With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, August 05, 2013

ACF 1991: THE KING OF THE STREETS - Region 1 Blu-ray review

The King of the Streets
Directed by Yue Song and Zhong Lei
China, 2012, 88 minutes

An action film set in modern day China, The King of the Streets will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, August 6, 2013, on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

The film's story is a simple one. It centers on Fang (martial artist Yue Song in his feature film debut), who is a bad-ass street brawler in Beijing. In the opening set piece, he is a teenager who engages in a one-against-many fight in a playground. Eight years later we find him released from prison, where he's served a manslaughter sentence, though exactly what happened has not yet been revealed to the viewer. Fang gets a menial job and lives in a storage room at the company that's hired him.

One day he comes to the aid of lovely Yi (Becky Li) who's been assaulted by some street toughs. She works at a private orphanage run by Mr. Zhou (Wang Zaihe). A Mr. Lee, whom we never meet, wants to buy the orphanage because it is located in the center of a resort he is planning to build. Unfortunately, his son, who's in charge of the acquisition, has gambled away the project money and is using strong-arm tactics to get Zhou to sell the site "for a song" (pun intended). Naturally Fang comes to the aid of Zhou, Yi and the orphans.

The film is a mixed bag. First, the negatives. The plot is a bit too slight, even for a simple martial arts movie. Two characters, co-workers of Fang, are employed to bring another character, who will later be a significant opponent of Fang's, into the story, but then they pretty much are forgotten. An opportunity for a somewhat richer story that would involve Mr. Lee's reaction to his son's dastardly actions is never explored. And too often the relatively short film replays things we've already seen as Fang recalls them in his mind. This starts to feel a bit like filler after awhile.

On the other hand there are quite a few fine action set pieces, both one-against-many and one-on-one. And the way the film eventually shows what happened that sent Fang to jail is very well done in my opinion.

Yue Song

Besides his starring role, Yue Song wrote, co-directed (with Zhong Lei), served as action director, and co-edited the film. Because of this, Derek Elley's review of the film at Film Business Asia described The King of the Streets as "a vanity production." I don't care for that characterization because, for me, it carries the connotation that the person doesn't have the talent to deserve the project.

Rather, I see The King of the Streets as a commendable showcase of Song's current talents and abilities as both a performer and filmmaker. While it may be too strong to describe it as auspicious, it is certainly a most promising cinematic debut.

ACF rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars, a fairly good film. Some evident weaknesses, but some good points as well.

Two more points remain to be made. First, as this review is being posted, there are no entries at IMDb for either the film or for Yue Song. Hopefully, someone involved with the film's production or distribution will promptly address these omissions.

Finally, I have no idea what the tattoos on the back of the figure on the Blu-ray and DVD artwork have to do with anything. The best I can come up with is that someone in marketing thought they would convey toughness. A straightforward image would have sufficed.