The Story of a Discharged Prisoner (1967)

Posted in Reviews by - July 11, 2014
The Story of a Discharged Prisoner (1967)

A feisty, swinging 60s crime film from Hong Kong, the inspiration for the John Woo classic A Better Tomorrow. Patrick Tse plays a cool safe cracker struggling to readjust to civilian life after 15 years in the slammer. He finds salvation in the form of Ms. Mak (Patsy Ka Ling) and her probationary school – a half way house for waifs and strays. But his criminal background has not gone unnoticed by the evil One-Eye Jack (the brilliant Shek Kin on full pantomime mode) who sets about destroying his life until he accepts his place among the underworld.

The film seems to suggest there is help for ex-cons if they want it, but judging by the dismissive role of the police force (personified by writer-director-actor Patrick Lung Kong’s condescending inspector), the temptation to stray is all too predictable. The film also shows a city on the rise, albeit too quick for many of its inhabitants. The location shots of Hong Kong as a burgeoning metropolis make the film absolutely fascinating, not to mention the sense of style, which is a mixture of the first James Bond films and the sort of kitsch excitement you would expect to find in the original Batman TV series (or, perhaps, The Green Hornet, which is probably the more apt comparison). Kung fu movie nerds should also note Lau Kar-wing (brother of Lau Kar-leung) as the film’s fight coordinator, or as the jazzy opening titles more accurately describe as the “pugilist choreographer”. It’s hammy but amiable stuff, and a fascinating time piece.

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