Director: Chin Kar Lok
Cast: Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Michael Tse, Jerry Lamb, Chin Kar Lok, Eric Tsang, Yamei, Yasuaki Kurata, Phil Chang, Charmaine Sheh, Alan Ng, Billy Chow
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures, Clover Films, mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 20 September 2018
Synopsis: Five mercenaries regroup for the heist-of-all-heists, stealing medicine to save refugees’ lives. Car chases, secret betrayals, citywide hacking and a fortress siege ensues.
Ever since the ‘Young and Dangerous’ series concluded with the sixth and final film in 2000, there have been several attempts to reunite the original cast of Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Michael Tse and Jerry Lamb. None have managed to lure the whole quartet, let alone the late addition of Chin Kar-lok who had only boarded the last two films, but the latter has pulled off that hat trick two decades later with the globe-trotting heist thriller ‘Golden Job’.
Directed by and co-starring Chin, it borrows some of the signature elements from the classic triad franchise for a wholly original story about a band of mercenaries whose friendship is tested when one amongst them betrays the rest for riches in gold. It’s perhaps not surprising that the movie will be built around similar themes of brotherhood, but even so, ‘Golden Job’ convincingly and compellingly emerges from the shadow of the ‘Young and Dangerous’ films to be an enjoyable, exciting and emotional thrill-ride in its own right.
Like their Hung Hing personas, the group led by Lion (Cheng) and comprising explosives expert Crater (Chan), intelligence officer Bill (Tse), computer hacker Mouse (Lamb) and getaway driver Calm (Chin) were teenage buddies who had grown up together under the tutelage of a fatherly underworld figure. This mentor, whom they appropriately call Papa (Eric Tsang), had adopted them after being impressed by their display of justice and loyalty to each other at an altercation in a bar, and had subsequently urged them to join the military (so that they would experience death, and learn to recognise what was truly important in their lives) where they picked up their particular brand of skills.
Alas, a daring midday rescue mission within a packed concert hall goes awry and ends with their target being killed, resulting in their operative ordering that the one among them responsible for the slip-up be fired. In a show of solidarity for Bill, the whole team decides to quit en masse, thus triggering their early retirement and their subsequent individual pursuits. Whereas Bill chooses the high life of luxury and indulgence, Lion spends his life volunteering at an African refugee camp, and there finds a love interest in one of the camp’s doctors (Charmaine Sheh in a glorified cameo) with whom he wants to settle down with.
When he discovers that the very agency he used to work for is using the kids in the camp as test subjects for a pharmaceutical company's new highly-anticipated multi-virus vaccine, Lion calls his former teammates for one last job in Budapest – that is, stealing the vaccine from under the agency’s nose. Given the not-so-subtle hints about Bill’s financial issues, it isn’t any surprise the rest will find out after the smoothly executed heist that Bill had betrayed them; as it turns out, the van that they had stolen was not containing medicine, but rather an entire vault of gold bars (hence the title, get it?). The fallout from that will include Papa being accidentally shot by Crater while trying to take down Bill, and Lion being sent to prison for a year (not for the theft mind you, but for deliberately crashing the car he was driving into a police station in order to evade his pursuers).
Lion’s release brings the quartet minus Bill back together in Mouse’s secluded onsen inn in the mountains of Kumamoto, where they find Papa permanently wheelchair-bound and them being forced to confront the decision of whether to confront Bill. Spoiler alert – they do, but that choice also leads to tragic consequences, especially as Bill and his associates retaliate in kind. More significantly, both individually and collectively, they will have to reflect just how far they are willing to continue embracing a brother who has time and again turned against them and uses them as excuses to avoid admitting to his own mistakes.
It is this conundrum that truly gives the film resonance, as an inspired script penned by Kim Dong-kyu, Kwok Kin-lok, Erica Li and Heiward Mak demonstrates how it is not afraid to push certain buttons to give the characters’ moral dilemmas even greater emotional heft – for one, it isn’t afraid to kill off one, even two, key characters to push the dilemmas further; and for another, it refuses to paint its characters in black or white, forcing us instead to view them through the good or bad choices that they make and the inevitable consequences of these choices. Oh yes, it is credit to the writers that Bill emerges as the most interesting character in the movie, driven somewhat inexorably by his impulses as by the outcome of these actions.
If there was any doubt, the cast is uniformly excellent in their respective roles, as is to be expected of these seasoned veterans with two decades of acting experience to show for. But “Golden Job’ was always intended as an ensemble, and in this regard, the sheer chemistry among the real-life buddies is luminous – in fact, their banter during the opening heist sequence is proof enough of that. It is also genuinely commendable that these actors hitting the age of 50 have committed to executing their own stunts in the movie, and having one of their own (we’re referring to Chin) direct the action choreography ensures that their physical moves are tailored to their own strengths.
For this reason too, those expecting more bombastic action will probably be disappointed; with due consideration of what his fellow actors can reasonably perform, Chin has kept the action practical. There are just but two major shootouts – one within an abandoned train yard and another at the centre of a flashy car expo – which lead into two vehicular chases along the streets of Budapest and Fukuoka respectively, and while certainly not dull, isn’t anything to shout about too. The finale is as elaborate as it gets, with Lion, Crater, Mouse and Calm coordinating simultaneous land and sea invasions into Bill’s heavily fortified lair on a private island in Montenegro; that said, it is hardly as intense as what Chin has choreographed in his collaborations with Dante Lam, so you’ll do well to keep your adrenaline-fuelled expectations in check.
Yet that in no way diminishes the thrill of seeing our beloved ‘Young and Dangerous’ actors together onscreen after so long, or for that matter their infectious display of camaraderie. It would have too much of a stretch – and perhaps even a yawn – to have them play triad figures again, so ‘Golden Job’ wisely veers away from what would have been a cliché to instead devise a different yet comfortingly familiar story of brotherhood. Certainly, nostalgia is likely to be a significant reason why ‘Golden Job’ is as endearing as it is, but at the same time, it capitalises on those sentiments to deliver a poignant message about the meaning and value of loyalty. It is worth its weight in gold all right, and we suspect it’ll leave you hoping that this band of brothers won’t wait another two decades to get back together again.
(A delightful dose of nostalgia from the ‘Young and Dangerous’ days, this enjoyable, exciting and emotionally compelling heist thriller wraps a poignant drama on the value and meaning of brotherhood and loyalty)
Review by Gabriel Chong