Hong Kong Godfather (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Rose
Review Date: Thursday, May 13, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When the spark of betrayal lights the fuse of revenge the resulting explosion has little mercy on the guilty or innocent. 

What They Say
The Triad underworld is at war in 1985's Hong Kong Godfather, a blood-splattered tale of revenge, sex, and corruption. A violent new gang is hacking away at crime boss Szetu Han's power. When the old man and his family are viciously murdered, Han's three most trusted men - retired killer Mad Wei, hitman Playboy Lung, and city cop Sergeant Wen - undertake a brutal campaign of street justice. Featuring iconic martial arts villain Shih Chien (Bruce Lee's diabolical nemesis in]Enter the Dragon), Hong Kong Godfather has long been considered one of the hardest to obtain titles from the Shaw Brothers canon-until now.

The Review!
Audio:
The only audio present is Cantonese stereo. With that in mind there are were least no distortions or dropouts during the viewing though it wasn't even the most impressive use of stereo.

Video:
The feature was made in 1985 and is presented in 16:9. It appears to be a decent transfer with only a few moments of aliasing but no other major problems noticed. The film does not look to be restored and there is noticeable grain as well as the fact the film looks it's age and that it may not have been shot on the highest quality film. While it maybe a transfer issue I have noticed some Hollywood titles of a similar age with similar problems so it may be more a product of its time than anything else in terms of overall picture quality.

Packaging:
The packaging is split in half horizontally with a white banner in the middle with Hong Kong written in black type set and Godfather appearing in cursive writing in a bright green. The top and bottom look like a psychedelic with the tops green background and Kanji background and the main three characters (Man, Lung, Wei) tinted with red versus the bottoms red background with Lung and Wein carrying out violence tinted in green. The back follow a similar pattern with the top featuring Chi and the bottom the crime boss Han they all worked for.It also contains a snapshot of what appears to be the original theatrical poster with the three friends on it and details on the year made as well as the director and three stars names. The Disc comes with a cardboard sleeve that mirrors the case.

Menus:
A fairly simple affair with the main three characters from the cover taking up the screen and the white log banner about a fifth of the way up. The menu is quick to respond and some generic music (perhaps from the film...it is really generic) playing in the background.

Extras:
This feature contains no extras. There is a pack in postcard check list for the 15 films from the Shaw Brothers FUNimation has the rights to.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The film begins with two robbers knocking over a gambling establishment in 1982 (and sadly DVD shows up the effect as one can clearly see the "bullet holes" that were drilled to cause the explosions to make it look like bullets are hitting it and causing them) and introduces Jiaxi Lan-presumably to show he is the bad guy as he mercilessly guns people down looking for one person who knows him in particular. The film says he is sentenced to life in prison.

Cut to almost three years later and Playboy Lung who is entertaining a naked women whose name he can't remember when he sees the time and realizes he has to go. As he is speeding down the road a bus that cuts him off happens to be carrying his friend and ex-gang member Wei. Lung discovers this as he has gotten into a fight with the bus driver. Wei is also on the way to boss ("Godfather") Han's birthday and gives Wei a lift after easily handling the bus driver before some of his other colleges take over so he can go. As Lung and Wei are about to enter the building they are confronted by an officer threatening to arrest Wei but turns out to be an old friend named Man (though the DVD cover lists him as Wen) who is a sergeant in the police force. All three men arrive at a very busy party as many higher ups in the underworld and society have come to pay their respects to the boss. The three friends run into Chi, a fellow gangster who is a bit adversarial with Lung as it turns out both are in roughly the same position as a potential successor to the boss-though Lung seems favored. It is learned that Wei left the gang and is raising a plant nursery and trying to raise his 15 year old rebellious daughter alone since he is a widower.

The boss then gets a gift care of another Godfather-Ting No. 3-from Lan (presumably he escaped prison) who is trying to impress Han. Han tries to refuse the gift as he doesn't know Lan. As they are trying to figure out if Ting will return it to Lan a man assaults Chi and it is discovered Chi really has earned the nickname "Rotten" given his poor treatment of someone who owed him money and violating the code the organization lives by. The lack of respect that Lung has for Chi is displayed and Chi is also undercut by Han who compensates the man who attacked Chi. Ting sees an opportunity and makes seemingly sympathetic talk with Chi and discovers Chi has a bit of an inferiority complex. At the table Han talks about retiring and the conversation turns to how Lung would be perfect and Ting notices how Chi is crestfallen no one mentions him. From there the trio of Lung, Wei and Man go out drinking and remembering the past. Wei expresses distrust of Chi who he just met which the other two downplay as they have known him longer and think they have a better read on his character. Wei returns to his home and the conflict with his daughter and her choices in boyfriends is shown (hint: If your would be girlfriends dad used to be in a gang you might not want to be disrespectful).

The scene shifts to Ting's house as Chi is brought in to meet with Lan and is buttered up with both naked female swimmers and money as well as having his ego stroked as Lan says he just wants to get Han to meet with him. It turns out Lan is supported by the mafia and some society members while posing as a legitimate business man but aiming at taking over the underworld. Another shift shows Lung attempting to woo a women he really likes named Connie but just as she is about to finally give in to his advances he gets a call saying the boss is in danger. Lung rushes there to find out Chi made up the danger as he has decided to go along with Lan and try to encourage a meeting between Lan and Han. Lan makes a hard sell to Han about supporting him and his quest to control the underworld which Han refuses to do.

Lan decides that since Han won't join him he will destroy him and gang warfare breaks out with Lan's men attacking Han owned businesses and Han's men. Lung plans to retaliate but makes the plans in Chi's presence and Chi sells them out. Lung is serious wounded in the assault and Chi is put into the position of completing his betrayal and killing Han as with Lung unable to take over the task will fall on Chi. With Han dead and his entire family killed Chi comes to terms with his new power as well as subservience to the one who helped him acquire it while Lan grows in power. Meanwhile the task now falls on Wei and Man to protect a wounded Lung and all three to figure out first who the traitor is and then to get revenge in the only way they know how-gangster style.

The film has a very nice mix of martial arts as well as story telling as it sets up most of the main characters in such a way as one can see their motivations and gain sympathy for some of them even though they are criminals often carrying out brutal actions. The story line is a nice balance of characters and plot, though Lan remains mysterious and a bit of the unexplained villain wanting power for its own sake. There is plenty of blood shed though either the lighting or the type used makes it often look bright pink rather than red. A few characters such a Connie are a tad underdeveloped and she disappears with no warning or real explanation. There are also a few places where product placement are not subtle. Also for those who may wish to know there is some full female nudity and a film act of violence against a dog.

In Summary:
Hong Kong Godfathers is a high action film about the bonds that unite some in the criminal world while also the events that drive some to betrayal. It presents a front of an organization that looks mostly harmless but when one looks deeper the find the underlying violence that exists which is carried out in some frenetic and fairly spectacular action scenes. It is well choreographed and fairly well accomplishes the task of showing how the characters come to take the actions that they do a well as the dire chain of events and consequences that come from these choices.

Features
Cantonese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Reciever with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 94
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: