Integrity (2019) Poster

(2019)

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1/10
The Simplest Plot And Trick With Commercial Ambitions
hilaryswank20115 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This crime film is a surprisingly one of ''Happy New Year"film genre products for this Chinese new year in Hong Kong. Why is it so outstanding among other comedies? The certain reason is that standard of ''Happy New Year'' film practice is to make a slap stick comedy genre in general.

One of ruling party figures of Hong Kong, estate conglomerate Emperor Group mainly funded, produced and released this film which intended to be the first part of trilogy of Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) crime films.

On the contrary to ICAC franchise Z, S, L Storm (2014; 2016; 2018), Integrity (Dir.Alan Man; 2019) is more nihilistic and twisted in its characteristic of storytelling. The film can be summed easily that the trade company which is a smuggler of cigarettes skilfully evades taxations by hiding unlawful interests by putting together with millions of financial products.

The chief investigator of ICAC Chan King-chi (Sean Lau)'s childhood friend Hui Chik-yiu (Nick Cheung) does a spy job in the smuggler company even after he mysteriously fleets to Australia just before the summoned court appearance as a witness of the crime of the company. 114mins is spent for the investigation and completion of the persecution.

However, The chief investigator of ICAC Chan King-chi (Sean Lau) knows everything what Hui Chik-yiu does even after he fleets to Australia, and Chan King-chi's fatal mistake finally throws out everything ICAC team does during the most of the time in the film, and the mysterious manipulator kills corroborators of his coordinated crimes.

Chan King-chi's mistake is that he does not officially record and register the spy Hui Chik-yiu. As the result, all proves and evidences are ineffective at court. It is fatally unintelligent and lack of professionalism, and it makes us not indulgent to the most of the time they spent in this film before the moment.

Furthermore, ICAC is incapable to deal with the smuggling scheme and it is unsolvable throughout the film. The only solution to the ultimate manipulator of both smuggling and killing is that police arrest him after he kills two crime partners from a helicopter.

The invincible enemy of ICAC is turned out to be the most stupid mafia who openly kills his corroborators in a cinematically exaggerated way.

In technical aspect, its obvious tendency is ''transition within one shot''. The most memorable montage is that Hui Chik-yiu's flashback sequence of his divorced wife and a ceased child panned from the door which his wife exists to Hui Chik-yiu and Kong Suet-yee (Karena Lam) in present. It's a quite obvious desire of Alan Mak to do transition within one shot visually like many similar solutions in his master piece Infernal Affairs (2002). In fact, it's a layered work of different shots in Aftereffect-like VFX softwares.

I could not get any enlightenment from this film however audience can enjoy luxurious shopping at EMPEROR WATCH & JEWELLERY-like store and life in the gorgeous independent house where managed by EMPEROR GROUP-like estate company in this film. The unnecessarily exaggerated cinematic citation of these commercial signatures is something unessential to its story-telling.

Highly not recommended.
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6/10
A strong and intriguing setup ultimately undermined by some ludicrous narrative twists, 'Integrity' starts with a bang and ends with a whimper
moviexclusive7 February 2019
Despite being billed as hailing from the writing-directing duo of 'Infernal Affairs', 'Integrity' is - like 'Project Gutenberg' - pretty much a solo effort by one-half of the duo. And like the latter, it is only half as good as their seminal trilogy, despite a star-studded cast that includes Sean Lau, Nick Cheung, Karena Lam, Anita Yuen and Alex Fong. Oh yes, even with such solid performances by these Hong Kong veterans, this crime thriller ultimately falls apart, no thanks to some ludicrous narrative twists in the last third that completely undermines whatever measure of suspense the movie had built up before.

To writer-director Alan Mak's credit, it is a genuinely promising setup for a film meant as the start of a trilogy. Sequestered in a hotel room is the whistle-blower Jack (Cheung), who is the prosecution's key witness in a high-profile case of tobacco smuggling and bribery. Despite reassurance from the ICAC's chief investigator King (Lau), Jack is still spooked that his life might be in danger, and flees to Sydney just before he is due to testify in court. So King's boss Ma (Alex Fong) sends fellow ICAC investigator Shirley (Lam) - who happens to be King's estranged wife - to Sydney to persuade Jack to return, while asking King to remain in Hong Kong to follow up on a couple of new leads in the same case.

As it turns out, the first defendant Chan has also vanished along with his wife and kids, such that King suspects the entire fiasco may be masterminded by the puppet master code-named Alpha Leader behind the entire illegal operation. To inject some urgency into the proceedings, the presiding judge agrees to postpone the trial only for a week, giving King just seven days to find Chan and Shirley the same to convince Jack to return to Hong Kong. That becomes impetus for King to trick the case's other defendant Chung (Yuen) into signing a plea agreement to be the prosecution's witness, in order to extract important information on how the whole smuggling cum money laundering enterprise is run.

At least for the first hour, Mak maintains a taut air of intrigue putting in place the various pieces of the puzzle. How far does Alpha Leader's reach extend to? Will he get to Chan before King does? Will he get to Jack before he is able to testify? Or is there more to Jack than meets the eye? Will Shirley therefore be in danger as well? It is not easy to set up such an elaborate tease, and Mak juggles all these elements deftly enough for you to be hooked into the mystery. Undeniably, the actors play their parts beautifully too, with Lau as an assertive but ethically questionable leader, Cheung as an indecipherable poker face and Lam as a tough but warm foil to both men.

Alas anyone hoping for a satisfying answer to any of the aforementioned questions will likely be disappointed. Mak, whose forte is less in writing than in directing, quite absolutely botches the ensuing twists in the story. For reasons not quite unexplained, Alpha Leader's restraint suddenly turns into ruthlessness, ordering not only Jack's kidnapping but also the elimination of almost everyone who has anything to do with the case. But most significantly, Mak engineers a personal connection between King and Jack which feels utterly contrived, and is only made worse in the final few moments when that relationship draws in two individuals whom we were led to believe were sent by Alpha Leader to follow Jack.

Without giving any more away, let's just say that Mak tries too hard to surprise his audience, and with each unfortunate revelation only succeeds in draining his film of whatever goodwill he had built up at the start - which not even the nostalgic sight of both Lau and Cheung in their younger days can quite compensate for. It says a lot when what is supposed to be the tease of the next film leaves us greeting the inevitable next chapter with more trepidation than anticipation, but that is precisely how you'd feel by the time Mak confirms that Jack is as duplicitous as we'd suspected.

Mak is also not quite as skilful a director to overcome his own screenwriting flaws, so much so that the last third comes off both overstuffed and under-developed at the same time. As a result, the pacing also suffers, taking the air out of a tightly wound atmosphere as it careens towards an improbable and unbelievable finish. Not even the two obligatory but superfluous action scenes he stuffs in at this point - including a short vehicular chase inside a carpark and a brief assassination on the slopes of a skiing resort - manages to be distracting enough, seeing as how they are poorly choreographed and hardly exciting.

Frankly, going by both 'Gutenberg' and 'Integrity', it really wouldn't hurt for Mak and his other moviemaking half Felix Chong to settle for more straightforward storytelling. Not every movie needs have a bombshell ending, not least if it requires such a substantive leap of logic that it ends up undermining the whole film. Those looking for a fairly engrossing two hours to spend this Lunar New Year will probably still find this a captivating enough diversion, especially to watch both Lau and Cheung chew up the scenery, but it is no understatement to say that it is no 'Infernal Affairs'. Like we said, it starts strong but ends with a whimper, so do keep your expectations well in check.
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