Colour of the Loyalty (HK - DVD)
Slap on your fake eyebrows and join Gabe Powers on another run down Asia Crime way.
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Sometimes, when one immerses oneself in any given film genre, one finds oneself watching the same old thing over and over again. I've gone through quite a few genre phases in my short cinephile lifespan - zombie flicks, Italian Giallos, wire-fu - and after a long enough period I find myself at a dead end. Most genres only amass about a weeks worth of good viewing material. The flavour doesn't last forever, even for a stick of the best gum. Sometimes, one happens upon a hidden gem; a film so obscure, even the most fanatical genre enthusiast hasn't yet suggested it. These are the salad days, and these movies hold a special place in our collective hearts. Unfortunately, Colour of the Loyalty is not one of these movies.
When Big Brother Dragon (who is a gangster, naturally) uncovers a rumour involving his own assassination, he becomes naturally concerned. He's seriously, like, only a month from retirement, and he's totally scored a new chick, who is way more respecting of his value as a man; his maid (that was a sarcastic tone, by the way). The millions of dollars he still holds in the mob’s name are being eyed by other, non-retiring members of the gang society, colourfully named Coffin, White Eyebrow, Bomber, and Skeleton. Naturally, Dragon suspects all his metaphorically named colleagues of foul play, and he mobilizes his Secret Army (who are so secret, even they don't even know they exist) to make the first strike. Who put out the hit? Who's a traitor? What does Dragon's shifty eyed stepchild have to do with all of this? How did these characters not know they were being trained to protect Dragon? How is it going to end?
The answer to all of these questions is one big teenie angst style, shoulder shrugging whatever. After the first twenty minutes of nothingness, few viewers will have any interest in any of the characters or their plights. Those who've already read my review of Benny Chan's <a href=http://dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&s=2&...%3D0%26s%3D11%26p%3Dinfo%26c%3D55&c=1319>Heroic Duo</a> will know the drill from here on out. Like Chan's epic exercise in mediocrity, Colour of the Loyalty brings nothing new to the bowl-circling Hong Kong gangster flick. Every revelation is telegraphed in neon lights, and every character is taken directly from the archetype cop and robbers cookbook. Why movies this average and mundane are even produced is a question far beyond my comprehensive capabilities.
The pluses are few. Every actor and actress gives a good performance, even though the dialogue is so wooden it'd make George Lucas blush. There is only so much respect to be found in a role Harvey Keitel has already performed fifteen times before. Like most studio produced Asian films, Colour of the Loyalty is not ineptly constructed and is shot with adequate style - though I could do without any more slow motion, wrap around, realisation-of-doom-shots. The plot isn't so convoluted that it becomes hard to follow, but when it fails to produce more than one surprise (involving a fast moving car and a half naked gang boss), this hardly comes as a compliment. The ending is satisfying in its way, but leaves too many opprobrious loose ends.
The film’s worth is best summed up by a lingering shot of Dragon's brow during a particularly tense moment. While waiting with a certain degree of anticipation to discover what fate awaited him from behind his stopped car, I suddenly realised he was wearing false eyebrows. I could see the application strips. This sight enthralled my attention so much more than the plot that I ended up missing the cause of the ensuing bloodbath.
Considering its vintage, Colour of the Loyalty looks pretty icky. Comparable to a first run film at the end of its run, the film is run-ragged down the middle, washed out, watchable, yet not quite immaculate. The audience probably won’t ask for their money back, but a few of them probably thought about it. Grain is prevalent, and not in that gritty-on-purpose way. Also perturbing is the presence of pixilation (say it five times fast) due to over compression, a trait common to HK DVDs. I suppose the image was crisp enough that I could notice Dragon's false eyebrows, so it's not a total lost.
Like most HK produced DVDs I've viewed, Colour of the Loyalty has both a solid DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, which sound pretty much identical. Most of the sound is situated in the front speakers, and with the exception of a few gunfire effects, a telephone's ring, and the music, could have easily been just as well represented by a simpler stereo track. Audio is plenty loud and clear, with rather minimal distortion. The DTS track is a bit louder and a bit better balanced, but nothing I found distinctly spectacular. I'll also note that these were some of the worst English subtitles I've read in a very long time. Though I'm sure some of the grammatical issues were due to character slang, the hex errors and bewildering.
The only extras are two brief trailers, which as per usual give away too much of the routine plot and a plot synopsis which, again, gives away too much as is summarizes the entire plot.
I was not a fan of Colour of the Loyalty, and personally can't see any valid reason for its existence. Those who absolutely must see every single Asian crime flick that finds its way to shiny disc might want to give it a whirl, as it is well made and acted, if not well written. The weak transfer and lack of extras may prompt fans to wait on a more solid release. Another nail in the creative coffin of the crime film genre.
Those still interested in this release after my tepid review should be warned to not watch the main menu too closely, as it gives away the ending by playing an edited amalgamation of the final ten minutes.
You can buy this title for US $12.99 from YesAsia.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Not suitable for young persons and children
Release Date: 24th June 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, DTS 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin
Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Wong Jing and Billy Chung (Siu Hung)
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Shawn Yu Man-Lok, Suki Kwan Sau-Mei, Emme Wong
Length: 90 minutes
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