True Colours

Reviewed by YTSL

In 1986, Ti Lung -- a former Shaw Brothers star who made his acting debut back in 1969 and has continued to appear in films to this day -- appeared in a total of two movies.  The earlier of them was that year’s box office champ (“A Better Tomorrow” also is notable for having jump-started Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo’s careers).  The second was this Cinema City crime drama that was released in theatres at the tail end of a calendar year which saw a total of eighty-seven Hong Kong films -- including two other offerings with Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia in its cast in the form of the magnificent “Peking Opera Blues” and moody “Dream Lovers” -- getting screened in local cinemas.

As regular visitors to know full well, this (re)viewer is an unrequited Brigittephile (who is able to derive much delight in watching her carrying out even the most mundane of acts).  And while my admiration of Ti Lung cannot approach the extent or intensity of my affection for the goddess of an actress who portrayed his character’s lady love in this Kirk Wong helmed work, he -- who apparently is the husband of her best friend in real life -- actually is one of those whose charismatic presence alone can save many a film for me.  Consequently, my feeling prior to viewing TRUE COLOURS was that -- at the very least -- I surely would be able to like a good portion of that which did, after all, have her as its leading lady and gave him second billing (after its producer cum scriptwriter, Raymond Wong).
Upon my catching sight of TRUE COLOURS’s chubby cheeked main man -- in front of as well as behind the camera -- however, my heart couldn’t help but immediately sink.  Simply put: It probably only ever was in Raymond Wong’s own dreams where he could credibly come across as a tough guy (and “heng tai” of Ti Lung’s far more convincingly macho character, to boot).  And as if it wasn’t already difficult enough to take seriously those of the movie’s opening scenes that had his Robert and Ti Lung’s Ho Lung characters “rumbling” against other goo wat jai types (and then running away in fright after one of them had stabbed a policeman), there’s also the former’s fairly sudden transformation into a do-gooder Christian priest (whose particular mission appeared to be one which involved his trying to keep potential delinquents from going further astray) to contend with!
Just as I was about to give up all hope with regards to this movie however, Ti Lung’s character came back into the picture as someone who had finally decided to cease leading a fugitive’s life and return to Hong Kong.  In retrospect, the brief interval during which TRUE COLOURS focused, for a change, on this men’s man and the relations he was able to form with Robert’s orphan teen charges -- including a terribly dubbed hot head named James -- might well be the film’s best as well as happiest.  Alternatively, although some might say the same of the initial moments of Lung’s reunion with May, I have to admit to feeling a bit weirded out by watching an obviously virile Ti Lung and absolutely stunning Brigitte Lin’s acting all hot and bothered in a distinctly sexual way (:S).
And worse was to come in the face, not only of Lung’s discovery of May now being the maltreated wife of a rich and powerful Triad (named Fuk Dung Wing), but also of that older man’s discovery of the two old flames’ having gotten further reacquainted with each other in his apartment.  I.e., not content with literally throwing Lung out of a window (albeit while he was tied to a rope that dangled from one of its bars), the far from nice Mr. Fuk proceeded to additionally publicly humiliate May (by doing such as boasting at full volume -- and this while Lung and Robert were in the vicinity -- re his having made his wife cry out louder in bed than she had told him that she ever could) plus privately batter her.
As one might expect, all this does not sit well with the full blooded man that May admitted to still carrying a torch for (despite his not having contacted her even once in the five years that he was on the run).  Accordingly, Lung decides to act to get her away from the influential -- including with certain crooked police officers -- individual who had forced her to marry him and back into his loving arms.  If only TRUE COLOURS had not also devoted an inordinate amount of time on his buddy Robert’s preachily inveighing Lung to forget his beloved so that both she as well as he can get on with the rest of their life (as well as essentially choose the coward’s option at almost every turn).  As it stands though, I am obliged to frustratedly concur with Roger Garcia’s damning assertion that Raymond Wong and “his pretentious little epithets...have together destroyed what could have been a masterpiece in style” (See the “Looking Back at 1986” section of the HKIFF’s “Hong Kong Cinema ’79-’89”, 2000:102).

My rating for this film: 5.5