The Delinquent (1973)

Reviewed by Kung Fu Bob O’Brien
September 20, 2015


Wang Chun • Lily Li Li-Li • Fan Mei-Sheng • Lo Dik • Dean Shek Tin • Betty Pei Ti • Tung Lam • Fung Hak-On
Street Gangs of Hong Kong
Chang Cheh • Kuei Chih-hung
Liu Chia-Liang • Tang Chia
IVL/Celestial region 3, 16×9 anamorphic widescreen DVD, Mandarin audio, English subtitles.

DELINQUENT 1- Article Photos

This gritty urban drama opens with a great, fish-eye lens, psychedelic-colored credits sequence, and segues right into atmospheric shots of Hong Kong circa 1973. Young street brawler Shen Chang (Wang Chung) is working as a dishwasher / delivery boy in a scummy little restaurant. His Mom left his hardworking security guard father for a wealthy butcher, and the local punks antagonize him relentlessly. He is the model of disaffected youth, with nothing to show for himself, except his formidable fighting skills. There’s a sweet girl that pines for him (Lily Li in a non action role), but he can’t see anything beyond his dreams of wealth and fame. He wants to do the right thing, to prove his resourcefulness, and support the old man so he can retire. But they just can’t see eye to eye despite their obvious love for one another. The father worries that his son will take an unscrupulous path to easy money, while the son thinks his dad has given away his youth as a workhorse, with nothing to show for it. While the son is honing his martial skills in their small apartment, Dad is practicing kung fu on the roof. Despite their similarities, the generation gap defies them to understand one another.

Shen Chang battles his tormentors in a junkyard where both sides use pipes and car parts in a savage brawl. His fists triumph, but his endless trouble-making gets him fired. His expertise does not go unnoticed. The boss of the nine men he’s just beaten wants to recruit him. All he has to do is get the combination for the safe in a warehouse full of goods. Problem is, it’s the warehouse his father protects. The money he’s promised would be enough to take care of he and his father, but at what price? It’s impossible not to hope this kid will make it through this test of morals, and devastating when you see him caving in to the fabulous temptations dangled before him.

This is the odd action film peopled with emotionally complex characters. The acting is above average, and the story draws you right in. You can certainly see where each of the characters is coming from, and hope they’ll find a common ground before it’s too late. The director’s styles mesh well, with the action more realistic than Chang’s heroic bloodshed films, and the subtext more meaningful due no doubt to Kuei’s deft hand. Tang Chia and Pops provide the exciting choreography, deftly delivered by Wang Chung, inluding a little gun-play, and modern props like a fire hose, forklift, spear gun, bottles, and even musical instruments as makeshift weapons, alongside the requisite knives, poles and fire . There are some outstanding action sequences littered with memorable bits. A man is beaten and pinned to the floor by a burning chair, a motorbike gang attacks using 2×4″s, and oft bungling performer Dean Shek is wrapped in a net, beaten, and strangled while being drown in a Jacuzzi! Plus, the final fight is one long, frenzied act of brutal vengeance that you won’t soon forget.

After a few years of working his way up from an extra to supporting roles in films like NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1971) and FOUR RIDERS (1972), Wang Chun finally got his shot at headlining a feature with THE DELINQUENT, and he doesn’t disappoint.  The always reliable character actor Lo Dik (DISCIPLES OF SHAOLIN, 1975) plays the father, and the believability of his character’s convictions is the emotional foundation upon which the story’s plot depends. Lo plays the role to perfection. There are lots of other familiar faces here too, like Fan Mei-Sheng (the drunken beggar from MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER, 1979), perpetual bad guy Fung Hak-On (WARRIORS TWO, 1978), Betty Pei Ti (CLANS OF INTRIGUE, 1977), and Yen Shi-Kwan (FEARLESS HYENA, 1979).

This is another solid-looking Shaw Brothers production, with high quality filmmaking all around. The location work gives viewers a good time-capsule look at the city in the early ’70s, and you can practically smell the vendor’s cooking, and feel the humidity in the air as you watch.

Though it’s a portrait of a whole different generation, THE DELINQUENT may be considered Hong Kong’s take on REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955), as it features plenty of youthful angst, disapproving adults, and a big helping of ‘brawl fu’ fights throughout. Highly recommended.