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Having been a fan of Hong Kong cinema for many years I've really appreciated the best and the worst that this industry has to offer. In the case of Rich And Famous the story itself might well be one of the better ones ever to have been told on the Asian electric-shadows screen, but the low-budget costing of this movie has not helped it age well with time. I doubt that any amount of remastering could have saved the often laughable 80s production values herein and MIA have probably felt the same way about this to for their DVD release. On the DVD cover itself though, Chow Yun Fat takes up valuable real estate here with Andy Lau portrayed as a minor player, however the opposite is actually truer in the film proper. This alone should make you worry about what you're getting once you open the box.

Rich And Famous
This movie is yet another in the line based on the feared Triad mob gang warfare style of films. Hong Kong cinema was once renowned for this genre, particularly the most famous classics (also starring Chow Yun Fat) of The Killer, A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled (all directed by John Woo). Even though these films probably enjoyed the same budget restraints as the one on this DVD, Mr Woo made the best of his money to ultimately claim an enviable cult-status in the hearts and minds of his fans - this was achieved by exhibiting his now-trademark "violent ballet" on-screen. The story in all these flicks comes down to betrayal and revenge, but Rich And Famous and its inevitable sequel Tragic Hero have been quickly forgotten in favour of more desirable eye-candy (and rightfully so in this case).

The action sequences in Rich And Famous are quite adequate although they're nothing to write home about, however there are a couple of them that will make you wince in pain as you wonder how on earth they pulled them off without killing anyone. The gunfights (best quoted by Bruce Campbell) have the characters "push the bullets" into their victims - each gunshot fired is met with a forward hand-thrust gesture rather than the real-life backward recoil that occurs from the force generated by a gun. And even if the gangland rivalry doesn't kill all these people, the amount of cigars that they smoke certainly will.

Chow Yun Fat's performance is stellar, but if you do manage to get past some of the terrible acting and awkward jumps in storyline you'll still have to clamber over the equally embarrassing English dialogue. The voice-actors sound like they came straight out of the "Double-Take Re-Dub Team" who created the Aussie parody Hercules Returns. The dialogue sounds like it is meant to be funny but the script itself doesn't reflect the ridiculousness of the chitchat (if not the grunting and groaning when in gruelling pain).

Rich And Famous
Movie
Played over four time periods, we follow the lives of two unrelated boys who grow up as brothers, Kwok (Andy Lau, Drunken Master II) and the adopted Yung (Alex Man, Young And Dangerous IV/V). Their father is poverty-stricken and he does his best to provide the basics for them and Kwok's sister Po-Yee (Carina Lau, Crazy Hong Kong, Ashes Of Time). The children become adults and the two boys are in serious debt from a local gambling king and are just about to lose everything, including their fingers. As things turn for the worst, Lau approaches her "client" Chai (Chow Yun Fat) who just happens to be one of the two rival gang-leaders in town and asks for her family's protection. Chai, being the kind-hearted softie that he is, accepts this responsibility and takes both men under his wing to help them pay off their debt.

Kwok in particular is favoured by Chai but this inevitably makes Yung jealous beyond all reason, at the same time their cousin Hung (Alan Tam, Armour Of God) wants to join the gang. Even with the more evil gang lord Lo-Tai (Chun Hiang Ko, Miracles) around, it seems that Police Inspector Cheung (Danny Lee, City On Fire, The Killer) wants Chai's head on a plate the most. Cheung's instincts prove correct since Chai is secretly harbouring a Thailand criminal fugitive named Tit-Tau (Mui Sang Fan, The Young Master) and Lo-Tai sees this as an opportunity to oust Chai from the underworld. As time goes by everyone is increasingly at odds with each other, eventually loyalties and friendships are tested and ultimately betrayal by certain individuals will have deadly consequences for everyone around them.

Note:- The character names here are actually based on an official record of the movie's credits, not those found in the movie itself portrayed on this DVD. This is to avoid any mistakes I might have done when translating them from the movie proper so don't go running to me with any corrections. For example, Carine Lau's character name is Chu in the movie, but this is also Chun Hiang Ko's character name in the official cast listing - confusing, huh?

