Yue Song writes, produces, stars, directs and edits ‘The King of the Streets’, his first feature film shot in mainland China. Yes, he is a Bruce-Lee-like one-man band wannabe, but still manages to play out of tune with himself.
Not as impressive an achievement as one could think, taking into account that doing just one of the jobs above well is pretty hard in itself… no wonder that dividing the finite attention and talent one person can have into so many chores brings about bad results. Unless you are a genius. And Yue Song isn’t.
The final outcome: an 87 minute demo reel for Mr. Song’s limited scenic martial arts skills ostentation. Every other ingredient in the film is even further below subpar: a too stereotypical, poorly written script; amateurish performances only forgivable in a school project short film; cheesy and abrupt über-editing; a cheap, seemingly ultra quickly made casiotonish (casio-esque?) score; a weary ‘one-sound-effect-in-every-zoom’ sound editing; and, at last and least, tasteless and dull camera work.
Only in a few isolated shots could the DP manage some cool looks and lighting… not nearly enough to compensate the boredom. Damn… even in the official trailer you can read: “A YUE SONG FLIM”!
The story? You’ve already seen it a lot of times, and a lot better: a young street thug (Yue Feng, played by Yue Song) accidentally kills a member of a rival gang and end up behind bars for 8 years. In prison, he reads a lot of books and changes his ways, wanting to live a ‘simple life’, only to find out that destiny has other plans for him as he gets out of jail. You know, ‘just when I thought I was out…‘.
Evasive redemption, disappointing attempts to make amends, living a poor and low-profile life… until the hero has no choice but to resort to violence in order to save an orphanage from a criminal clique’s resort development plan. Wow… what a twist, an orphanage! And a pretty girl, of course (Becki Li in her first main role).
‘The King of the Streets’ seems like just an extension of ‘The Mars Affair’, Yue’s now seemingly unfindable ‘action portfolio’ short (though not that short, as it is 39 minutes long) film, made with the same stunt team (Chang Long’s) plus a fistful of real life professional fighters who don’t do too awful a job.
It’s apparent that they’ve done their homework, cloning Hong Kong’s brawl style as well as they can. But the willingness to get injured in a fight scene isn’t enough; the most realistic and risky stunt needs to be well shot to show the cool stuff and hide the tricks.
Just one example: it seems that the trademark one-against-many fight is a must in this kind of films and of course this one is no exception (counting up to 5 of this multi-melees). OK, let’s give it a go, but making sure that the camera doesn’t reveal the ‘idle fighters’ waiting their turn to make their attack instead of readily stabbing the hero in the back. Not an easy thing to do, and not a thing that Yue could achieve.
This kind of flaw drastically diminishes the value of any other stunts’ efforts, making them look silly, waving their clubs as if they’re scaring away mosquitoes.
In short, although I really want to applaud a mainland China endeavor to challenge dominance of Hong Kong action films, ‘The King of the Streets’ is a failed attempt from a show-off all-in-one action star wannabe. The lesson to learn from it: just because you can do it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. I really hope that Mr. Song realizes this and lets a writer write, a director direct and an editor edit his next film… if there is one.
16 year old Yue Feng (played by Yue Song) accidentally kills a member of another gang and pays for it with 8 years in prison. Once he gets out, he tries to live a simple and peaceful life, but he stumbles upon an orphanage threatened by criminals. He doesn’t have another option but to fight again, this time for a good cause, as his past catches up with him.