related to any of the John Woo films, Return to a Better
Tomorrow attempts to ride the coattails of the famous
film franchise. However, instead of Chow Yun-Fat and John
Woo, we get Ekin Cheng and Wong Jing. Not surprisingly, the
attempt is only mediocre at best.
Ekin Cheng is the hero, a too-cool
triad guy with a hot girlfriend (Chingmy Yau) and much respect
in the underworld. His runway model good looks and extreme
righteousness earn him great pals like the dopey Lau Ching-Wan
(with floppy pre-Milkyway Image hair), as well as the esteem of
his sleazy boss (Lam Kwok-Bun). Like in the later Young
and Dangerous films, being a triad guy can be a fulfilling,
respectable career. Or, at least that's how Wong Jing makes
Unfortunately, being a golden boy
triad has its negatives. Cheng becomes the victim of a frame-up
when bad, bad drugs are found in his possession. Of course,
an awesome triad fella like Cheng would never traffic in drugs;
he just engages in all sorts of other illegal activities.
That factual nugget swept aside, Cheng gets freed by Holland
Boy (Ngai Sing), the psycho lackey of his boss.
The two escape
to the mainland, but Holland Boy tries to grease Cheng, which
makes the obvious even more obvious: Cheng's boss is evil,
and wants him out of the picture because he's so damn righteous
and makes him look bad. Also, he's incredibly good looking
and has a hot girlfriend like Chingmy Yau. Cheng is forced
to regroup and exact his revenge, though giving away the how
and why may make the film unnecessary to see.
Then again, "unnecessary"
may be the best word for this regurgitated gangland thriller,
which has competent action and decent themes, but is poorly
made in nearly every other way. Wong Jing attempts "seriousness"
with the film, but the result is a plastic dramatic tone that's
close to laughable. Wong has never been known for artful direction,
but it's easier to forgive that with screwy comedies. On a
serious gangland piece, the ultimate effect is boredom. The Young and Dangerous films are like The Godfather when compared to this flick.
Compensating for the film's
artless look and feel are decent action, and the performance
from Chingmy Yau, who gets to play with a few more layers
of darkness than she usually does. Then again, her character's
trials are only compelling because they're so sordid (Wong
Jing and women have never had the most equal relationship).
The rest of the cast is uniformly passable, with Ekin Cheng
showing his patented plastic presence, and Lau Ching-Wan acting
annoying in the wacky sidekick role. Michael Wong shows up
as Lau's righteous follower, which does absolutely nothing
for the film or Wong's reputation as a lightweight actor.
However, the actors really don't
make this a recommended film. For HK cinema junkies who have
to see everything, Return to a Better Tomorrow is a
required stop because of the stars, but for those seeking
a standout crime flickor worse, watch the filck because
of its titlewill probably feel like throttling somebody.
This is one average, average film, and near-passable entertainment
for the bored. Still, do you really have that much time on
your hands? (Kozo 1995/2001)