Dragon Loaded - Finally, We Have a 'Growing Up' Story

The cinema world is demarcated by landmarks. The last three years are marked by films on the Hong Kong spirit, nostalgia and our future. In 2001, it was Shaolin Soccer and in 2002 we had Infernal Affairs and Golden Chicken. As for 2003, to date, it probably is PTU and the sleeper hit Dragon Loaded 2003.

Shaolin Soccer is actually a melancholic story. Forty-year-old Stephen Chow tells us a story with the moral that "It is better to have some ideals." At the end, Shaolin kungfu takes the world by storm. What a beautiful picture, and this is our "ideal". But it is still a film with a mature sentiment. Infernal Affairs, with its intrigues, gives us a lecture that the world really is not made up of black and white - the spirit that Hong Kong people live by and live to the full. Golden Chicken is nostalgia on the side of Under the Lion Rock. In Johnnie To's PTU, we are reminded of the importance of teamwork, taking care of your teammates, principles and loyalty, and the fact that every party has its own agenda. Though, at then end, the firearm is recovered through a bit of luck. This is the truly adult world.

Everything is so "grown-up".

It is until Dragon Loaded 2003 that we finally have a long-missed "kid growing up" story. This film allows a younger man to tell his life story through his eyes. He belongs to the affluent generation who are educated and informed and who live in a prosperous society with opportunities. Somehow, probably because everything comes so easy, they feel that they are not taken seriously. The world goes on whether they are there or not. This is their "crap's story". Ronald Cheng's putting a brave face to the world is a typical representation. A man who needs to keep talking non-stop must feel something wanting inside.

"Either I don't make it or I have to make it big." - They are crap but they do have the most simple and direct wish. Hong Kong people can easily relate to it as they feel that they have been in adversity for far too long. In the film, Lung Wai is dumped from one police department to another, "washroom maintenance included". It is not unlike the trial of the Eighteen Bronzemen. Falling in love makes him grow up and he finally proves himself in a solo fight. That simple? Yes, it is that simple. But it has a very clear message:

From Shaolin Soccer to PTU, the theme is on man versus fate. There are things that are under our control and there are things that are beyond us. Dragon Loaded 2003 marks something different: its theme is the realization that our problem lies within. Many of our problems cannot be blamed on others.

It is actually the other side of the coin but to the Hong Kong people it represents a new revelation. The last of a three-year line-up, yet Dragon Loaded 2003 is the most junior at heart and the most introspective. It is recommended to the young and to the place where it had its good days, its days in the cloud and now has come down with a thud - it is Hong Kong nostalgia the young edition. It is a growing up story of three kids, played by the over-aged Ronald Cheng, Sam Lee and Cheung Tat-ming. It is because they have some life and emotional experience that they can bring the characters to life. Does it mean that we have never been grown-ups after all?

By Patti Ng

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