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Original Title:
Tung moon

Hong Kong 2009

Crime, Thriller

Herman Yau

Shawn Yue
Chapman To
Elanne Kwong
Conroy Chan Chi-Chung
Goon Chung Wong
Ada Choi
Jun Kung
Austin Wai
Bruce Law
Renee Dai
Fung Hark-On
Ron Heung
Ella Koon
Anson Leung
Poon Yuen-Leung

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Story: In Hong Kong's Kowloon district five triad bosses are living peacefully next to each other. However, one night boss Jimmy is shot and wounded. Jimmy's wife Cheung Wah (Ada Choi), who is abroad at that moment, decides that not the actual number two of the group, hot-headed Blackie (Chapman To), should become the temporary boss in charge but Jimmy's longterm bodyguard Po (Shawn Yue) who is now supposed to uncover who is responsible for the assassination attempt. But that's not that easy since Po has a serious hangover and has to listen to the other bosses' numerous advises. Moreover, there is Blackie who strives towards making the situation an opportunity to engage into an all-out war in order to take over the other bosses turfs. At the same time the other bosses are also considering to make strategic alliances to hold better cards in hands in the upcoming war on the streets. While the yearlong peace between the different parties slowly starts to fall to pieces Po doesn't only have to look for the assassin but also has to deal with the police that closed off the district the individual he is looking for might be hiding in because of a traffic accident. Po gets unexpected help from Ling (Elanne Kwong), but the positions of the different parties are hardening with every minute passing...

Review: "Rebellion" is a little surprise in the triad genre. Technically merely solid stuff the film convinces because of its well elaborated story and a fast pacing so that there is a certain tension in the air throughout, even though there actually isn't that much straight forward action to be found on screen. The fact that the events of the movie take place in one single night gives the film a certain kind of special dynamic and the many different parties that try to shift the balance of power to their advantage through careful actions on the one hand and risky threats on the other make the story complex enough for us to be captivated by it right from the start. Although you can't overlook the movie's B-movie flair at times, and some shots and supporting characters might seem a bit random and arbitrary, "Rebellion" still is a serious addition to the HK-genre.

The movie starts off with an introduction by a female voice-over that reports about the state of things in the triads. This somehow seems a bit cheap, but the film manages to capture us right away after that with the events unfolding on screen. This is mainly because with Po the filmmakers provide us with an individual to sympathize with that has to deal with new information and power structures as suddenly and unprepared as we have to. The first half of the film he is drinking and (it's just like that, so it has to be spelled out as well) puking everywhere he can. The numerous monologues by his bosses that he has to endure are overstraining his alcohol-affected head so that it doesn't feel that bad as a viewer if you can't keep up with all the information and names thrown at us at all times either. Surprisingly, though, even at the beginning it isn't that difficult to keep general track of what's going on.

We don't get any special achievemnt from Shawn Yue ("Shamo", "Infernal Affairs") here, but he somehow fits into his role, although we can't really relate to him on an emotional level. What's really bothering at times, however, is Elanne Kwong as Ling who shares a forced and not truthfully pursued romance with Po. This becomes especially annoying when within the framework of this otherwise serious movie there is suddenly a pop ballad employed which serves the purpose to underline that Ling is interested in Po, for those who didn't get it from the start. It's as inadequate as Jet Li in a romantic drama. Fortunately, there are the supporting actors who are all very odd and colorful, therefore making them quite interesting. Granted, some of them might look like caricatures, but that's not making the fun factor less fun. Moreover, Chapman To ("Isabella", "Moonlight in Tokyo") can finally play a more serious role again. As the hot-tempered triad member he seems to be the one responsible that things get more and more out of hand. Almost single-handedly he heats up the rebellion within the triads with his impetuous nature and To's portrayal actually gives his character something unpredictable and dangerous.

"Rebellion" never gets boring, the characters and therefore the movie as a whole always seem to be in motion, there are appealing sets, which includes the neon-lit streets as well as the indoor sets, and the thrilling story even is somewhat smart with its several twist throughout. Thus, it's even the more a shame that there is implemented one twist and flashback too many during the finale.
There are some short but effective action scenes every now and then, during the showdown we get a big bloody street brawl, but more effective are the tension-driven moments. The streets of Hong Kong look like a small political microcosm of their own and so it shouldn't be sursprising that the film not unintentionally shows parallels to power struggles within politics. The rather wacky characters might maybe even be understood as a social commentary in this context, but perhaps this is a bit too far-fetched.

Director Herman Yau ("On the Edge", "Whispers and Moans") is always good for a surprise. "Rebellion" is amazingly complex, has a break-neck pacing and a lot of colorful characters, that make the film worthwhile. To watch the balance of power shift is thrilling, even the more as the viewer doesn't know all the parties of the game from the start and therefore is in for one or two well done revelations in the course of the movie. The rather colorless main characters are all too often pushed into the background by the supporting characters which naturally couldn't have been the filmmaker's intention. However, on another positive note there is the self-ironic tone with which Herman Yau tells his story without making the film a comedy. Therefore, despite some flaws "Rebellion" is a surprisingly entertaining triad thriller with its special charm.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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