30 Years Later: The Tigers 五虎將之決裂 (1991)

30 Years Later: The Tigers 五虎將之決裂 (1991)

(Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers)

Directed by Eric Tsang, The Tigers <五虎將之決裂> was best remembered for featuring the famous Five Tigers at the time. They were actually five popular TVB actors during the ’80s era that include Michael Miu, Kent Tong, Felix Wong, Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

Turning 30 today, The Tigers <五虎將之決裂> did fairly modest business, making over HK$11.3 million at the box office back in 1991. The story revolves around five Hong Kong cops — Andy Lau’s Lau Chi-Ming a.k.a. Thief, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s Tau-Pi a.k.a. Dandruff, Felix Wong’s Bong, Michael Miu’s Wah and their superior, Lam Hai-Tim played by Leung Kar-Yan — involved in taking a briefcase full of money during a drug bust. The money actually belongs to Lam’s brother-in-law, Fong (Kent Tong), where he tries to bribe him into letting him go.

With the exception of Bong who refused to take the money, the rest of his colleagues decided to spend them. However, they gradually find themselves in deep trouble when Fong threatens to report them to ICAC.

Although Nam Yin (of Prison On Fire <監獄風雲> fame) and James Yuen (Curry And Pepper <咖喱辣椒>, A Moment Of Romance <天若有情>) were both responsible for the screenplay, the story is disappointingly sketchy and haphazard. It doesn’t help either when Eric Tsang’s direction is sloppy and tonally inconsistent. The latter is particularly evident during the earlier parts of the movie with Andy Lau’s Thief and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s Dandruff act more like buffoons. While I’m generally okay with added comedy elements in Hong Kong cop movies, Tsang’s attempt to inject humour tends to get ridiculously over-the-top.

If that’s not insulting enough, it’s kind of awkward to see the otherwise talented Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, who already proved his worth as a versatile actor even in the earlier stage of his movie career (1986’s The Lunatics <癲佬正傳>, 1987’s People’s Hero <人民英雄> and 1990’s Bullet In The Head <喋血街頭>, just to name a few) takes on such an annoying comic-relief role. Frankly, he deserves better than this and besides, it’s not every day we get to see these TVB’s famous Five Tigers appeared together in a high-profile Hong Kong movie.

Andy Lau’s role as Thief, whose transition from a playful and seemingly irresponsible to hot-headed and vengeful cop with nothing to lose looks good on paper. But the thing is, Tsang’s largely incompetent direction and its overall weak screenplay prevent him from showcasing his acting chops in a more coherent manner.

The (in)famous final scene in "The Tigers" (1991)
The (in)famous final scene in “The Tigers” (1991)

Then, there’s the final scene where he stands in front of the police officers and SDU team already on standby to open fire. In a somewhat unbelievable and yes, even illogical moment, the police actually let him twirling his .38 revolver around his fingers before he ends up shooting himself in the head. It was a silly way to die but recently when I rewatched the scene again, the way Andy Lau’s Thief unconventionally ends his own life is truly one of its kind within the list of death scenes in his filmography.

As for the rest of the actors, it’s a pity that Michael Miu is mostly reduced to a background role. Kent Tong, in the meantime, is laughably over-the-top as the movie’s main antagonist. What’s more surprising is that he even managed to secure a nomination in the Best Supporting Actor at the 11th Hong Kong Film Awards. Kwan Hoi-San thankfully won the award in this particular category for Lee Rock <五億探長雷洛傳: 雷老虎>.

At least Felix Wong fares better as the righteous cop Bong while screen veteran Leung Kar-Yan delivers decent support as the guilt-ridden superior officer. Equally worth mentioning here is Irene Wan, who plays Lam’s rebellious and estranged daughter Shirley.

Felix Wong and Yammie Lam in "The Tigers" (1991)
Felix Wong and Yammie Lam in “The Tigers” (1991)

Popular TVB actress Yammie Lam (Kit-Ying), who appears in a small role as Wah’s wife doesn’t get to leave much of a lasting impression here.

Over 20 years later (December 2013, to be exact), there was a video interview where she allegedly raped by two Hong Kong entertainment moguls. The incident took place while the movie was partially filmed in Singapore. Lam has since gone through tough times including suffering from mental illness and living in poverty. On November 3, 2018, she was found dead in her home at the age of 55.

Back to The Tigers <五虎將之決裂>, there is actually so much potential that could have achieved in this movie. Perhaps a more qualified director would have resulted in a better movie.

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