Organized Crime & Triad Bureau

Organized Crime & Triad Bureau (1993)
Tai Seng Video Marketing
Cast: Danny Lee, Anthony Wong, Cecilia Yip
Extras: Trailers, Biogrpahies

I really enjoy fast paced and speedy action movies, but "Organized Crime & Triad Bureau" left even me breathless. It is a non- stop, full-throttle, Hong Kong action spectacle that fulfills all its promise admirably. Unlike American action movies, it does not utilize boisterous explosions and a sea of flames to achieve heart-pounding tension. It doesn’t even have a car chase. Instead, it utilizes close encounters, some kung fu, and dramatic setups to create an action-packed police with a very unique signature.

A tough police squad, led by Inspector Lee (Danny Lee) is on the hunt for a robbery ring. Their head, Tung (Anthony Wong), always seems to be just one step ahead of the police. Part of the reason is that the different police departments interfere with each other to the point that they block each other out, bringing investigations to a standstill. The other reason is Tung’s clever maneuvering, his tactics in predicting the police’s behavior with the help of his highly placed police informer. When Tung and his team prepare for their final coup, things suddenly change. Tung and his mistress Cindy (Cecilia Yip) find themselves trapped on an island with no way out, methodically hunted down by police squads.

"Organized Crime & Triad Bureau" is clearly a chase movie, but it defies cliché. For starters, it’s a movie with interesting twists and intriguing characters. Anthony Wong, who starred as the bad guy in movies such as "The Heroic Trio" and "The Executioners", is brilliant in his performance of the decadent Tung, a man used to getting what he wants. Completely self-centered on the surface, he also displays a warm-hearted, sympathetic side that gives the character credibility. Wong even manages to make him sympathetic to a point in his care for Cindy without being melodramatic at all. He protects her to the point of self-sacrifice and, though he treats her with extreme condescension at times, it becomes clear that in his heart, he truly loves and cares for her, just as she loves and admires him. The way the character is drawn makes it clear that Tung is not ultimately a bad guy after all.

Danny Lee is also refreshing as Inspector Lee. The character is not as cool and controlled as Dirty Harry in comparable American movies; he has some ego and subordination problems and a believable dark side. With different departments constantly breathing down his neck, it is hard for him to get things moving; his seemingly reckless behavior is the only way to make sure Tung and his team do not get away. Plenty of comic relief comes from the interaction between these departments, relief that is absolutely necessary for such a loaded movie.

Somewhat comparable to John Woo’s work in movies like "The Killer", this movie still has an identity of its own. After a furious start, it maintains the speed as if this rush were a normal thing. It never gives you enough time to breathe or reflect on what’s happening on screen. It effortlessly pulls you through the story from its first minute to its great final shootout. Unfortunately, this rapid pace can be quite taxing on the viewer, making it quite hard to follow the plot on occasion even more so if you’re trying to read the rapid fire subtitles while fumbling to keep up with what’s happening on screen. This is, I’m willing to admit, my problem being illiterate in Chinese isn’t the movie’s fault. For Cantonese speaking people, this movie must be a thrill-ride second to none.

Interestingly, "Organized Crime & Triad Bureau" lacks much of the graphic violence you would expect from a hard-edged action thriller like this. It creates its atmosphere through the beautiful photography and its masterful directorial style, filled with details that enhance the film’s authenticity. Director Kirk Wong manages to combine the poetic, concise cinematography of Hong Kong movies with the harsh and gritty world of the police squad. Instead of toning it down, this stylistic contrast makes the story tougher, the characters more threatening, and the urban world colder than you might otherwise perceive it.

"Organized Crime & Triad Bureau" is another one of Tai Seng’s domestic DVD releases and it has been just as well prepared as their other titles. The disc contains the movie’s 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> transfer, which is excellent in quality and very natural in color. Though a little soft, the image shows much less speckles of other deficiencies found in most import releases. This can surely be attributed to Tai Seng’s excellent and careful remastering process. Unfortunately, the disc exhibits some very light compression artifacts. Considering that the master quality for the movie was reportedly in a very bad shape, I am impressed with the high quality of the image on this DVD release. Colors are stable without noise, bleeding or smearing and are rich and well saturated with deep blacks. Just like Tai Seng’s previous domestic DVD releases, this disc contains trailers and some extensive production notes. The cast and crew biographies, once again compiled and prepared by Tai Seng’s Frank Djeng, are notable for their insight and completeness.

The disc contains a monaural <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack that is clear and well balanced, with well produced sound effects and a very good musical score. The movie comes fully dubbed in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin, and features English subtitles. Upon inserting in the player, the disc defaults to the Cantonese soundtrack with the English subtitles turned on, the setting I – and I am sure many other viewers – prefer the most, even more so as the English dub feels awkwardly out of place. As a bonus, the DVD also contains an interesting audio <$commentary,commentary track> by director Kirk Wong. Tai Seng were able to locate Wong here in the US where he was working on his first American project "The Big Hit" and luckily he was willing and able to contribute to this DVD by making time for the recording of this <$commentary,commentary track>.

To me the movie was a highly entertaining thrill ride. It is completely different from American action cinema, focusing more on the human element than on special effects. That’s what makes it so interesting though; it displays how a well crafted and edited movie can achieve action and tension without constantly trying your subwoofer. Establishing a good and believable story with three-dimensional characters who are neither black nor white, "Organized Crime & Triad Bureau" is a movie you’ll want to put on your wish list if you like intelligent action cinema. This film moves at a meteoric speed, so make sure to wear a seat belt… you’ll need it.