Partners -- *** (out of 5)   (2002)

Cast: Michael Wong, Simon Yam, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Mary Kwan, Lihan Pang

Directed By Bee Chan

PARTNERS isn't a great movie, but it is well-directed and acted, and in this era of dumb gangster films, it's better than your average flick.  Obvious influences in Bee Chan's style comes from the works of Martin Scorsese and John Woo, combining betrayals, violence, and religious overtures into a tale of the rise and fall of a small gang of partners in crime.  With Eric Tsang in the mix, it's hard not to draw comparisons to Joe Pesci, although he isn't quite as menacing.  Chan's style is impressive for a relative newcomer, especially when you consider he keeps this action flick afloat without a particularly good script.

The trio of Wong, Yam and Tsang play one of Hong Kong's most wanted crew of thieves, with each partner the best at what he does.  Wong is the brains, Yam is the guns, and Tsang is the chief that binds them together, keeping them alive by wheeling and dealing with the local crime bosses.  An undercover cop infiltrates their operation as the wheelman, but they sniff him out quick, and deal him a bit of payback.  However, Tsang begins to lose sight of their goals by trying to get the others involved in a revenge plot for the death of his wife, and internal squabbles soon come to a head among this ambitious crew. 

At under 80 minutes, there really isn't enough meat on this barebones flick to make it stand out, but with such a threadbare script, we should be thankful it wasn't padded to two hours of monotony.  Admittedly, there are a lot of loose ends that are never explored, and the ending feels abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying.

Even if PARTNERS is competent, it is extremely derivative in its story and delivery, so much so that you'll probably forget it not soon after the credits roll.  It's appeal comes only for fans of the three stars, or for people who like well-directed, operatic action.  In that vein, it's better to watch a John Woo or Scorcese film if you are in the mood for this kind of film, but if you've seen all of those and yearn for much more, I suppose PARTNERS can be added to the already lengthy list of decent imitators.

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