Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I CORRUPT ALL COPS: Wong Jing's Best So Far

I CORRUPT ALL COPS (HK police drama in Cantonese)
Cast: Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Bowie Lam Bo-Yi, Wong Jing, Liu Yang, Natalie Meng Yao and Kate Tsui
Writer/Director: Wong Jing
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Tony Leung, Natalie Meng and Anthony Wong in ICAC

PREAMBLE: I never thought that I would say this but here it is: this is probably the most satisfying Wong Jing movie I have seen so far. Before you think that I am trying to get my foot out of my mouth, let me clarify that I have always considered the prolific Wong Jing one of the most unoriginal (read: copycat) and crass film-makers. He is, hands down, the 'B-movie King' and 'Ed Wood' of Hong Kong.

However, if you consider his Kung Fu Mahjong series and My Wife Is A Gambling Maestro among his comedy gems, then we are on very different wavelengths.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? 'I Corrupt All Cops' or ICAC is about Hong Kong Police's anti-corruption force, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (or ICAC!). So clever of Wong Jing for this acronym, eh? The writer-director also plays the title role as 'Gold' - the middleman for the criminals and the corrupt cops led by chief inspector Lak (Tony Leung Ka-fai).

The movie, told in three parallel plot threads, documents the rampant corruption in the British colony in the 1960s and 70s, and the formation of the ICAC. One of the threads involves Lak's loyal henchman, Gale (Eason Chan, pic, with Liu Yang), a morally-conflicted cop who has to marry nine mistresses (including rape victims) of Lak and the other crime bosses - all in the line of 'duty'. With so many wives, Gale has absolutely no idea about what love is all about - until it is too late.

Then there is the foul-mouthed detective, Unicorn (Anthony Wong), who frames innocent people with serious crimes to keep his boss, Lak, happy. Not unlike Gale, Unicorn finds that he has been so deep in crime and debt that he has nothing left to lose.

The last thread, which is very loosely woven, involves Bong (Alex Fong), one of Unicorn's victims who vows to put the corrupt cops behind bars one day. His chance arrives when he joins the ICAC under Inspector Yin (Bowie Lam).

HITS & MISSES: I would not go so far as to say that Wong Jing has discarded his crude gags and slapstick style of film-making. However, he balances these with some watchable narrative, character development and plot twists (which are commonplace with most other directors but rare with WJ).

Another promising subplot is the 'romantic triangle' among Eason's Gale, his fourth wife May (Kate Tsui) and drug dealer Rose (Liu Yang) which could have been developed further. Wong Jing also squanders the chance to provide a proper backgrounder for the ICAC. With so many repetitive scenes on police corruption, intrigues and violence, the main plot about the ICAC seems to have been given the short shrift.

Of course, a lot of the credit goes to the top-notch cast, especially Anthony Wong (for the laughs), Bowie Lam (for the serious build-up), Kate Tsui (for the tender moments) and Tony Leung for the sadistic violence. As for Wong Jing, he goes about the movie with a perpetual smirk on his face like the fat cat that's got the milk.

THE LOWDOWN: OK, it is safe to catch a Wong Jing film now.


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