Delinquent, The (1973) Review

"The Delinquent" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Delinquent” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Chang Cheh, Kuei Chih-Hung
Producer: Runme Shaw
Cast: Wong Chung (Wang Chung), Lily Li Li-Li, Booi Dai (Betty Pei Ti, Betty Tei Pei), Fan Mei Sheng, Dean Shek Tin, Lo Dik, Fung Hak On, Tung Lam, Wong Kwong Yue, Yen Shi Kwan
Running Time: 101 min.

By Joe909

I was a little hard on this movie, because I felt that Chang Cheh’s handling of the (mostly) same story, four years later in Chinatown Kid, was more entertaining. In fact, I like Chinatown Kid a lot (glad I hung onto my Ocean Shores video release, as I hear the Celestial DVD features the Asian region-only “happy” ending), because it handles a tragic story with the Shaw Brothers vibe you love and expect. The Delinquent instead attempts to head down the “serious movie” route, but unfortunately veers into melodrama.

Wang Chung is our unlikable hero John, who’s near to bursting with rage. He lives with his dad, a burly warehouse security guard who is basically penniless. John’s just a misunderstood kid, given to actually shaking with rage (looks as stupid as it sounds) and fighting with his dad. Apparently the old bastard used to beat his mother around, and now she’s flown the coop, but John stays loyal to his father.

Things meander for a bit, with John getting into the occasional scrape with a group of thugs. Turns out these thugs are part of a larger organization, which has its goals set on a certain key ring that just happens to be locked up in a certain safe in a certain warehouse, which is guarded by a certain father of a certain young delinquent, who happens to be our certain hero John.

The thugs want John to get the lock combination from his dad, so they can get the key ring. First they try to persuade John with sex (lots of full-frontal here, but the way it’s filmed, I have a feeling we aren’t seeing our main actresses’ skin; you never see her face in any of the body shots), then violence, then with friendly persuasion, a new girl, and a fast car. The latter combination is the charm. John gets them the combo, but after a tragic twist of fate, his father ends up going to work the night the gang plans to break in.

The film’s previous fights were mostly down and dirty scuffles (save for a bit where John is impaled by a hook and dragged around by thugs, though I must mention that after this happens, it isn’t mentioned again, and John appears unharmed!), but here John’s dad engages in a bloodthirsty fight to the death with several punks. You can imagine how this fight ends.

Now John wants vengeance. He gets it, in several hectic and violent fight scenes. Lots of props are used as weapons, and Shaws blood spurts freely. It’s not as violent as Vengeance or Chinese Super Ninjas, but it’s not as tame as Disney, either. In fact, the fights in The Delinquent leave you feeling more disturbed than enthralled, and I assume this was the directors’ intent.

Chang Cheh co-directs this one, and I wonder what the level of his involvement was. The first half of the film comes off more as a drama, with the latter half morphing into your usual Chang bloodfest, so maybe that’s the part he took the biggest role in directing. Regardless, I still felt that the movie was a bit too melodramatic for its own good, and that you could see where the story was going from a mile away. The ending however saves the film, and elevates it above similar sob-story movies about troubled youth.

Joe909’s Rating: 6/10

By Mighty Peking Man

Fans of Chang Cheh’s later film, Chinatown Kid (1977), may get an equal kick out of The Delinquent, starring Wang Chung as John, a rebellious teenager who can hold his own during the toughest street brawls. The story, though not as complex, is a similar tale of poverty, struggle and one teenager’s careless decision to get involved with the violent underworld. Showered with sex, convertible sports cars, and thousand-dollar suits; The gangsters corrupt his mind and blackmail him into releasing secret information for a profitable transaction. Of course, his negligent actions come back to haunt him. Not only does it put him in danger, but also puts his hard-working father in a life-threatening fiasco.

Chang Cheh must have been pissed off at something during production of the film. The opening credits — which have Wang Chung’s character in a deep rage, smashing through boards of what appear to be past and modern illustrations of urban Hong Kong — hint that the movie is extremely dark and will not have a happy ending. Even the music is scratchy and distorted, releasing the sense of “a living hell.” It’s easily one of the most in-your-face credit sequences I’ve ever seen, and also one of the coolest (even surpassing Five Element Ninja’s “blood ring” opening).

The Delinquent is drama ridden, but obviously has enough action to be tagged a straight kung fu flick. It’s filled with crisp fights (courtesy of Lau Kar Leung), neat motorbike chases, and a bloody finale that only Chang Cheh is capable of; And of course, we get the eye-candy of modern day Hong Kong in the early 70’s; so expect lots of funky clothing, psychedelic sets and lots of Mascara on those call-girl babes.

It’s films like these that set the ground for movies years later like Brian De Palma’s Scarface and Benny Chan’s Moment of Romance. Considering the time it was made, it’s gutsy, and the true-to-life characterization, The Delinquent proves that Chang Cheh is the real deal when it comes to the genre of ultra-violence.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 9/10

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