A man with a Bruce Lee haircut is snorting in the dark. His chest rising and falling rhythmically, the tiger tattooed on the left of his breast expands and compresses with his breath. Suddenly, he sits up in a startle, arms waving wildly in the air, grasping for the knife next to his bed.
A voice in the background starts: Out of ten gangsters, nine have terrible luck. That’s why Li Tian En wakes up from the nightmare of being chased everyday. Luckily they’re just dreams. Then one day, when he thought it was just a dream, he is trapped inside, unable to run out of it, unable to wake up from it…
Today is Li Tian En’s funeral. The birds are still chirping outside, but there will be no more police chasing after him, no more living life on the edge of a knife. Li Tian En would never thought his own funeral would be so properly arranged, not like that of a gangster, at all.
There are numerous rumors about his death. Some said he killed himself out of guilt, some said he died of a gun shot when he was transporting illegal drugs. Whichever way he died, it’s inconsequential. What matters is how to restore order after his death and it’s important to see to it that he is buried next to his mother.
When Li Tian En was alive, he was never on peaceful terms with his mother. Yet experiences from escaping his mother’s stick taught him kung fu. While his mother tended to the wounds of the local gang, the only person she refused to heal was her son. Despite his mother’s obvious objection at Li Tian En being a gangster, he became one anyway. And, was quite good at it.
Soon enough, Li Tian En owned a large number of assets through illegal means. The power and the money taught him how to dispense women like toilet paper. That was until a young lawyer called Mei Bao walked into the police station for a bail. It was a glass shattering, breath taking love at first sight.
They made love in the car the very first night, then repeatedly until she was three months pregnant. Then, she asked him to marry her. He laughed it off, a gangster is in no shape to settle for marriage. Ignoring his nonchalance, she packed her bags and moved to live with Li Tian En and his mom. The mom took one look at the fraile looking woman at the door with the heavy luggage and said, “You are not the first.” She replied, “But I will be the last.”
A month passed, then another, and one more. Mei Bao lived with Li Tian En and his mother all the way through labor. Then in the hospital, on the delivery table, as Mei Bao screams for her life, Li Tian En agreed to marry her. Then the baby came into the world. Mei Bao’s father named her Xi Er for happiness.
The baby’s birth changed everything. For this girl, Li Tian En changed the tiger tattooed on his breast into a cat so the daughter wouldn’t be scared whenever Li Tian En roams around bear chested. He also attempted to legalize all his illegal dealerships, learned to wear a suit in the morning for “work” so Xi Er would never find out about his real occupation. He even converted to catholic for his wife and daughter’s sakes.
But Li Tian En is still a man of the streets. Some traits he adopted during the wild years are just temporarily dormant. He eventually cheated on his wife with a woman in one of his spas. What Li Tian En didn’t expect was that his wife knew about the affair and had been collecting the other woman’s hair in a box.
Perhaps Venus is also disdainful of men who cheat, Li Tian En’s luck started to go down hill. His legalized stores, shops began to close one after the other. He was then left with a huge debt to the higher members of the gang, simply because he’s still a subordinate in the gang and his financial crisis also meant the gang isn’t making profits either. To keep their constant money source at a steady level, they make Li Tian En pay.
Luck continued to slip away from Li Tian En’s grasp. One day out of the spa with the other woman, a car headed towards Li Tian En. He dropped in front of the car and let the vehicle run through him. When he got up after the car passed, he knew he’s in trouble – because the one driving the car was his wife.
His wife eventually forgave him, but his mother was hospitalized for her kidney problems. He was at the hospital when a boy’s bouncing ball rolled in. Li Tian En picked it up and gave back to the boy. His mother stirred in the bed. When Li Tian En was little, he had always wanted a bouncing ball. He made a deal with his mother, if he passes one exam, his mother will have to buy him one. She never did so he stole someone else’s instead. In a later encounter, Li Tian En’s mother reveals that she had indeed bought her son the balls, except, when she found out he had committed theft, she threw away the balls in a fury. With the revelation marked the first mother to son frank confrontation. Soon after, the mother passed away.
Li Tian En had only cried twice in his life. The first marked his existence in the world, the second was during his mother’s funeral.
Yet life leaped ahead whether Li Tian En like it or not. His daughter became a full grown gal and she had a boyfriend, who was ironically, the son of a cop. The over protective father stalked the boy to his home, but eventually resolved to give his daughter the freedom to choose her sweetheart.
More things happened. Ever since after Xi Er’s birth, Li Tian En ceased to curse or participate in illegal activities. This made finance hard to secure and the debt snowballed quicker. To exacerbate the situation, one of his men had to steal all of Tian En’s money from the safe by punching a hole on the wall the safe is backed against from the other side. With that money gone, withdrawing from the gang became even more difficult. Li Tian En would first agree to participate in a drug deal that no one else would do to ameliorate the situation.
While Tian En was stuck in a dilemma between his promise to stay clean and a better life for his daughter and wife, Xi Er slapped someone at the disco and stirred some trouble. When the mother tried to educate the child, the truth came out as angry words. Li Tian En intervened because he had kept his identity as a gangster hidden from his daughter for so long, even though Xi Er grew to be aware of it later, it was the thing everyone knew to never bring up. He slapped Mei Bao for saying the sinful words. She left the house in response and that’s when Li Tian En realized that he is inseparables from his family.
Tian En makes visits to his father-in-law’s house and consequently to church to persuade Mei Bao back. She finally gave him, wearily begging him to run away with her and their daughter together in order to sever his tide with the gang. Tian En made a decision then.
Li Tian En would never forget that night. Before he stepped out of the house, he remembered the first time he set foot into the chaotic world of a gangster. It was different this time, because when he left, his wife Mei Bao was smiling at him, as if telling him, “we’ll await your return”.
Li Tian En reminiscenced with his two closest buddies before heading to the drug trading site. The exchange was smooth, but the way the cops creep up on the dealers were just as smooth. In a series of gun fights and drug dumping, Li Tian En miraculously found himself unharmed. His mother’s words rang in his ear, “One day your luck will be used up and you will die in the streets.” Li Tian En thought to himself, “My mom said I will die in the streets, not on a boat.” He got up in the midst of the flying bullets and jumped off the boat when a detrimental bullet penetrated his belly.
It took Li Tian En one minute to decide to be a gangster, but nearly half of a life time to withdraw from it. This was the moment he finally marked the end of his gangster hood.
Li Tian En left in a haste. He didn’t bring anything with him, nor leave anything behind.
But the story is unfinished.
Li Tian En is not dead. He had ran. Far, far away. From his wife, his daughter, and the gang. Only loving his family from afar. Because that is the only way he can withdraw himself from the gang and grant his family a happy life. As Li Tian En sat in the church day to day, he wished earnestly that one day he will see his family again.
The day his daughter married, Li Tian En’s wife rubbed her own wedding ring, thinking of Tian En. He sat in the church praying, stroking the ring, and thinking of them.
This wasn’t a very good recap, partially because I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I had anticipated, partially because I was just tired. I did like the ending very much. Personally, there were just too many events occurring one after the other to highlight some of the key events and hold the audience’s interest. Sylvia Chang could have focused more on Li Tian En’s various attempts to detach from the gang or his relationship with his mother, which she did do, but only briefly.