The Cantonese title of The Brotherhood of Rebel <紥職2> may lead you to think this is the sequel to Daniel Chan’s Triad <紥職> back in 2012. It even has Carlos Chan and Michelle Wai, who previously starred in the first movie happen to show up in this sequel as well.
But here’s the thing about The Brotherhood of Rebel <紥職2>, it’s not a sequel and it has nothing to do with the first movie whatsoever. Instead, it was rather a sequel that shared the same thematic elements of a triad society and rising-through-the-ranks angle. It may feature the return of Carlos Chan and Michelle Wai but they actually play entirely different characters.
So, in The Brotherhood of Rebel <紥職2>, the story is a typical Hong Kong triad action-thriller that we have seen countless times in the past. The movie opens with best friends and triad members Chai (Bosco Wong), Mao (Louis Cheung) and Kam (Carlos Chan) in the 1993-set Hong Kong era on a mission to kill a rival gang leader (German Cheung in a cameo appearance).
Terry Ng (Ka-Wai), making his sophomore directorial effort after last year’s Jennifer Yu-starred Pretty Heart <心裏美>, showcased his flair for triad violence with German Cheung serving as an action choreographer. Initially, I didn’t expect much from this movie but the first 10 minutes surprised me with well-staged action set pieces and dynamic camerawork. Ng doesn’t shy away from the brutality of triad violence, reminding me of the good old days of no-holds-barred Hong Kong triad cinema of the ’80s and ’90s.
The trio’s success subsequently sees them rise through the ranks, with triad boss Brother Yau (Kenny Wong) putting Chai in charge of leading the gang while Kam and Mao serve as right-hand men. However, things unexpectedly get out of hand when Mao’s attempt to make extra money turns out to be driving three passengers, who happen to be assassins on the way to kill Brother Yau.
With Mao being blamed for the assassination attempt, he had no choice but to leave Hong Kong for good. But Mao chose to return to Hong Kong years after the incident and now, he has a pregnant wife Yuet (Michelle Wai) with him. It was a big mistake that soon — well — if you are familiar enough with the Hong Kong triad genre, you probably can predict where is this going.
It’s all familiar stuff in The Brotherhood of Rebel <紥職2> as Ng alongside screenwriters Ronald Chan and Jack Leung sticks to the tried-and-true formula. In other words, if you are expecting a fresh angle of the otherwise well-worn triad genre, you won’t find it right here.
And yet, for all the cliché-ridden storytelling, the movie remains entertaining to keep me interested throughout its well-paced 96-minute length. This may have been Ng’s second directorial effort but he proved to be an ace mastering the triad genre. He successfully captured the gritty look and feel of how a triad film should be. The movie even has better-than-expected production values, notably on Tam Ka-Ho’s stunning nighttime cinematography.
The surprisingly above-average cast helps too. Bosco Wong leads the movie with an engaging turn as Chai while Louis Cheung brings solid support as the guilt-ridden Mao. But it was Carlos Chan who impressed me the most with his temperamental role as Mao. His character arc from a timid triad member to an impulsive loose cannon somehow reminds me of Patrick Tam’s Push-Pin Wa in Beast Cops <野獸刑警>. The rest of the actors are just as commendable including Kenny Wong as triad boss Brother Yau and Niki Chow as his supportive wife.
There’s a third Triad <紥職> movie reportedly on its way, with Terry Ng as the director alongside his returning main actors Bosco Wong, Louis Cheung and Carlos Chan. At the time of writing, the release date is yet to be determined.