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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Very Young and Very Dangerous

Young and Dangerous: The Prequel

Nicholas Tse as Chan Ho-Nam

How many prequels are better than the original films that spawned them? Origin stories like the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, Hannibal Rising, or even shlock like Tremors 4: The Legend Begins never really come close to even matching their illustrious forebears, let alone exceeding them. Sure, you have your occasional Infernal Affairs 2 or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but for the most part, prequels tend to leave viewers with a bad taste in their mouths. To a degree, these lackluster films have  spawned a bad case of prequelitis among moviegoers, who have perhaps grown leery over the overuse of the form. After all, it seems like most movie studios tend to view prequels as a new avenue to milk a cash cow franchise. After all, unlike sequels, the expectation is that prequels won’t use the original actors — who not coincidentally, probably happen to have hefty asking prices — and instead will turn to younger, cheaper talent to fill out their main cast.

Whatever you think of these crass financial motivations, one would hope that directors would have at least one compelling reason for helming a prequel beyond making a quick buck. From a narrative standpoint, perhaps there’s some seriously intriguing unexplored territory to cover in a prequel, which will help viewers understand how a popular character came to be who he or she is in the original film. As I’ve discussed before in my thoughts on the E.U. prequel, Turning Point, a good prequel tends to remain consistent with the events depicted in its predecessor(s), usually showing us something we didn’t know about the character and thus putting previously-seen events in a new and interesting light. That’s the hope anyway.

There have been nine films in the Young and Dangerous franchise, including direct sequels and side character spin-offs. One such installment in the popular series was Young and Dangerous: The Prequel, a straightforwardly named attempt to explore the early years of Hung Hing members Chan Ho-Nam (previously played by Ekin Cheng), Chicken (Jordan Chan), and — to a much lesser extent — Ugly Kwan (Francis Ng). While Ng returns to reprise his role from the first film, Nicholas Tse and Sam Lee were tapped to play younger versions of the series’ most popular characters. And guess what? It’s actually good.

The much darker Young and Dangerous: The Prequel contains a sense of verisimilitude, danger, and seriousness completely lacking in every previous and subsequent installment in the series (although the Sandra Ng-led Portland Street Blues is quite good). This 1998 “origin story” is the rare prequel that outdoes the original. I’ll never understand why I own the same year’s Hot War instead of this fine film.

Grade: A

For those interested in joining the Hung Hing, read Kozo’s review at LoveHKFilm.com here. I’ve embedded the trailer below, complete with Nicholas Tse’s original Cantonese singing, but a German dub track for your amusement:

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