Monday, February 9, 2009

Code of Honor

Fans of Hong Kong cinema should know that a DVD cover can often be mis-leading. Most big name actors and actress’ had their share of small roles before they truly broke the big time. Its been done countless times with early Jackie Chan films where he may have had anything from a small supporting role, to no role at all. Yet he manages to make it to the cover of the DVD as a lead star to sell it. Code of Honor manages to use this same formula, in this case its exploits a small throw away role from Chow Yun-Fat. The result, “Chow Yun Fat in Code of Honor”. So keep that in mind, if you are looking for a hard boiled, killer action flick then look elsewhere.

That said, this deceptive strategy does have its payoff. In this case Chow’s small appearance being the reason this film received international is a blessing in disguise! Because Code of Honor is a top notch triad thriller, which is essentially pieced together by an all-star cast . . .of supporting actors. The films three lead characters are played by Dick Wei, Chun Hsiang Ko, and Wai Shum. With the exception of Shum you rarely see these actors in anything but a supporting role. The films main highlight is the wonderful, and very rare (this may be the only time, but at this point I have not looked into it enough) leading good guy role by Dick Wei as a cop! And he pulls it off so well. It’s a surprise that he didn’t play more good guy roles because his presence is actually quite familiar to that of Simon Yam as a cop. And I think we all know that has been done more then once. However as good as he was he is Wei is still the definitive bad guy, so it’s no surprise that he pretty much stuck to that role.

For a triad film, Code of Honor finds a way to shed a little originality with its story. It starts with our lead character, and Triad boss played by Hsiang Ko and his daughter running from a band of thugs. He makes it to safety with the help of an innocent Vietnamese refugee played by Wai Shum, who helps him evade his pursuers. Unfortunately his daughter is brutally murdered in the process. This is where if you don’t blink you might catch Chow Yun Fats first small appearance (he show up again late in the film) as Hsiang Ko’s son who lives in Australia, resents his father for his line of work and inevitably blames him for his sisters death.

Fast forward several years later and now we see Wai Shum has been rewarded for his services and is now one of Hsiang Ko’s head associates. However it seems that the now aged Kos days are being numbered as the CID (Lead by Dick Wei) has been working on their case to take him down. Ko knows this and informs his long trusted triad family, more importantly his key brothers(Played by Fui-on Shing, Sunny Fang, and Yihara Shinichi), and warns them of the impending case that will soon come down on them. Suddenly the three men who he has trusted his entire career turn out to destroy the code of honor they have served by and team up to sell out their trusting leader and leave him to take all the blame for their crimes. The title of the film is key to the events portrayed on screen. Indeed Ko’s character lives by the Triads code of honor which in layman’s terms basically means that they will stick together through think and thin and not rat one another out.

It may be deceitful as it tries to call itself a Chow Yun Fat film, but Code of Honor is one of the grittiest and well played Triad Films to date! With an engaging story, some truly horrific violence the substitutes style with brutal realism. Dick Wei fans will appreciate seeing him in this rare Cop role (without make-up or a crazy hair style) that shows a side of his that most have probably never seen. And will probably not see again. . .


A Film by Billy Chan

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