From John Chiang and Ti Lung as kindred spirits in The Duel (1971) to the intense loyalty between two gangland brothers in A Better Tomorrow (1986) to the undercover cop in a moral dilemma over his triad brothers in Infernal Affairs (2002), the spirit of brotherhood has never been portrayed as vividly as it has been portrayed in Hong Kong gangster films. The intricate codes of loyalty and the battles that spark over it have complex reference to Hong Kong’s social and political environment and have engrossed audiences for decades. Thanks to the creativity of the filmmakers, the genre itself has been constantly refreshing itself with new stylistic elements over the years, from the intense neo-realism of The System (1979) and Man on the Brink (1981) to stylish gangster heroes created by John Woo and Ringo Lam to Johnny Mak’s ambitious crime epics The Long Arm of the Law (1984) and To Be Number One (1991).
Hong Kong filmmakers have always found that looking back is as equally important as looking forward. They may be heavily influenced by the gangster films of the west, but they also work hard to break new grounds. Not only did they bring us memorable characters like Ma Wing-jing from The Boxer from Shantung (1972) and Mark from A Better Tomorrow, they also created sub-genres with stories of
young thugs, undercover cops and police informers.
In addition to classic black and white Hong Kong crime films like Tradition (1955) and The Dreadnaught (1966), this programme also features well-known crime films from other countries and other eras for the purpose of compare and contrast. Our choices include a rare screening of the must-see classic Scarface (1932), as well as genre-bending works like Takeshi Kitano’s Sonatine (1993) and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). In association with the retrospective, a research publication titled Always in the Dark: A Study of Hong Kong Gangster Films will be published in the very near future.
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.