Nostalgia is a powerful drug if properties like Stranger Things, Ready Player One and J.J. Abrams’ entire oeuvre are anything to go by, and that applies outside Hollywood these days, too. At a time when dwindling theatrical admissions, particularly in Hong Kong, are forcing producers to get creative, it’s no surprise someone — in this case producer-actor Eric Tsang and veteran action choreographer and stunt driver Chin Ka-lok — dusted off one of the SAR’s most popular franchises to tap a deep nostalgia vein. Anyone who discovered the Hong Kong new wave of the late ’80s and ’90s at the time will recognize the names above the title, and recognize Golden Job for what it is: shamelessly engineered nostalgic pandering.
In the mid-’90s, the divisive but popular Young & Dangerous sexy triad series cranked out six films in four years (this was at the tail end of Hong Kong’s frantic production environment), not including a truckload of spinoffs, and launched several careers despite accusations that the films glorified gangsters, crime and street violence. Regardless of its motives (suspect) or quality (middling), the film reuniting the core cast of Y&D for the more car chase-reliant, pyrotechnic-y, gunfire-heavy Golden Job could be a guilty pleasure for a certain demographic. And hold on to your hats when Tsang, Chin and composer Chan Kwong-wing go in for the kill when they resurrect Cantopop hit “Yau Ching Seuih Yuht” (“Years of Friendship”) from the earlier films. Success at home will depend entirely on how wistful Hongkongers are feeling, meaning it could do respectable business; familiarity with the property and fondness for the cast both regionally and overseas could carry it to modest success in those locations as well.
In a new, unrelated adventure that is very nearly unfathomable, Lion (Ekin Cheng, still possessed of his magnificent tresses), short-tempered Crater (Jordan Chan, Trivisa), tech geek Mouse (Jerry Lamb), and ace wheelman Calm (director Chin) make up a brotherhood of former special forces types (maybe?) who get tired of being hired guns for questionable clients — at the beginning of the film a shady pharmaceutical behemoth — and decide to do some Robin Hood-ing on their own, guided by father figure Papa (Tsang). Also part of the gang is the insecure Bill, and because he’s played by Michael Tse, Hong Kong’s own Pedro Pascal, we know he’s going to break bad at some point to become the brothers’ primary nemesis.
Their latest gig is a job stealing a truck full of life-saving drugs to give to Lion’s Medecins Sans Frontieres-type girlfriend in Africa (seriously). The job naturally goes wrong when the gang discovers the truck is actually full of gold bars belonging to The Agency (truly, that’s its name) and Bill betrays them. The shooting starts, everyone races through the streets of Budapest, and Lion winds up in a Hungarian jail. He’s greeted by Calm years later when he’s released, and the quest for revenge against Bill, now a crime lord in Montenegro(!), begins.
Golden Job is loopy AF, with more than a few unintentionally hilarious moments, which is not to say it lacks entertainment value. Nostalgia is comforting because we know what to expect, and everyone hits their expected marks here. Cheng is cool and handsome; Lamb is charmingly geeky (though the mad hacker skillz are a modern addition); Tse is appropriately jittery and bitter; and Chan, always the best actor of the bunch, manages to infuse a degree of short-fuse humanity into Crater. It’s the crazed mishmash of genres and Hollywood gloss that separate the film from its Y&D roots. Golden Job starts with what looks like a very Ocean’s Eleven-ish heist, moves on with a big dollop of Fast and Furious road action, and ends with the elite military shoot-’em-up of almost any movie starring The Rock. It’s also got a dash of Mamma Mia! if you include the sunny European working vacation the cast got to enjoy.
Tech specs are fine, and Chin does his typically solid work with fight choreography (much of it done by the cast) and car stunts, and some familiar faces in cameos (original series and Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau) and small parts (veteran Japanese heavy Yasuaki Kurata as a kindly sake-making, bushido-wielding neighbor) distract from the film’s more outre nonsense (so, so much sliding over car hoods, an unfortunate disguise as a Hasid) and the testosterone-heavy proceedings. Charmaine Sheh’s Dr. Chow and Zhang Yamei’s Lulu (Papa’s daughter) are the houseplants that pass for female characters. That’s something of a departure, too.
Production company: The Artists Co. Ltd.
US distributor: Well Go USA
Cast: Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Michael Tse, Jerry Lamb, Chin Ka-lok, Eric Tsang, Yasuaki Kurata, Zhang Yamei, Sergej Onopko, Ji Huanbo, Wei Yunxi, Jiang Zhongwei, Billy Chow, Alan Ng, Phil Chang, Charmaine Sheh
Director: Chin Ka-lok
Screenwriter: Kim Dong-kyu, Kwok Kin Lok, Erica Li, Heiward Mak
Producer: Eric Tsang
Executive producer: Zhou Maofei, Jackie Chan, Yang Junkai, Chiu Li Kuang
Director of photography: Kenny Tse, Edmond Fung
Production designer: Jean Tsoi, James Cheung
Costume designer: Jessie Dai, Jessica Tu
Editor: Wenders Li
Music: Chan Kwong-wing
World sales: Golden Network Asia
No rating, 99 minutes