I used to wonder what a triad movie directed by a woman would be like, and I got my answer with Sylvia Chang’s Run Papa Run. I like the premise of exploring triad life from a different point of view, giving us something we haven’t seen before. So Chang’s subject matter of the tensions between domestic and gang life, as well as her use of direct address to the camera by Louis Koo, was refreshing. In fact, I was really liking this film until I got to the part I didn’t like, namely, how despite his best efforts, the gang life continues to intrude on the domestic life. Which would work for me as a viewer if not for the fact that this wasn’t a story where the wife didn’t know about the husband’s activities (she meets him in the police station–she’s his lawyer). She knew what she was getting herself (and her potential family) into. What did she think was going to happen? Then, the film seems to harp on the protagonist’s failure to reform and change his ways.
I don’t know about other girls, but this girl prefers her triad movies to not insult her intelligence in this fashion. This plays into the stereotypical behavior ascribed to women, i.e. oh, I can change that man. That man is a gangster, and either you are going to be like Andy Lau’s wife in Century of the Dragon and get with the program, or be whiny about how your man is a criminal. Either let gang life take its toll, or work out a compromise: upstanding citizen by day, triad boss by night. But don’t drain the film of its inherent qualities as a film on the triads to fulfill some expectation about what you think women want to see in a triad film. I like triad films because they are triad films: loyalties get tested, people get shot.