Film Review: The Mobfathers (2016) by Herman Yau

Herman Yau tackles political and social challenges, re-proposing the classic atmospheres and themes of Hong Kong Triade cinema in “The Mobfathers,” a gritty and satirical tale of energy struggle and a nod to Hong Kong’s troubles with the China-manoeuvred elections.

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The film starts straight away in complete swing, with a violent brawl in which Chat (Chapman To), the head of the Metal gang, is arrested and locked up in Stanley prison, just as his attractive wife discovers she is expecting a child an occasion that for incorrect timing fails to divert the course of fate. In reality Chat, with a five-year sentence, is going to miss the birth and early years of his son and has no other solutions than to leave his trusty lieutenant Luke (Philip Keung) in charge of the boys of the gang, and also to take care of his wife and kid.

In prison, Chat, fluent in rhetoric, practices his leadership in a microcosm that has absolutely nothing to envy to the &#8216outside&#8217 in terms of violence and strict hierarchies. When the longed-for day of release arrives although, issues do not unfold as anticipated, as one more episode of violence practically causes him to be arrested once more. His wife, fed up with his lengthy absence and his incorrigible conduct, does not appear in the mood to celebrate his release, and that exact same evening Chat seeks distraction in a evening club exactly where a lap dancer, in a rather comical moment of the film, reads his future in the cards a future as the sole head of all the gangs of Hong Kong. From that evening on, Chat decides that his old position as leader of the Metal gang is no longer sufficient, but he desires to develop into Dragon Head, holder of the supreme energy. This part now belongs to Godfather (Anthony Wong), who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and for that reason is destined to vacate the post extremely quickly. Following the tradition of the Triads, the Godfather and the elders of the “family” appoint Chat and one more gang leader, Wulf (Gregory Wong) as contenders for the chair, and prepare to vote for them in their inner circle. Chat, nonetheless, desires the suffrage to be universal and rebels against the old method with bloody consequences.

The intricate political predicament of the former British colony of Hong Kong has been worsening in the years following the handover to China, to the point of escalating into fierce protests in 2014 by the so-referred to as Umbrella Movement, whose echo in the current years has strongly resonated in the West also. Consequently, this predicament reflected on film production which has usually had a extremely robust well-known base in Hong Kong, and influenced the achievement of the films that have stood out these years. To name one particular, “Ten Years” (2015), Hong Kong&#8217s collection of dystopian visions of the close to future that was awarded Finest Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Herman Yau is a director who likes to interweave social themes into the plots of his films, against backgrounds that generally wink at a lot more pulp genres, from time to time with chaotic outcomes, such as in “Sara” a film that appears to endure from a split character. Also in “The Mobfathers”, Yau and his normal screenwriter Erica Li introduce a subtext, in the second half, that offers a nod to the controversy about China&#8217s manage more than the elections for the Hong Kong head of regional government, with Beijing government imposing the candidates to vote, invalidating the idea of universal suffrage with unmanned candidacies. This premise is important to recognize greater, not so a lot the film &#8211 which can stand in its personal suitable &#8211 but at least the extremely distinct militant intentions of the director.

Formally, “The Mobfathers” bluntly harks back to the films of the excellent gangster/Triad genre tradition of Hong Kong cinematography, such as Johnnie To&#8217s “Election” or even the “Young and Dangerous” series. Herman Yau’s skilled storytelling and his gritty setup does not disappoint general, if not for some inexplicably sloppy facts. The film is very curated in the visual aspect: the photography is saturated and sophisticated, the nightclub interiors and the streets exteriors are captivating, the gang brawls with machetes have style and are effectively choreographed, there is even a notably attractive nightclub show (the film is Category III). Having said that, from time to time it stumbles more than some low-spending budget specific effects that badly match the rest, like some extremely unconvincing CGI blood that danger creating some fight scenes significantly less effective than they could be.

Chapman To, who is also the film&#8217s producer, gets his teeth into the part, impersonating the gangster in a rather histrionic way, but somehow, he remains slightly unconvincing as Chat. Maybe the memory of all his prior comedy / zany roles is tough to shake off, and the actor&#8217s soft and “likable” physique doesn&#8217t support this case (even though, in the previous, Wong Tin-Lam, Eric Tsang and Lam Suet played memorable gangsters even with their corpulent make!). Who definitely stands out right here is Philip Keung, who confirms himself as one particular of the very best underdogs (sadly) of Hong Kong cinema in one more of his brilliant supporting roles. Anthony Wong, on an other hand, manages to be the most charismatic figure in the complete film even with just a handful of minutes of stage presence, shaping his character by means of a cheeky mix of Coppola’s Godfather, Bond’s nemesis Blofeld, and even a tiny bit of Darth Vader.

All in all, regardless of some minor flaws, &#8220The Mobfathers&#8221 is a pleasant addition to other Triad films and will not disappoint the fans of the genre. It is a bit the “same old story&#8221, but the director’s allegory of the political predicament of the moment and the strongly nihilistic tone give it a breath of pop topicality.

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