6 May 2005 | fourletterfury
"A strong depiction of a fascinating time and place in history..."
Don Kit Mak's Epic, Ultra Big-Budget film of the rise and fall of arguably the most powerful Godfather of 20th Century China is certainly an interesting experience.
Luk Yu-San (Ray Lui) is a petty fruit seller with ambition who seeks the money and respect of those great men carted through the streets. One day, he does a good deed and earns mob money for some friends and family, while gaining the recognition of the slimy, corrupt local Police Inspector (Kent Cheng). While falling for a local, prestigious girl (Cecilia Yip), Luk Yu-San begins his gradual climb of the underworld ladder, working with gangsters from both sides of the law and establishing himself as an up-and-coming local icon.
Despite being somewhat overlong and at times falling into irrelevant detail, the film is saved by a strong cast, a clearly competent director, and genuinely impressive production values. Originally shot as one long epic film, it was subsequently broken into parts I and II (the other half being "Lord of East China Sea 2") with the belief that the overall running time was too long. With this first part of the story running at nearly two and a half hours, this is probably true. Nevertheless, the subject is handled with care and does produce a strong depiction of a fascinating time and place in history. Despite inevitable flaws, the film certainly deserves attention and praise by international audiences. The over romanticized plot seems to give the film a more theatrical "feel" but is not detrimental to the engaging characters, particularly Kent Cheng's Chief Wong, whose arrogant and brash depiction of the Police Inspector seems to give the film a whole other dimension.
A combination of enjoyable big-budget epic and history lesson, but be sure to see Part II for the conclusion and to excuse the abrupt ending of this first chapter of "The Lord of East China Sea".