The Happenings (1980)

Directed by
Decent enough delinquents film
Reviewed by Simon on 2023-05-14

A group of teenagers party all night and commit petty crimes to get by. One night they steal a car, but when they stop to get gas they realise they don't have the money to pay, so they decide to rob a wealthy-looking customer to get some. Things go wrong, someone dies and the kids flee in panic, then things go even more wrong as the carefree outlook of youth that believes itself invincible is torn away.

THE HAPPENINGS is one of a number of "Youth gone wild" films that came out in Hong Kong around the time, most notably Tsui Hark's infamous DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER - FIRST KIND, but juvenile delinquency was to be found in many others too. It no doubt reflected the times in Hong Kong - actually the UK wasn't much different, maybe it was everywhere.

The cast includes a number of first-time actors, most of whom did not go on to have a long and illustrious career, though I don't think their performance here can be blamed for that - maybe they didn't much enjoy the experience though. They actually all do pretty good jobs, giving their characters actual characters that feel true through the wide range of experiences and emotions they go through.

I don't think the film particularly means to be a cautionary tale, even though I will concede on paper it certainly looks like one. It feels more like an exploration of how circumstances can teach you that you are not the person you thought you were. It feels broadly sympathetic to the kids, who are above all else very human, and maybe victims of a popular culture that encourages wanton materialism and hedonism without regard for the future. Alright maybe it is a cautionary tale, but it isn't too moralistic about it.