In this hilarious triad movie parody, celebrity cook “Roast Pork” finds his idyllic life turn topsy-turvy when his old mentor comes out of nowhere and commands him to be the successor of his gang.
Once a Gangster (Nguoi Trong Giang Ho: Gac Kiem) is a rather odd combination of humor, violence and tightly intertwined plot lines. It borrows heavily from Snatch and Lock Stock, which is not necessarily a bad thing. At times overacted, it tends to substitute flashy editing for meaty story and characterization. There is a fair bit of over-acting and it tends to get quite boring at several stages.
That point is key to the movie, which unfortunately is grounded in a modern-day Hong Kong political correctness. Hardly any of the gangsters even smoke, and an anti-drugs message is even stitched in at the end. That directly works against the humour it’s trying to evoke. And Zhuang’s signature as a director is not strong enough to carry the movie. Zheng (Ekin Cheng or Trinh Y Kien) also animates the second half as Yu’s son. And Liu Haolong is occasionally funny as an incompetent version of the mole played by Liang Chaowei (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) in Infernal Affairs. But the whole film could have been much sharper under a more experienced director. Production values are modest.
Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan (Tran Tieu Xuan) are back. Writer-director Felix Chong’s Once a Gangster brings back the Young and Dangerous boys in a triad movie satire about aging gangsters thrust into a potential gang war where only one can emerge victorious.
Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but far from great. If you don’t mind a pedestrian movie that’s more amusing than earth-shattering, this would suit you fine.