|Index||3 reviews in total|
The success of the Infernal Affairs series, and high profile projects
like Confession of Pain would have made Felix Chong and Alan Mak
household names in the Hong Kong crime thriller genre. Their latest
offering with Lady Cop and Papa Crook not only comes with a somewhat
cheesy title (in English at least), but gone are the familiar gloom and
doom that draped their more famous films as well.
I guess it's always a big step to try and break out of your own shadow. This time round the duo played it quite straight with their story and direction, opting for simplicity and a series of light humour. But even then, this film got entrenched with its fair share of controversy before its recent release, especially since it's got to do with the trimming of its run time allegedly to have the whole deal sweetened for the Mainland Chinese market. which had pushed back its release date from sometime mid 2008, to now.
You know, the same requirement about not having the righteous being put in bad light, especially if they're of honourable professions like the police. With Infernal Affairs, we know what hapened with the Andy Lau character that resulted in two different endings for different markets (Singapore unfortunately got the cop-out Chinese version because of our Speak Mandarin Campaign). Here, some six minutes got shaved, and I would suspect that it would have involved the second last scene of the film that resulted in a inexplicable fade-to-black, which could've involved some debatable who-shot-first kinda Han Solo predicament, and of course the very hurried way the film decided to wrap everything up.
But I digress, and what could have happened in those six minutes was just my speculation which would be debunked should there be a release of the actual cut on DVD. In the past, the Chong-Mak partnership had brought on some memorable leading characters, almost all of whom are male, with themes like camaraderie and potential brotherhood forged should the protagonists not be on opposite sides of the law. Here, they throw a spanner in the works by having Hong Kong's Canto-pop queen Sammi Cheng flesh out one of the leads as Maureen Szetoh, an incredibly sassy female cop whom while is professional in her job, faces personal love life problems with her artist boyfriend of 10 years, and the ticking of her biological clock.
Again having their lead characters on different sides of the law, her opposite number is played by Eason Chan, whose John Fok is a crime kingpin dealing in the illegal oil business traversing both Hong Kong and China. A transshipment of their goods went awry with the Chinese law enforcers on their tail, and this leads to bad debt, unhappy underlings, and worse, a kidnapping of his son in which the ransom is some cool 80 million dollars. In comes Maureen and her gang of Hong Kong police much against his wishes to assist in the cracking of the kidnapping case, which of course is a perfect stage set for some really sticky and sensitive encounters between crooks and cops.
It is this tension between both sides that you could come to appreciate what both Felix Chong and Alan Mak were after. After all, how do you assist the cops in investigations if not to reveal who your enemies and friends are, and what more, to expose details of your illegal operations, laying everything down bare for the police to scrutinize? Other shades of brilliance also include how the police could be the largest "gangsters" around given their sheer manpower size and ability to work within the legal framework, though there are moments where the Fok's triad buddies could go around bureaucratic red tape in order to get things done. I sensed some dumbing down in the latter during the movie, which could have irked the Chinese censors, and effected some changes to the story.
Attempts to humanize the characters were not spared, especially with a host of characters going about attending to their personal affairs in the midst of a high profile kidnapping case. And here's where the unexpected fun is too, with some sprinkling of comedy which I thought was a welcome departure from what could have been the usual deadpan, serious approach. With a Chong-Mak production, Chapman To is never far behind in a supporting role, and Eye In The Sky's Kate Tsui is still looking for a lead role given her cinematic outings to date after the said Yau Nai-Hoi helmed movie, has been supporting ones only.
I would imagine the potential that Lady Cop and Papa Crook could have achieved if not for the forced re-writes to garner a slice from a larger pie, and it's still an enjoyable film once you recognize the effort put in by the writer-directors. Now to wait for the announcement that the DVD version would be the unadulterated one.
Tagline: A disappointing vehicle for the former box office queen
Review by Neo: Sammi Cheng is an important part of HK Cinema. For
almost half a decade, she was clearly the box office queen with her
films constantly edging over the $20 million mark. She was funny,
classy, relaxing, stressful and at the essence of all that, the people
of Hong Kong loves her. Not with standing, her chemistry with arguably
Hong Kong most important guy in Andy Lau is as smooth as spreading
butter on a piece of white bread. Adding to the mix is that Sammi have
fallen, and smashed to the ground to the point of depression, ever
since embarking on the pessimistic journey in Everlasting Regret.
Little do you know it that was almost 4 years ago, and don't all cinema
lovers, just enjoy seeing someone fighting back and living life again
in happiness? That's all I felt when Sammi came over to Sydney and my
god she was entertaining, it's always good to see someone standing up
again, after falling on the ground repeatedly. Although it was just a
concert, I could feel the vibe that Sammi is back. That is why it is
all the more disappointing for her to star in such a mistimed vehicle.
