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Chinese language cinema

Film review: The Mobfathers – power-hungry gangsters in universal suffrage fable

Chapman To, Gregory Wong and Anthony Wong star in Herman Yau’s snappy satire, which hasn’t much new to say about underworld power struggles but is nonetheless a fine addition to the Hong Kong gangster thriller genre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 12:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 12:31pm

3.5/5 stars

Aside from a fanatic third act that makes this film an allegory on Hong Kong’s stumbling pursuit of universal suffrage, Herman Yau Lai-to’s The Mobfathers has little new to say about power struggles in the criminal underworld, a subject depicted vividly in Andrew Lau Wai-keung’s Young and Dangerous films and Johnnie To Kei-fung’s two-part Election (both of which are referenced here).

However, its colourful characters, uninhibited display of gangland violence, and cheeky adaptation of political statements taken from the city’s increasingly farcical reality are enough to make this gangland fantasy an eloquent footnote in Hong Kong pop culture – if not close to an essential addition to the gangster thriller genre. Faint-hearted viewers and blue-ribbon factions should turn away.

Actor-producer Chapman To Man-chat plays Chuck, a senior gangster who spent five years in jail for brawling, leaving his wife and infant son in the care of loyal sidekick Luke (Philip Keung Ho-man). Once he decides to join the triennial election for the triad society’s top post, however, the ex-con is thrown into a fierce battle with a wealthier rival, the flamboyantly gay Wulf (Gregory Wong Chung-yiu).

Candidates are killed off one after another and rampant collusion with the police is shown to exist across the hierarchy – including the very top, embodied by the cancer-stricken Godfather (Anthony Wong Chau-sang) – in this snappy political satire, which takes a cynical, if always entertaining, look at Chuck’s desperate attempt to upstage the system. Little did he realise that some things never change.

The Mobfathers opens on March 31

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