Originally released during the heyday of the Hong Kong heroic bloodshed genre (and sandwiched between Yun-Fat’s genre igniting/defining ‘A Better Tomorrow 1 & 2’), ‘Rich And Famous’ (along with its sequel ‘Tragic Hero’) tells the story of two brothers seduction into the criminal underworld, their inevitable rise and fall, and their eventual split from one another as they take opposing sides. Yung (Man) is caught by some nasty gamblers with mob connections forging a bet and his brother Kwok (Lau) steps in to help but falls foul of the gangsters. When things worsen the brothers enlist the help of Chai (Yun-Fat) an enemy of the gang who have targeted the brothers. He takes them under his wing and the two soon take to the criminal life. But as the two are sucked further into the mob world and its various turf wars and machinations, Yung and Kwok soon find their bond being torn apart as they become enemies rather than allies.
A rather formulaic narrative is given oomph by the excellent cast, all fresh faced and giving it their all early in their careers. Lau and Man are excellent as the once close but then feuding brothers, Lau the calmer and more collected compared to Man’s escalating penchant for violence (and double crossing). Their obvious chemistry gives their relationship believability and the two really go all out when either the drama or the action calls for it. Yun-Fat, in more of a supporting role, is also great as the somewhat kindly gang boss: all cool and suave. While not as good as the other films he was knocking out around the same time (‘Tiger on the Beat’, ‘City on Fire’, the underrated ‘Flaming Brothers’) he’s a welcome addition and brings class to proceedings. There’s also good support from Yun-Fat’s future ‘The Killer’ co-star Danny Lee along with Carina Lau, Shing Fui-On, Pauline Wong and especially Alan Tam as the nervy but likable friend of the brothers.
While certainly heroic bloodshed in nature and theme, ‘Rich And Famous’ unfortunately lacks an abundance of action the genre became known for. There are a couple of action beats, including a stunt heavy showdown and a superb shoot-out about 40 minutes in. There are also a couple of decent Blacky Ko car stunts. However, ‘Rich And Famous’ leans more on the drama side which is a bit hit and miss. Not always as gritty as it could be and with a somewhat wandering tone during the first half, the flick isn’t always as engaging and as tense as it ought to be. At times it feels like a diluted copy of better heroic bloodshed fare but helmer Taylor Wong does keep proceedings ticking along with some brutal violence and the game cast.
Not the best example of heroic bloodshed from the golden age but an entertaining footnote in the careers of heavy hitters Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau, and certainly worth checking out for completists. Eureka’s new Blu-ray edition looks fantastic and comes with the superior sequel, ‘Tragic Hero’, which continues the story and sees the cast return.