Director Alan Mak, does not know what he wants to be achieve, one
moment, he seems to be trying to create some comic, another more a tint
of seriousness, then visa versa. The film, whether cut or not be
Mainland censors is ultimately far too uneven and interesting
regardless of an alternative ending.
The movie goes like this, Eason is a triad leader whose son is kidnapped by someone and so after a series of event, Sammi becomes in charge on the case. As cliché goes, the two will not get along, but then the connect ends that as other minor and insignificant characters takes centre stage. Basically a film about cops trying to chase the kidnapper and in the process, there is an internal war going on between the gangs. Somehow at the heart of the story, it is about trying to find Eason's son and perhaps changing him in the process, or is it actually not the case.
It seems to me that Sammi seems to be playing her normal early 2000s box office hits character with some degree of comic timing, while Eason seems to be in another movie or perhaps still indulged in his last movie, Lost Indulgence. Why do you want two star performer together, when the only linkage between them are at the very most, minimal. Disappointing is probably an understatement, when considering that Alan Mak is somewhat involved in the success of Infernal Affairs and the fact that his co-director Andrew Lau actually manages to entertain in a direct competition flick in Look for a Star. Alan Mak has fallen and in the process, he has taken the unfortunate Sammi with him and to a lesser extent, Eason as well. Basically, the movie is uninteresting, the plot is boring, and the situations make next to no sense. When there is a film that I do not know make it any better, as the material is so bad that all you can do is start to feel sorry for the aforementioned actors.
Sammi Cheng is easily likable, as she is simply a character that HK cinema audience have all grown to love and enjoy. She is cool, funny, pretty and to say the least, an actress with a personality. Basically, Cheng is wasted, and when you start getting the feeling that the main star attraction seems to be acting in a totally different type of movie, all you can realise is that there is seriously something wrong with the movie. Still, it is a much welcome returns for the former screen goddess, but really if only she is given a better vehicle to shine again. Likewise, Eason Chan is the total opposite to Sammi, who in turn hardly putted a smile, cracked a laugh or even anything near that. In the most honest opinion, Eason is basically lost, in a script that allows him little to work with and adding to that an ultimately uninteresting character. Chapman To also come back and stole some of the spot light in some much needed comedy routine. Kate Tsui continues her golden run on the silver screen with a small role, but fails miserably in recapturing the form or potential last seen in Eye in the Sky. As for Michelle Yip who plays Eason's wife, is better at screaming than actual acting.
All in all, Lady Cop and Papa Crook are boring, uneven, uninteresting and essentially a complete waste of time. It is rare that I can so easily pan a film that stars Sammi Cheng, but this is not a cheap budget movie and it also carries the weight of expectations of seeing the film through the eyes of Infernal Affairs director, Alan Mak. So what can I say about this flick, basically, despite the much welcome back of Sammi Cheng, the film fails because it does not know what genre it belongs and along with the excessive cutting of the film by Mainland Censors, the film is ultimately more uneven than imagined. Still, there some funny moments, the Richie Ren cameo, a likable Sammi Cheng and a somewhat underrated comic display from the much missed Chapman To. In essence and all truthfulness, the film amounts to no better than a high school English essay which wants to cover too much and ends up getting lost at the whole point/purpose of the work. So do I recommend the flick and it is not that hard to say, I don't think so (Neo 2009)
I rate it 3.5/10
Saw a midnight screening of this last night -- not a good way to usher
in 2009. Absolutely awful film. Felix Chong and Alan Mak (of Infernal
Affairs fame) want to reprise the cop/gangster conflict story, but
they've managed to make a complete mess. There are way too many
characters, and the end result is that no one has anything of substance
to work with. So everything simply falls apart.
Nothing in the script makes sense, to the point that the audience can't even figure out who actually carried out the crime in the end -- as the script says something completely contradictory to what is shown on-screen. Everything is done out-of-character and completely out-of-reality, with no rhyme or reason and no resolution.
And even if there was a resolution, what's the point? No one cares about these shells of characters. Sammi brings her typical on-screen Sammi persona, frequently throwing tantrums even though she's supposed to be a professional leading a police force. Eason simply has to phone it in as a triad boss, with no backstory and no logic to his character. There's a bunch of goofy supporting roles (Conroy Chan, Richie Jen, et al) that would have made sense in a Wong Jing film, rather than a crime film that we're supposed to take seriously. The only bright spot is Chapman To, who puts in a hilarious performance as always and deserved a lot more than his 5 minutes of screen time.
Despite a couple of nice shots throughout, this is horrid and highly avoidable. Hong Kong cinema, you can do a hell of a lot better.
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