To say I was looking forward to I Did It My Way would be an understatement. Being a massive fan of Hong Kong action movies, Jason Kwan’s crime saga was too tantalizing a project to miss, what with it being filled with a cast made up of both superstars and quality character actors. Not only do we have Andy Lau, Gordon Lam and Eddie Peng in leading roles, but the supporting cast are made up of such luminaries as Lam Suet, Philip Keung and best of all, Simon Yam.
Opening amidst a drug deal, we are quickly introduced to Chan Chiu-sang (Philip Keung), the supposed “The Boss”, a mysterious crime boss currently being investigated by the head of the cybercrime investigation unit, Eddie Fong (Eddie Peng). He and his superior Chung Kam-ming (Simon Yam) have information that this could be “The Boss” one last drug deal in person before he moves his business online to the dark web.
It quickly becomes apparent that Chan may not be the criminal mastermind the police expected him to be, especially after the appearance of his lawyer George Lam (Andy Lau). Lam is the one clearly wielding the power, with him swiftly becoming Fong’s number one suspect.
It won’t be easy for Fong as Lam has many protectors around him, with assassin Sau Ho (Gordon Lam a.k.a Lam Ka Tung) seemingly willing to kill anyone who threatens Lam. However, Sau Ho may not be who he initially appears to be, with it being possible that he is Fong’s one hope of finally bringing down Lam.
Better known as a cinematographer, Jason Kwan turned his attention to directing in 2017, with his first directorial credit being the forgettable A Nail Clippers Romance (2017). A harmless bit of fluff, it wasn’t the kind of work that would ever put him on the map. Lucky for him he was able to follow it up with the terrific Chasing the Dragon (2017) which he co-directed with the prolific Wong Jing. He continued his collaboration with Jing for the sequel Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (2019), another well made crime drama filled with quality performances and tense action scenes.
With both Chasing the Dragon films, it is unclear how much of the success could be laid at Kwan’s feet, although knowing Wong Jing’s work I think it’s safe to say that Kwan was at least responsible for a good deal of their quality. Personally I am quite the fan of many of Jing’s movies, but he’s never been the most subtle or highbrow of directors, with both Chasing the Dragon films having an air of quality about them that is absent from a great percentage of Jing’s previous or recent work.
Kwan’s return to the directors chair with I Did It My Way finds him going solo for the first time since 2017. Similarly to the Chasing the Dragon films, I Did It My Way has a quality mix of drama, quality performances and blistering action scenes, with just a few issues that stop it from being the full blown classic that I had hoped for.
Kwan certainly kicks things off with a bang, with a well staged warehouse shootout that introduces us to many of the film’s principal characters. Employing Chin Ka-lok as action choreographer makes this and the subsequent action set pieces stand out, with an assortment of shootouts, car chases and hand to hand fight scenes all making sure the film moves along at a terrific pace.
It’s a shame that Chin Ka-lok doesn’t appear on screen as well as working behind the scenes, although with the surplus of quality actors in the film already I’m not sure where he would have fit in. It could have also taken his attention away from the action which would be a shame. This might not be Ka-lok’s finest work but his action is still of a high quality. If I was to compare it to any of his previous action design work it would probably be Cold War (2012) which was coincidentally shot by Jason Kwan as well as featuring Andy Lau.
If taken just from an action standpoint, I Did It My Way would be a clear winner, but some issues with the script bring the film down. While the on screen drama that ensues manages to be gripping, albeit riddled with cliches, its depiction of the internet and the dark web is frankly ridiculous. I understand it must be difficult to make people typing away on computers appear interesting, let alone exciting, but surely Kwan could have come up with something more believable than what is shown here.
One particular scene has multiple people purchasing drugs through the use of a phone app, with them all hitting the on screen buttons as fast as possible to buy as much drugs as they can. Obviously these types of scenes are meant to be shocking, but instead come off as laughable showing that both Kwan and screenwriter Sau Sing-Yip don’t have a clear understanding of how this technology actually works. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert, but I don’t think the “dark web” is like something out of The Matrix (1999).
