The movie follows the life of Shaowu (Ally Chiu), a rebellious teenager who has just lost her mother only to be reunited with her estranged father, who also happens to be a renowned gangster.
Shaowu, which also translates to ‘dance’, is not the usual teenager. When living in Kinmen Island with her grandmother, she spends most of her time in her secret bunker and watching gangster films (also imitating them). When asked about her hobbies at her new school in Taipei city, her unusual reply of collecting ‘bullets & guns’ worries us. Thankfully, Mein-Juin’s film doesn’t follow the conventional gangster films. While guns, bullets, and gang violence do feature later on in the movie, it never really becomes the focus of it all.
Chen Mei-Juin’s film is about a fading gangster. One who has been hot-headed all his life only to be away from things that mattered to him the most, i.e – his family. He is trying to go straight for the sake of his daughter who becomes an essential part of his life after she moves in with him. Then again, it’s not really about that. The film is a beautiful, often sad coming-of-age tale of a girl coming to terms with what she and her life mean.
The film works because of the performances. Jack Kao, also known as the Taiwanese Al Pacino, packs in a balanced performance both as a fading gangster (one who is calmer to the sense of things around him) and as a loving father trying his best to bond with the girl he left behind. Ally Chiu is adorable as a young feisty teenager learning the ways of life through her experiences. For a coming of age tale, the film already shows her in the learning phase when we don’t see her crying at her mother’s funeral, but when she has to leave her grandmother. Her character is written with solid nuances and Ally Chiu does extraordinarily well in doing justice to it.
The “Gangster’s Daughter” is a touching tale. For a film that talks about gangsters and their lives, the film has a huge heart at its center.