A Hong Kong gangster (Andy Lau) goes to great lengths to protect his protégé “Mr Fish Balls” (Jacky Cheung) from Hong Kong loan shark Tony (Alex Man) – that’s right, even in Hong Kong gangsters are called Tony.
This 1988 film is a conscious homage to Mean Streets, but unlike Scorsese’s film it isn’t awash with bar fights. Instead there are café fights, restaurant fights and alley fights. Lau and Cheung give powerhouse performances as the long-suffering mobster and his hapless young friend, adding weight to the film in spite of some frustrating leaps of logic. They deliver passion and anguish, showing the requisite amount of agony when needed, which is not exactly infrequently.
The grimy, neon cityscape provides a backdrop of suitably mean streets. The soundtrack fuses Clockwork Orange-style synth with Morricone-esque guitar and gunshots, making it feel as much like a futuristic East-meets-Western as a gangster film. It even features a Cantonese version of Take My Breath Away, my least favourite song from any film, improved through sheer oddity. And in spite of all the gangster shenanigans and graphic violence, it somehow finds humour in the midst of it all, making it as well-rounded as a fish ball.