1 February 2018



'Life or death, poverty or riches, it's all destined...'

'Heroes are created in critical times.'

Corrupt cop. Dirty drug lord. The city doesn’t stand a chance.

One of the family hamsters got a mini-stroke during my viewing of this film, but as the two events were totally unconnected (as far as we know...!), you mustn't hold anything against CHASING THE DRAGON, as good a martial arts and gangster/crime movie as any I've seen in a while. Dear little Smithers is now well on the road to full hammy recovery and I've got some time to talk to you about this movie.

To 'chase the dragon' means to take drugs and become addicted to them, so it's a pretty neat little metaphor for this film that they're calling 'The Chinese Scarface.' That's quite a compliment as SCARFACE, the 1985 Brian De Palma movie starring Al Pacino, is one of the best films ever made and one of my own personal favourites.

Al Pacino is devastatingly sexy in it as Tony Montana, the Cuban refugee who arrived in the United States in the early 1980s and immediately set about procuring for himself a hefty slice of the American pie. He very much saw America as the land of opportunity, the land of milk and honey, the land of women with big tits in tiny bikinis, the land of huge convertibles and sharp threads. 

He wanted to live a dream lifestyle and, as 'savings and wise investments' (Homer Simpson in THE SIMPSONS, sarcastically to Marge) take too long to yield results, becoming a druglord seemed to be an easier and more attractive option.

In CHASING THE DRAGON, Donnie Yen plays Crippled Ho who, as a penniless illegal immigrant from Mainland China to British-colonized Hong Kong in the 1960s, dragged himself up by the bootstraps to become a pretty major drugs kingpin.

See? Just like Tony Montana in SCARFACE. It's kind of sad the way so many poor people felt that they had to resort to a life of crime to get ahead in the world. I sincerely hope that that doesn't sound patronising or anything.

Of course, crime in films always seems to pay much better than regular honest work, doesn't it? Just look at all the gangster films! Gangsters have way more fun and money than office peeps, as is scientifically evidenced by criminally enticing movies like GOODFELLAS.

Tony Montana lived a much more glamorous lifestyle than Crippled Ho, though. Living (kind of!) by Homer Simpson's maxim of 'First you get the sugar, then you get the power, THEN you get the weemin' (women!), Tony bought himself a fabulous mansion to keep his Saturday Night Fever jackets and slacks in, and then he acquired a stunning Michelle Pfeiffer doll to be the eye-candy in said mansion.

By the way, did you know that Elvira's womb is so polluted from all the drugs she takes that nothing will grow there, and that she just sits around all day waiting for me to f**k her...? Tee-hee-hee, I couldn't resist that, it's one of my favourite lines. It's one of the best films ever made, is this. Al Pacino's finest hour, without a shadow of a doubt. No wonder Elvira left Tony, though. Rich he might have been, but what a jerk!

Crippled Ho doesn't seem to do the glamour thing or even the women thing. He just sells a lot of drugs and gets stinking rich off the proceeds. His ally is a crooked cop called Lee Rock, played by Andy Lau. Together they pretty much corner the market in drugs in Hong King, though not without a whole hell of a lot of bloodshed and violence.

It's an extremely violent and bloodthirsty film but then so is SCARFACE, so is
GOODFELLAS, so is CASINO and so is BLOW, another film that CHASING THE DRAGON puts me very much in mind of. Here, the ravishingly attractive Johnny Depp plays George Jung, one of Pablo Escobar's (yes, THAT Pablo Escobar...!) partners in the drug import-export business.

Ray Liotta, the star of Mob drama GOODFELLAS, ironically is cast here as Jung's father Fred, who's heartbroken when his beloved only son goes to the bad. I always feel terrible pity for George when he goes to prison for, like, a million years for his crimes and his daughter never comes to see him. That bit at the end where it turns out that the daughter coming to see him in the prison garden where he works was just a wishful daydream on George's part is just too sad.

In SCARFACE, I feel sorry for Tony Montana, who has gotten 'high on his own supply' a time too many and gets 'offed' by the guys who work for Alejandro Sosa, the cocaine kingpin whom Tony has disappointed by his failure to kill a journalist who's about to dish the dirt on Sosa. If a lifetime of watching movies like this has taught me one thing, it's that you don't disappoint the drugs kingpin whose enemies you've promised to assassinate. The very idea...!

I feel equally sorry for Crippled Ho in CHASING THE DRAGON when he gets liver cancer and pronounces mournfully that 'I've been a drug dealer all my life. I can take nothing with me now but the sins I've been carrying.' I was in floods of tears by this juncture.

My point is that these films all depict their lead characters so well, warts and all, that you tend to sympathise with them even though they've done bad things. You wouldn't believe how many buckets of tears I've cried for these three lads, Tony Montana, George Jung and Crippled Ho, when in reality they've all sold the drugs that have probably destroyed millions of lives. I mean, there's no good use for Sweet Lady H, is there? I should be treating these three lads with abhorrence and loathing, but no, the films draw you in and make you root for them, even love them. Sigh. It's the magic of cinema, innit?

Check out what happens to Crippled Ho's younger brother in the film. It'll chill your blood. It'll make you worry for your kids and younger siblings or even just for any impressionable young 'uns who get drawn into taking drugs for whatever reason. 

I love the character Piggy too, a stout, portly fella who's devoted to his boss, the bent copper Lee Rock. His dying words (sorry, total spoiler alert!) are just beautiful.

'Brother Rock, save my position for me. I want to work for you again in my next life.'

Aw, isn't that sweet? And also a great compliment to the smooth-faced Brother Rock as an employer, lol. What a shining testimonial! Most folks would rather come back as a tapeworm than work for their old bosses in their next life. Your next life is your chance to shake the shit of your old life off your shoes, lol again. No way would you want to have your old boss hanging off your coat-tails...! Feck that for a game of soldiers.

Watch out also for the RESERVOIR DOGS moment in the film, when you see it you'll know what I mean. 'Here I am, stuck in the middle with you...!' What? I'm just humming as I work, if that's okay with you guys. It's not like I'm listening to K-Billy's Super Sounds Of The 'Seventies or anything, or cutting off anyone's anything with a thing. What do ye take me for?

CHASING THE DRAGON is a re-make of an earlier Hong Kong crime/gangster film, TO BE NUMBER ONE (1991), directed by Poon Man-Kit. Both films are based on the real-life activities of druglord Ng Sek-Ho. I would have loved to have been able to bring you guys some information on this fella but, um, his Wikipedia page is in Chinese, sorry about that...!



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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