Eye For Film >> Movies >> As Tears Go By (1988) Film Review
Writer/director Wong Kar Wai has made better films - Days Of Being Wild and Chungking Express, for starters - but this flawed 1988 effort still hits the right notes most of the time.
Andy Lau plays Wah, a respected but disillusioned triad, trying to stay one step ahead of the game on the mean streets of Kowloon. He's jaded, but still dangerous - when a rival refuses to pay an outstanding debt, he promptly rearranges his face with a broken beer bottle. Problem solved.
Wah is never far from trouble, thanks mainly to his "little brother" Fly (Jacky Cheung), a wannabe gangster, eager to impress Wah, but with an uncanny knack of stepping on the wrong toes. Fly wants to make a name for himself and Wah, seeing something of himself in his young acolyte, wants him off the streets before he gets sucked into something he can't get out of.
The love interest comes in the shape of Ngor (Maggie Cheung), Wah's distant cousin, from the relative tranquillity of Lantau Island. With Fly threatening to spark a turf war between rival gangs, the already disillusioned Wah sees a way out in Ngor, but he is a product of the streets and deep down he knows he can never make a clean break.
Wong paints a convincing picture of this netherworld of seedy back streets, massage parlours and neon strip joints. He never attempts to glamorise or over-stylise it, unlike his contemporaries, such as John Woo. Instead, he concentrates on the story and never lets himself get sidetracked by flashy effects, or cool slo-mo shootouts.
Lau is a charismatic lead, effortlessly hip in his shades and black leather jacket, and Cheung makes the most of an underwritten part.
There are problems, however. Alex Man is never convincing, as the hotheaded triad, intent on crushing Wah and Fly. He gurns and scowls and does his best to look mean, but there's no menace in him. In the end, he comes across as nothing more than a two-dimensional James Bond baddie.
Some of the subtitles are a let down, too. Wah confronts an old girlfriend, who has had an abortion without discussing it with him first. He pushes her against a wall and screams in her face. It's a pivotal scene, but the damp-squib subtitle has Wah shouting, "You're wicked! You're really wicked!"Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2005