Doze Niu’s “Monga,” Taiwan’s official Oscar entry, a gangster coming-of-age story, is set in Monga the old market district (Wanhua) of Tapei, in the mid-eighties, before a famous Police sting cleaned up the interlocking gang, vice and protection rackets that controlled the area. It will play at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival
Mosquito (Taiwanese-Canadian pop star Mark Chao) is the new boy at school. Bullied by Dog Boy (Han-Tien Chen) and his gang of toughs at school, he fights back. A second gang, this one lead by the mullet-wearing Dragon Lee (Rhydian Vaughn-” Winds of September”), second in command Monk (pop star Ethan Juan) adopt him. Soon Mosquito joins wiry muscle Monkey (Chang-Hsien Tsai) and goofy A-Po (Teng-Hui Huang) as part of Dragon Lee’s exhilarating circle. The five take a blood oath to become the Prince Gang, they vow to die together on the same day.
The only child of a beautician single mother, perpetual newbie Mosquito’s childhood was one of constant bullying, as he changed from school to school. Suddenly he belongs, It’s a heady experience. The first hour is a blast, as the hooligans party, provoke and brew, culminating in a bravura fight sequence, choreographed like a dance sequence that spills out of the crowded allies of the market onto the street, like the famous sequence in ‘Fame,”
The gang buys Mosquito a birthday present, a Hawaiian shirt and a go at Treasure Borough, the local brothel. Mosquito takes a shine to the browbeaten Ning (Ke Jia-Yan -“Miao Miao”.) Disfigured by a large birthmark, she’s strictly second string at the brothel. Treating her more like a sister than a girlfriend, Mosquito uses her room as refuge, sharing his Walkman music and paying he nightly quota to save her from beatings.
He promises to take her away from the life, but Mosquito’s loyalties lie with the gang and increasingly with Dragon Lee’s father Boss Geta (Ju-Lung Ma) who plays father figure. There’s a homoerotic flavor to the way the boys reserve their emotional attachments for each other.
The sunny good times come to an end, as the boys are sent to a fighting skills boot camp and expected to take up their role in Boss Geta’s Temple Front Gang. Their Triad life devolves to torture, maiming and murder. Dog Boy’s done in. Dog Boy’s older brother, gang leader Wim-kian (Jason Wang) who’s doing time, eventually gets out of jail and comes looking for the guys who killed his brother.
Seemingly mild mannered Mainland gangster Grey Wolf (Doze Niu) convinces Boss Geta and his boyhood friend, now rival Boss Masa (Feng Hsing) to consider taking him in as a partner. Conspiring with Wim-kian and Monk (who believes he’s helping his idol Dragon Lee), Grey Wolf wipes out first Boss Masa, then Boss Geta, setting off a force march of destruction that kills off the young men. Grey Wolf discovers that Mosquito’s’ his son, but by that time, it’s too late to call off his machinations.
Ex child actor turned TV director Doze Niu plays a role in “Monga”, as he did in his first film, the filmmaking mockumentary “What on Earth Have I Done Wrong?” (for which won Best Actor at the 10th Taipei Film Festival.) Here he plays Grey Wolf plays Mosquito’s mother’s ex-flame, the mainland gangster who wants to muscle in on the Monga district and liquidate his competition.