Films depicting revenge and gang culture are quite common, although director Juwan Chung steps into fairly unfamiliar territory in Baby, a story following west coast American Asian life. The focus is on the lead character, Baby, played by David Huynh, who falls into the wrong crowd at an early age, resulting in a seven-year prison stretch. Once released, it’s time for revenge.

The reason for Baby’s incarceration is shown via flashbacks, while the initial scene shows him being released from prison. Back home, he only has his best friend, alcoholic father and childhood sweetheart, who all try to persuade him to avoid returning to his old lifestyle.

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As the film progresses, we see further scenes of pre-prison life, which help shape his motivation for redemption. As a young boy, Baby was taken in by a gang after witnessing them commit a murder. The chain of events results in Baby being sent to a juvenile hall having been convicted of manslaughter. While trying to get back to normality once released, Baby can’t help but fall back into the gang culture, which appears to be rife. Following his seven-year absence, only one former gang member remains - Bennie (Feodor Chin) - whom Baby revisits.

Once a useless and cowardly member of the gang, Bennie is now all powerful and runs an outfit of his own. After starting a new gang with a friend he met in prison, the two collide, consequently creating a bloody battle of revenge, whilet Baby finds himself torn between his childhood sweetheart and the need to fill a void by rejoining the gang culture.

The plot itself is fairly rudimentary and typical of the gang-related revenge sagas. To make up for this, the timeline alternates between past and present, aiming to give more information as to the motive of the lead character. While it’s admirable to try showing the storyline in this way, Chung just can’t pull it off, and as a result there is no real flow to the film. As well as this some of the editing is poor, with fade-in and fade-out type shots resembling a shoddy, amateur effort. These, combined with Rocky-esque montages, exacerbate the low-budget feel of the film.

As you’d expect, there are numerous violent encounters. These are brutal yet, unfortunately, poorly constructed. The characters also fit into stereotypical roles, with Baby the lead who could have a better life but who finds feelings of resentment and anger plunge him back into the life he had before, while gang lord Bennie shows no originality. That is not to say all the attributes of the film are poor, Chung shows some occasional glimpses of promise with certain scenes which look more pleasing to the eye, but these are all too irregular. Also, one redeeming character is Robbie (Aljarreau Galang) who is genuinely convincing and refreshing.

One of the biggest downfalls of Baby is the quality of the acting. Huynh is far from convincing in the lead role, and seems two-dimensional at times. The majority of the cast are poor and give the film an amateur feel, which results in a lack of conviction to the plot. There are a few who rise above the rest, with Feodor Chin assured in his role as Bennie and Galang chilling in his portrayal of maniac Robbie.

Despite its obvious flaws, the film does have an enjoyment factor which is a slight compensation for any negative aspects. Although Chung has serious intentions about the story and the violence involved (the story is loosely based on the life of one of his friends) it is just fun to watch at times and, in places, amusing. Films like Transporter and Shoot 'Em Up understand the concept of not taking themselves too seriously and it works well, and if this had been the case with Baby, it would have improved the feel of the film.

Consequently, Baby is a film which underperforms and despite its potential, never produces enough quality, although it has its moments.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2009
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Gangland tale of a boy who falls in with the wrong crowd and - after a stretch inside - plans revenge.

Director: Juwan Chung

Writer: Felix Chan, Juwan Chung

Starring: Feodor Chin, David Huynh, Ken Choi, Shannon Dang, Aljarreau Galang, Kenzo Lee, Tzi Ma, Ron Yuan, Christina Stacey, Dana Lee

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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