Despite having a familiar plot, Once a Gangster tries to be atypical by touching on politics, drugs and social issues in Hong Kong.
The film reunites three actors from 1996's Young and Dangerous - Jordan Chan Siu-chun, Ekin Cheng Yi-kin and Hong Kong's answer to Richard Gere, Alex Fong Chung-shun. Far more than a triad tale, it pokes fun at the city's social problems.
The film begins with a young Chan joining a triad led by Fong. His dream is to own a restaurant, so he works very hard to get ahead and be recognised by the triad leaders. Twenty years later, he becomes the successful owner of a restaurant chain and has a beautiful wife and two children.
However, Fong is in trouble - he took HK$10 million from triad funds to make investments but lost all the money. He appoints Chan as the new leader so that his allies in the triad can top up the bank account before the whole group finds out.
Cheng only appears towards the second half of the film, as a senior triad member who has just been freed from jail.
Various characters take turns to reflect the downsides of joining a triad.
While Once a Gangster is a bit cheesy - you could pop out to the bathroom any time without missing anything important - the film is sincere in spreading an anti-drug, anti-triad message to youngsters.
Contains scenes of violence
YP rating: 3/5