The Gangster’s Daughter (Shaowu The Bad) (2017) [New York Asian Film Festival 2017]

After her mother’s death, a teen struggling with living with her grandmother goes to live with her gangster father in the city.

Directed by Mei-Juin Chen, The Gangster’s Daughter is a family drama more than a gangster film.  It deals with the difficulty of losing a parent, moving to a new city, having to take care of daughter the gangster in question barely knows, bullying, etc.  It’s a film that touches on many subjects but does not feel like it’s cramming too much in its runtime as all these subjects move seamlessly from one to the other and are, in most cases, things many families deal with.  The film tells this story of a father and daughter getting to know each other for the first time after a tragedy that led the daughter having issues with authority and with living with her grandmother.  The emotions and subject are treated with respect and with a clear idea of there the film is going and how it wants to vehicule its message.  The relationship between the father and daughter is pivotal and they feel like real people with realistic emotions in a time of hardship.

This daughter and father duo is played by Ally Chiu and Jack Kao respectively.  Both of them give strong, nuanced performances that evolve together and show the intricacies of family living together for the first time after years apart.  It’s not an easy subject and both of them handle it with class and talent.  Ally Chiu is a strong younger actress and one that should be watched in the future as she clearly has a bright one ahead of her as her display of talent indicates here.  The rest of the cast also does well, with a few characters being acted better than others such as the grandmother and the father’s girlfriend show care and take up the mantle of the mother figure for the lost teen girl as best they can.

The Gangster’s Daughter, which has an American title revolving around the father in the pivotal relationship, has a more appropriate title in its original one of Shaowu The Bad which is about the daughter, the central point of the film.  Marketing here most likely had something to do with the change in title. Which is one of those situations that is unfortunate as a film centered on a young woman’s story should have a title about her more than about a character that is there more in relation to her than for his own story.  Both characters are strong ones and worth exploring, but it is about Shaowu and not her father in the end, thus the title should have stayed as such.

That being said, The Gangster’s Daughter (or Shaowu The Bad) is a well-crafted, well-acted film that is worth watching as an exploration of grief as well as one of family relations.  The story is told in a way that brings the viewer in and lets them discover Shaowu’s new life with her as it happens as well as the changes this brings to her father’s life.  It’s almost uplifting in terms of what it leaves as a final impression even though it is a drama and one that starts with such a sad event.