The producer/director team of Johnny and Michael Mak have been responsible for some of Hong Kong’s best known and roughest crime movies. Titles like The Long Arm of the Law and To Be Number One were often based on actual people and events. The sexploitation classic Sex and Zen was also a Mak release.
In Island of Greed, the Mak brothers turn their cameras towards crime and corruption in Taiwan, with a factional retelling of the 1995 general election where triad kingpin Chao Chiu-Sen attempted to buy his way into Taiwan’s legislative assembly. A position in government would make Sen and his criminal empire virtually untouchable by the law. Anti-corruption officer Fong Kuo-Fai (stolidly represented by Canto superstar Andy Lau) has the seemingly impossible job of legally thwarting Sen’s future legislative career.
Sen’s path to political success is soon strewn with mangled and bloodied bodies, as he takes on the Taiwanese authorities and rival triad figures. Tony Leung-Ka-Fai’s (Election, Dumplings) portrayal of this wannabe politician is of a man driven to power through violence, and in private, a sadist with bizarre sexual needs.
Jackie Chan’s regular cinematographer, Jingle Ma, supplies the impressive cinemascope visuals of urban and rural Taiwan. A brilliantly staged cat and mouse sequence set in a Taipei night market has Fai and his team being hunted by an underworld hit squad.
The sleaze factor of this movie is emphasised with the brutal murder of a triad boss by a black prostitute/assassin, who during a vigorous sex session places a gun in the gangster’s mouth and shoots him. Whilst still astride him she brings herself to an Amy Yip-like orgasm.
Unfortunately, Island of Greed is marred by a ridiculous (and very sloppily choreographed) Rambo style “kill ’em all” action ending. From what could have been a landmark crime movie, Island of Greed manages to shoot itself squarely in the foot.