Three gangsters in trench-coats spray the screen with bullets during the title sequence, which also features a montage highlighting the general camaraderie and bond between the men. They are Ton, the leader of the group (Kao Chiang), Fong (Chang Yi-Tao) and Third (Go Lim-Gwok), a trio of sworn blood brothers on the rise in the Taiwan underworld. After brokering a truce between two rival bosses, Hu and Chow, Ton is rewarded a highly lucrative patch of land downtown to conduct his business. A female Uzi-toting drug dealer named Lily (Yuan Chia-Pei) is caught selling in Ton's territory and a bloody tit-for-tat ensues, erupting in a full-scale gun battle in broad daylight. Lily escapes unscathed and joins forces with Chow with the aim to put an end to Ton and his gang.
Meanwhile, another leading underworld boss named Chou starts to take notice of Ton. Initially the two men are cautious of each other but a series of chance meetings brings Ton together with Chou's daughter Yuin (Chui Pei-Yi). Ton and Yuin begin to date, and despite a troubled start to the relationship, they soon decide to marry. But, as well as the increasing threat from Lily's gang, closer to home in Ton's own camp, there are feelings brewing that Ton is losing his touch...
A very entertaining low-budget bullet-ballet from Taiwan, The Other Kind of Death Penalty contains regular bursts of, often unexpected, violence with bloody gun battles unfolding onto busy streets and crowded public places. Yuan Chia-Pei as the ruthless and trigger-happy Lily is great fun to watch as is Kao Chiang who cuts a cool figure as the ruthless but virtuous Ton.
The pace lags a little towards the end before picking up again for the downbeat finale. There is a wedding scene which draws some parallels to the baptism in The Godfather, where the ceremony is intercut with scenes of gun battles and executions. The frequent action mainly consists of gun battles - with bodies frequently riddled with bullets. In places this actually threatens the credibility of the film, as you wonder how some characters were able to survive after being pumped with so much hot lead! Despite a few minor flaws, The Other Kind of Death Penalty is a solid B-movie that is definitely a cut above similar Taiwanese triad films from the same era.
Note: The Korean VHS, although presented in the film's original language (Mandarin) is heavily censored in almost all of the more violent scenes. It is also missing the opening credit sequence montage.
3.5 out of 5
Review sources: Pan Asia, VHS (USA) (Cantonese with English subtitles); Seo Jin Trading, VHS (South Korea) (Mandarin with Korean subtitles)
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