Rich And Famous
Video
Typically, if you can see the characters and backgrounds they inhabit then this should mean that the video quality is more than satisfactory for the viewer - however this ain't the case here. We are given two presentation modes for this movie from either the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic with its original Cantonese soundtrack to a rather pointless Pan & Scan transfer with an alternate English soundtrack. Both versions exhibit the same deficiencies in video as well as audio. The Pan & Scan version has the added bonus of being totally superfluous because of the characters being cut off the sides inexcusably. Personally, I couldn't see any difference between the edits in each version except for the start and end credits.

The first thing you'll notice with the image is an extremely soft focus which makes your eyes go foggy in some scenes and this does not improve at all throughout the running time. The second is that of poor shadow delineation even in some of the brighter sequences, although the blacks are relatively good. Colours are average in terms of saturation, skin tones are orangey and the rest of the tonal scheme is about as acceptable. Grain is surprisingly unobjectionable but the amount of artefacts (both film and video) is not. The worst part of this video is that it's horribly interlaced which causes much of the action to be presented in a blur that is not unlike that found from an NTSC to PAL transfer (hmm, I wonder).

With all the various video artefacts present here, my guess is that the source has come from an analog video tape which was probably the one generated for its initial VHS release, or maybe at the time of producing the film itself (a promo tape of sorts). All in all, an unremarkable image that will make you forget this film as quickly as when it was first released in cinemas.

Rich And Famous
Audio
What, you were expecting a fantastic 5.1 remix as well?  Allow me to disappoint you further...

Both the Cantonese and English mono soundtracks are severely limited in the high and low end frequencies as well as being terribly distorted. This results in dialogue being about 60% intelligible with the other 40% getting lost in a muddle of other sounds when the action hots up (the voice-dubbings are often out of sync too). Obviously, all the music and sound effects are no less unsatisfactory and only provide the minimum requirement of aural perception to understand what is happening on-screen.

In fact, I won't continue on with these faults because they come from a much-abused cinema print for the source elements rather than proper master negatives as is standard for a quality film-to-video transfer.

Extras
Not much worth noting here, but I guess I'll have to.

Firstly, the trailers provided are both the domestic and international promo's for this movie as well as another one for the sequel Tragic Hero (so-named in the menu system although the movie is called Black Vengeance in the trailer itself). This last one especially is quite embarrassing to watch since the narrator's voice sounds like the 80s equivalent of that found in the many 50s sci-fi previews that were quite common for the day - "A hard-hitting fast-moving story of gangland war of the most vicious kind!"

There is a small production stills gallery of promotional posters, but these still exhibit alternate images from the various locations. Also, the biographies / filmographies for the five major stars are extremely summarised but seem to include a complete list of all the films that they have ever been involved with.

Rich And Famous
The subtitles however are ultimately MIA's downfall towards this DVD release with the back cover stating that they are "Digitally Re-Mastered". The amount of spelling and grammatical mistakes is unforgivable and no doubt the result of a Chinese-speaking person's attempt at English translation - this could have easily been modified by a proper English-speaking person for its R2 distribution. However, the amusing off-shoot of all this vernacular variety is that it results in often hilarious yet unintentional errors of enunciation which echoes back to the early days when this was typically the norm in Hong Kong films.

Overall
This movie is mostly character-driven in plot with a little bit of action to help fill in the spaces, whereas the sequel Tragic Hero is basically the opposite of this. Speaking of which, Tragic Hero can only be viewed after having watched Rich And Famous for the continuing storyline to make any sense at all, so it makes even less sense as to why these DVDs weren't sold together as a double-pack.

As it stands, the poor quality of this DVD presentation makes it impossible to recommend for the asking price. If the sequel had been included it might have made for an appealing package to the hard-core Hong Kong cinema junkies out there. In the end, unless you have a hankering for a relatively good plot with an equally bad 80s B-grade production then I'm afraid you'll just have to give this title a miss.


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