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Gangster Payday - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Da cha fan

Hong Kong 2014

Crime, Romance, Comedy

Cheang Pou-Soi

Anthony Wong
Charlene Choi
Wong Yau-nam
Chan Wai-Man
Ng Chi-Hung
Carrie Ng
Philip Keung
Deep Ng
Ai Wai

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Gangster Payday

Gangster Payday - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Mob boss Ghost (Anthony Wong) has faced better times in life. In modern Hong Kong you can't really earn the big bucks with karaoke bars and saunas. It's also difficult for him to make money since he refuses to sell drugs. His rival Bill (Keung Hon-man) doesn't like to hear that since he wanted to make some drug deals with him. Instead, he now wants to buy Ghost's bar in order to distribute his drugs there himself. But Ghost refuses which is why his establishments are trashed more than once. Ghost doesn't lose his calm, though. After all, he has made the acquaintance of Mei (Charlene Choi) who he instantly falls in love with. Mei has a tea house which she inherited from her father, but she doesn't know how to manage the shop. Ghost and his men give her a helping hand, but Ghost's courting seems to have no chance of success. Mei has already fallen in love with Ghost's protégé Leung (Wong Yau-nam). However, Long keeps his distance from Mei after he realizes that his boss is interested in her...

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Gangster Payday - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Most of the time when watching "Gangster Payday" you wonder why critics gave the movie such high ratings. The love triangle standing in the centre is trivial, for quite a while you will look for developments to no avail and somehow the film appears to be an echo of Hong Kong flicks from the 80s and 90s. Just without the bite and the gritty tone, mind you. Towards the end a few surprises turn up, though, and the efforts of the actors pay off as well. Still, this doesn't make this gangster thriller meets romance-drama anything special in the end. It's just the mood, which evokes a feeling of pleasant melancholy paired with a good mood, that will partly win you over for "Gangster Payday". Whether this is enough for a recommendation or not remains to be seen for now.

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It takes a while for the characters to captivate us. But there isn't anything else than them to do this. The story itself is negligible. And that's extemely remarkable at first. After all, you expect a Hong Kong thriller to feature triads along with themes like brotherhood, betrayal and bloodshed. Partly, you will get that, but only pretty late and then it's also rather disappointing. Instead the tone is kept rather lighthearted and the romance and humor are constantly put into the spotlight. In this respect it has to be pointed out, though, that the film isn't nearly as funny as it probably was intended to be. This becomes pretty apparent on several occasions, but it isn't so bothersome that it becomes awkward. For most part this is naturally thanks to lead actor Anthony Wong who saves things. Yet, the humor manages to create a pleasant atmosphere if nothing else.

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Wong ("Punished", "Ip Man: The Final Fight") is of course responsible for the movie's highlights. His gangster is somewhat tired, but when he meets Mei, he is overcome by new vitality. The way he chases after Mei is sometimes amusing at others creepy since he in fact has something of a stalker about him, too. Still, the viewer's sympathies are clearly with him. Charlene Choi ("Sara", "The Sorcerer and the White Snake") delivers a convincing performance as well, often being enjoyably subtle. Wong Yau-Nam's ("The Midnight After") performance most likely was supposed to be subtle as well, but his gangster is simply too shallow in the end. Which sadly leads to the love triangle failing and seeming forced.

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Although we get to see a picture of "Ghost" in the beginning, which has been made for his funeral, suspense isn't really to be found anywhere. We know that the film's tone will shift into darker territories, but when it happens there still is a certain lightheartedness running through things. This is also because of the soundtrack, which then again becomes almost unbearably cheesy during the more dramatic moments. Moreover, the story is completely hackneyed for every Hong Kong film fan of the 80s and 90s. Most likely, some feeling of nostalgia was supposed to be created by this, and this is actually achieved, but in the end it is still too little to make for a well done story. Yet, you have to give "Gangster Payday" credit for the genre mix to work out a lot better than one would assume. But since everything is kept in a lighthearted tone even the few gritty moments lack emotional impact.

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Gangster Payday - Film Screenshot 10

There still is that odd feeling of nostalgie and melachnoly, though - the yearning for the long gone "golden days" which is constantly picked up as a theme. This also becomes apparent in the story. For example: The real estate hype is often criticized and traditional establishments like karaoke bars, saunas and tea shops have no place in modern society, it seems. This makes "Gangster Payday" more profound than you would expect at first. But do you really need this movie? It's hard to answer this with a clear "yes". There isn't a new story told, after all, everything works on a neatly mediocre level and only the atmosphere is likeable every now and then. So those who want to take a trip down memory lane don't need to look any further. But the rest can safely skip this movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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