Still, one complaint that can’t be levied at I Did it My Way is that it’s boring, with the quality cast able to overcome the film’s more illogical moments and fill the film with genuine drama and excitement. Even when the script makes his character seem totally irrational, Andy Lau still commands attention, with this being one of his most villainous performances yet. Sure, Lau has played bad guys before, with memorable turns in the likes of Fulltime Killer (2001) and Protégé (2007), but he is at his most ruthless and vindictive here.
During the film, Lau’s George Lam double crosses a South American drug lord which results in a personal tragedy as a team of mercenaries attack him during his wedding in Malaysia. Inexplicably, Lam lays blame at the Hong Kong Police, both for their pursuit of him and their failure to protect his loved ones. Some may put Lam’s illogical response down to poor writing, whereas I saw it as a character so far gone that he is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions.
The script does give Lam some humanity so he isn’t a black and white villain. Lau shows Lam’s vulnerability through his love for his pregnant fiance (Cya Liu). He also genuinely cares about his friends, especially Gordon Lam’s Sau Ho. He is genuinely saddened when it appears Sau Ho may have betrayed him.
In terms of action, Lau doesn’t take part in much of the film’s set pieces, with it getting to the halfway point before we even see him brandishing a firearm, where he attempts to shoot his way through the army of mercenaries at his wedding. He does get involved again during the finale, but not on the same scale as either Gordon Lam or Eddie Peng.
Speaking of Lam, as great as Lau is, Lam gives the film’s best performance, with his character being morally complex. Lam perfectly conveys his character’s conflicted emotions, with him growing close to Lau’s character but at the same time knowing that he has to be stopped.
Lam has always been an accomplished performer but recently he has just been knocking it out the park, with him becoming one of China’s most interesting actors. Films like Hand Rolled Cigarette (2020), Limbo (2021) and Dust to Dust (2023) are all perfect examples of Lam’s talent as well as being quality crime thrillers in their own right.
Eddie Peng is the closest the film has to a clear cut hero, and because of that is the blandest of the three lead characters. Unlike Lau or Lam’s characters, his dedicated cop is just that, throwing himself into his job in order to bring the bad guys to justice. Peng does bring some cocky swagger to his performance, with him having something of an attitude, especially during an early scene between him, Simon Yam and Lam Suet.
Although he doesn’t get as much to chew on character wise, Peng is an immensely likeable performer and still manages to entertain, especially during his action scenes. A stand out is a one on one fight between him and an assassin who is on the hunt for Lam’s character. It takes place in a wine shop where the two of them violently throw each other through store displays, smashing bottles off each other at every opportunity.
In smaller roles, Simon Yam, Lam Suet and Philip Keung all add a degree of class to proceedings. Yam gets the most screen time of the three, with him even getting slightly involved in the action in the later stages of the film. The role doesn’t ask much of Yam other than being his typical charismatic self.
I would have liked there to be more of Suet, with him a welcome addition to any film. I was hoping his character would have had more to do with the main plot but for the most part he sits it out. Keung on the other hand does terrific work even in his limited screen time. With it initially appearing he may be the criminal mastermind the police are after, Keung quickly unravels, showing off his talent in just a few scenes.
I Did It My Way will be released stateside on the 12th of January by Well Go USA. Whilst it isn’t the full blown classic that I had hoped for, it’s still an enjoyable action thriller bolstered by quality star turns from Andy Lau and Gordon Lam. Any fans of the Hong Kong actioners of the 80’s and 90’s will find a lot to enjoy, with it sharing many of the same themes and motifs of the works of John Woo, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To. Perhaps not on par with those directors’ best works, it’s probably the closest we are going to get these days.
Plot: 3.5/5 Acting: 4/5 Action: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.7/5