Once Upon A Time In Triad Society (1996)

Directed by
Still razor sharp
Reviewed by Simon on 2023-01-14

ONCE UPON A TIME IN TRIAD SOCIETY is a deconstruction and satire of the YOUNG & DANGEROUS films, with a tour de force performance from Francis Ng as a similar character to the one he plays there, recounting how he became a Triad as his life flashes before his eyes.

The film is split into two halves, the first being a rather self-serving version of events told by our unreliable narrator, with a reset mid-way to give us something that might be closer to the truth. It has a similar structure and to some extent style to Wai Ka-Fai's Too Many Ways To Be No. 1, but predates it by a year.

There's really nothing in either the writer or director's filmography to suggest they had something this clever and stylish in them, but the only loosely related Part 2 is almost as good so it can't have been a total fluke.

I'm revising this from a 5 star to a 4 star because I've tried to bring some meaning to my ratings, four stars being "I would recommend this to anyone who likes this sort of thing" and five stars being "I would recommend this to anyone, period", i.e. it's a good film to introduce somebody to the genre. This film probably wouldn't be quite as enjoyable without quite a lot of prior knowledge and context of Hong Kong Triad films (especially of the 1990's), so I can't recommend it without qualification..