The Delinquent (1973)

Gritty social commentary results in bloody fight fest
Reviewed by Simon on 2020-08-05

Wang Chung plays John, a young man struggling to find work and filled with anger at a society where a righteous man who worked hard all his life, like his father, can still be poor. He seems to have inherited his father's talent for kung fu, but gave up training because he felt that the other pupils at the gym look down on him for being poor.

John's skills bring him to the attention of the local gang bosses, but they're even more interested when they discover that his father is the night watchman at a local warehouse they want to rob. They offer money and women to lure John over to their side ... but as we all know, crime doesn't pay.

THE DELINQUENT was co-directed by Chang Cheh and Kuei Chih-Hung and does actually feel like a fusion of their styles, with the kind of urban working class themes that Kuei often featured in his films meeting the machismo and violence of Chang Cheh's kung fu films about half way.

It's a combination that works well here, with the setting providing a convincing motivation for John's rage and the lure of the criminal life, adding impact and tension to the sometimes brutal fight scenes.

Wang Chung had been around for quite a while by this point, but to the best of my knowledge this was his first time in a lead role. He's great, pulling off the "angry young man" persona with intensity and clearly having the physical prowess to make the fight scenes convincing.

The urban setting definitely makes the film stand out, showing Hong Kong's seedier side where poverty and crime are the dominant influences that shape a young man's life. It can be seen as a precursor to films like The Teahouse which tackle the social situation of the 1970's head on.

There are a few places where the film doesn't work so well, most notably a fight scene based on motorcycles that is unconvincing and goes on far too long, but for most of its running time THE DELINQUENT is a thrilling watch with some quite experimental camera work and editing that fits the lurid tone and accentuates the social commentary the film is aiming for.