNA Says I Love You) getting out of their comfort zones to take up roles like a mysterious hooded man, a prostitute and a well endowed girlfriend.

Nominated for three of Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards (Best Action Choreography, Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay), this movie does have its merits for its audacity to stylize the story in such a bold and daring manner. It won’t be your usual Hong Kong fighting movie, and the gaudily ostentatious style will send you into ecstasy mode. Sure, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you do have to give it points for being a visually guilty pleasure.


This Code 3 DVD contains no extra features.


The disc’s visual transfer is fine, and there are Chinese and Cantonese audio tracks to choose from.   



Review by John Li

Posted on 2 August 2009

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