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The Mobfathers - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Syun Lou Ding

Hong Kong 2016


Herman Yau

Chapman To
Philip Keung
Anthony Wong
Bonnie Sin
Gregory Wong
Carlos Chan
Deep Ng
Tony Ho
Kenny Wong

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The Mobfathers

The Mobfathers - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Chuck (Chapman To) is the leader of the Metal-gang and is at war with the Water-gang. During a bloody slaughter between the two parties the two leaders get arrested. Five years later Chuck is looking forward to being released from prison, since he finally wants to embrace his wife (Bonnie Sin) and his son, who he never met before. But before that Chuck and his archrival, who is released from prison on the same day, are attacked by unknown men. There is a power struggle within the triads since the boss and his closest confidants are soon about to elect a new representative of the triads. At first, Chuck isn't interested in the position, but after his wife doesn't give him the warm welcome he expected, he decides to run for the position. Actually, his loyal right-hand man Luke (Philip Keung), who also took care of Chuck's family when he was in prison, is nominated, but Luke gladly declines for his boss. Chuck's rival is Wulf (Gregory Wong), who has the financial means to win the election. However, Chuck still has a few aces up his sleeve. That's when Wulf proves how ruthless he can really be and a violent power struggle breaks out...

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Review: Hong Kong runs out of ideas. That's actually nothing new for quite a while already, but now it is also true for Herman Yau, who up until recently at least managed to deliver promising works as a director. Since there isn't any originality to be found in the story, it's laudable that the level of violence in the movie reminds us of good old 80s and 90s flicks. But that's ruined by the fact that the blood is created solely on the computer. In other respects there appears to be something artificial about the film, too. This particularly is the case when it comes to the story's pacing which presents itself in an extremely odd way with countless condensed parts. Because of this there is something amateurish about "The Mobfathers". Additionally, you can't really say that the flick is inscrutable. From the very getgo it's obvious how the movie will end.

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Originally, Herman Yau was specialized in B-movies, but he made a name for himself, because he over and over again brought to screen exceptionally well made movies ("Ip Man - The Final Fight") or at times gave his works a bit of profoundness ("Sara"). However, with "The Mobfathers" he takes a few steps back. The story can't bring any new elements to the familiar power struggle within the triads and as if somehow apologizing for this there are also references to movies like Johnnie To's "Election". Still, the end product doesn't get any smarter because of this. Also, not all of the characters can convince. Chapman To ("Isabella") gives a pretty good portrayal in the lead role and naturally is also allowed to intersperse a few funny moments into an otherwise quite dark and gritty story.

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Yet, it needs to be pointed out, that countless jokes are lost in translation. Furthermore, Chapman To and Philip Keung ("Firestorm") may succeed in giving at least two characters more color, but even with Anthony Wong ("Punished") things start to go overboard and lack subtlety. Chuck's wife and the drama around the gap that gets wider and wider between the two isn't particularly convincing either and lacks depth. This may also be the case since a lot of things seem implemented without true passion and even haphazardly when it comes to story development. Also, Luke's side story revolving around his daughter remains more or less just a small interspersion, which in fact could have been made into more. Many of the more drama-centered moments can't score since they don't get the on-screen time they deserve.

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With its 92 minutes running time the movie is naturally quite tight, but why this was exactly necessary eludes me. Maybe that's part of the sometimes experimental, but also amateurish, because somewhat rushed, style of directing. Some scenes also turn out rather strange. This also includes the score, as the music starts and ends too abruptly. And this is just one example of problems that run through the whole film. The story developments selectively seem very rushed which sometimes is also positive when for example certain events turn out to be outright shocking. Even though the plot in general remains predictable, there are some scenes that can feign a certain unpredictability. On the other hand again, Herman Yau didn't really cover himself in glory with the finale, since everything moves along quite generic while the ending itself seems rushed again.

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"The Mobfathers" has something unpolished about it. At some points, concerning the depiction of the triad world, this can in fact work out well, but considering the strong level of amateurish quality of the directing it stands in stark contrast to the polished pictures. Somewhere along the way Yau also seems to aim at giving his film a message, but that very message is so hackneyed that it certainly won't win anyone over. The ruthlessness and violence is to be noted on the plus side of the flick, though. If it weren't for the fact that the blood and even some cutting wounds are created solely on the computer. Especially towards the end the computer effects look incredibly cheap and thus somewhat turn the movie into a laughing matter. "The Mobfathers" is simple genre stuff, which turns out surprisingly amateurish and generic and accordingly surely doesn't deserve a recommendation.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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