In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I’m pretty sure they just copied and pasted the script into Google Translate and called it a day.”
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
For the most part, my attempts to watch more foreign language movies in 2016 has so far lead to seeing things that are way, way above average. For a non English speaking movie to make a big enough splash in mainstream cinema for me to have heard of it, that usually means it’s pretty special. And my other main source of movies for this project has been going through Oscar winners. But when I choose something totally at random, I’m reminded that other countries make just as many shit bombs as America. Especially when I stumble across something like Triad.
In 90s Hong Kong, the teenaged William (William Wai-Ting Chan) is studious and hardworking. One day, his mother’s humble orange stand in the local fruit market is trashed by a local gang demanding protection money. Half way through getting his ass kicked, William is saved by local, high ranking triad, Brother Patrick (Patrick Tam). Inspired to never be a victim again, William is soon mobbed up, tattooed up, and working for Patrick, along with two school Friends.
William and his mates quickly make an impact, helping rich business men recover bad debts during a financial recession. Along the way, they pickup girlfriends who become wives and mothers to their children. And with all of their growing success, they also pick up plenty of enemies. Some of them even within their own not so loyal triad family.
In my intro, I referred to Triad as a shit bomb. That might have been a little harsh, because it’s more than competently acted and more than competently made. It’s just that the things it gets right are lifted whole cloth from better movies and stories that we’ve all seen before. Those filmic and story appropriations steal so much focus, Triad jumps all over the shop trying to make the most of them, while squandering every single one. It feels a lot more like a season of TV crammed into 90 minutes than it does a coherent movie plot.
The music score is also surprisingly lame. The churning guitars range all the way from sounding like Metallica’s worst imitators in the early 90s, to discarded Limp Bizkit riffs form the late 90s, to reverb heavy noodlings from a sex scene in Lethal Weapon. The subtitles are also kind of laughable. I’m pretty sure they just copied and pasted the script into Google Translate and called it a day. Because so much of it reads like literal, word for word translations of phrases that just don’t work when directly translated in English.
The people behind Triad are obviously students and fans of film makers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and John Woo. The problem is, they use that influence to remake Scorsese, Tarantino and Woo scenes, instead of simply being informed by them and inspired to make something new.