It was the late 1990s and gangster chic was all the rage in Asia.
A motley crew of black-clad, good-hearted thugs from Mongkok, one of Hong Kong's bustling districts, was ruling our big screens in the form of the Young & Dangerous. The six-film series, loosely adapted from a comic book, became a crowd-puller with its themes of brotherhood and solidarity.
Legions of male youths started idolising the movies' iconic characters, including long-haired stoic mob leader Chan Ho Nam (Ekin Cheng), his mischievous, impulsive sidekick Mountain Chicken (Jordan Chan) and bespectacled geeky lackey Pou Pee (Jerry Lamb).
In town on New Year's Eve for a Young & Dangerous-themed private gig at Resorts World Sentosa, the trio, who amazingly look like they haven't aged in the past 18 years, sat down with The New Paper at Equarius Hotel to recall the fandom they witnessed at the height of their popularity.
"Back in the days when the films were showing in theatres, whenever I was shopping on the streets of Hong Kong, I would see many carbon copies of Chan Ho Nam and Mountain Chicken. Teenagers would dress and behave exactly like these two beside me," said Lamb, 43, a dad of two who is now more recognised for his hosting work on TV.
"Even today, people are still imitating them. After our recent Young & Dangerous reunion concerts, many people began sporting Jordan's funky red hair which he had styled for the concert. That makes me realise that like us, fans of Young & Dangerous have not changed much."
So do the actors cringe at old film stills of them wearing garish tattoos on their chests and arms?
"Ah, those tattoos were fake, we had them pasted on us," said 46-year-old Chan.
The dudes, together with two other former cast members, Michael Tse and Chin Kar Lok, held a four-night, sold-out concert last November at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
As much as they emerged household names through their Ah Beng ways and cool posturing, they acknowledged that not everyone liked their films. Amid the cheers were dissenting voices accusing their films of glorifying violence.
Recalled Cheng, 46, a leading man in other high-profile movies such as The Storm Warriors (2009) and last year's Saving General Yang: "Several parents and teachers lobbied for our series to be discontinued, as they felt we were leading youngsters astray.
"When we did our recent reunion tour however, such negative sentiments did not exist any more. The majority of the public understood that we are more about celebrating friendship than anything else."
As for a new Young & Dangerous film starring the original cast, don't bet on it.
"A couple of years ago, there was a suggestion floated that we should get together to do a new instalment about what happened after Chan Ho Nam and his mates became successful. But who really wants to watch that? Audiences don't want to see our characters successful, it's no fun at all." said Chan.
All three said they had not caught Young And Dangerous: Reloaded, last year's widely slammed reboot of the franchise which featured young actors Him Law and Oscar Leung filling the shoes of Cheng and Chan's classic characters respectively.
"I don't think we have the right to criticise another film, but as a made-in-Hong Kong production, it definitely deserves our support," stressed Chan.
Work aside, has marriage (Cheng wed actress Yoyo Mung last January) and fatherhood (Chan is a first-time dad) changed their lives?
"Not so for me, I'm not planning to have kids. You should ask Jordan," said Cheng with a grin.
Ever since Jasper was born, Chan has learnt to "be more obliging".
"My wife is the one in charge of household stuff, while I'm in charge of bringing home the bacon. Of course I help to shower my son and change his diapers, those tasks are very easy. But I can't cook, so she still has to feed me," he said.
Read the full report on The New Paper and watch their interview with RazorTV via AsiaOne.