Posts Tagged ‘Henry Lai’

THE STOOL PIGEON a.k.a. THE BEAST STALKER 2 [SIN YAN | XIAN REN | 铫人]

2010/09/09

http://www.emp.hk/

http://www.facebook.com/EmperorMotionPictures

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Dante Lam  Written by: Dante Lam, Wai Lun Ng  Produced by: Candy Leung, Dai Song, Zhongjun Wang, Albert Yeung  Cinematography by: Chong-To Tse  Editing by: Ki-Hop Chan, Matthew Hui  Music by: Henry Lai Cast: Nick Cheung, Nicholas Tse, Lunmei Kwai, Kai Chi Liu, Yi Lu, Pu Miao, Yi Lu, Sherman Chung, Deep Ng, Philip Keung, Jing-Hung Kwok, Shing-Cheung Lee, Rob Lok, Yeung Ming Wan

It’s getting a wee bit too obvious now that Dante Lam remakes his one script time and again; had there not been THE SNIPER in between THE BEST STALKER and FIRE OF CONSCIENCE (as well as THE STOOL PIGEON), we would have noticed that probably earlier: THE STOOL PIGEON follows the outline of FIRE OF CONSCIENCE faithfully and mimics quite a few elements of THE BEAST STALKER.

The good news is that even on a bad day Dante Lam, in his current form, can outstrip most of Hong Kong’s crime dramas: just like its predecessor, THE STOOL PIGEON approximates the works of Michael Mann, taking its story about cops and robbers to the mean streets of Kowloon and the grim world of organized crime. Nick Cheung plays inspector Don who frequently uses informants (so-called stool pigeons) willing to rat others out for money. The problem with that is the informants are a volatile, and dangerous, species that cannot easily be trusted, while on the other hand they are living in constant fear for their lives due to their cooperation with the police.

When Don learns about a jewelry heist that will go down shortly, he tries to infiltrate the gang lead by a notorious criminal called Barbarian to prevent the worst. Ghost Jr., an ex-con and underground racing ace, seems to be the right choice to be Don’s stool pigeon for this mission, but what Don doesn’t know is that Ghost Jr. has some serious issues to deal with, including a sister who works as a prostitute to clear the family’s debt. But once things are set in motion there is no turning back and everyone gets dragged through what’s probably the most heinous experience of his/her life.

Dante Lam has meticulously organized his story universe: the characterization, the motivations, the interwoven plot threads, the duel between the seemingly good, the bad and the ugly, all that is well thought-out, very well scripted and flawlessly filmed. Some even rush to the judgment that Nick Cheung and Nicholas Tse both deliver their best performances so far, just as the movie has been hailed as this year’s best Hong Kong movie and safe award winner. Yet, I wouldn’t fully agree (the movie will probably win awards though). Despite the script being somewhat too clinical for my taste there is basically nothing much to complain about, but to put things in perspective let’s have another look at FIRE OF CONSCIENCE without indulging the pleasures of side-by-side comparisons too much.

For one thing, THE STOOL PIGEON lacks originality as FIRE was there first. Then, I feel that FIRE OF CONSCIENCE always found the sweet spot: its action, violence, emotions and gripping drama were taken to the edge, but never beyond that point. In comparison, THE STOOL PIGEON often seems exaggerated and as a result less believable; it’s like Mr. Lam forgot when to stop, when enough is enough. More than once the actors are forced to exceed their capabilities: the line they are crossing may be thin, but it’s there. Their discomfort is noticeable, just as some side plots are clearly taken too far. THE STOOL PIGEON is losing focus and is drifting away sometimes at the expense of the action as well as the film’s overall intensity. Too much is going on, and too little of that contributes to character or story development.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not appreciable to see a rather complex story laid out in front of us amid an overwhelming amount of McScripts, but we should also not forget that complexity must not distract from the intrinsic conflict and the morale the tale aims to tell. I believe FIRE OF CONSCIENCE did a better job in staying very close to its protagonists and its deeper insights of the human condition; all along the way however it threw in many complications for texture without disrupting the flow of the film or its impact.

It would be a preposterous demand to ask for a more stringent script next time as we must be thankful for what Mr. Lam has achieved recently, but there can be no doubt that THE STOOL PIGEON is losing momentum here and there, is getting too talkative at times and overall misses punch. THE STOOL PIGEON is anything but suave, but it’s like all characters are set on a collision course and then make a lot of detours before finally clashing.

Despite the honorable attempt to excel FIRE OF CONSCIENCE Mr. Lam’s THE STOOL PIGEON is more detached from its characters and their perceived realities (which were the key driver for their actions): while it is still a superior thriller, gripping drama and fast-paced action movie THE STOOL PIGEON suffers from the filmmaker’s dilemma to either produce a carbon copy of a great predecessor or to throw it all overboard and start anew. Mr. Lam couldn’t decide, and as a result is trying too hard to be more diverse, more intelligent and necessarily different without really improving his well-crafted formula.

THE STOOL PIGEON, while standing out as clearly above-average thriller, is a variation on a strong theme that is falling behind its own aspirations.

J.


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ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW [SUI YUET SAN TAU | 歲月神偷]

2010/06/10

http://www.meiah.com/syno.asp?id=20&lang=E

HONG KONG 2010   Directed & Written by: Alex Law Produced by: Mabel Cheung  Cinematography: Charlie Lam  Editing: Chi Wai Chan, Chi-Leung Kwong  Music: Henry Lai  Cast: Simon Yam, Sandra Ng, Buzz Chung, Aarif Lee, Evelyn Choi, Lawrence Ah Mon, Paul Chun, Ping Ha, Ann Hui, Clifton Ko, Vincent Kok, Tina Lau, Tung Cho Cheung

ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is an autobiographical account of life in Hong Kong in the 60s and the struggle of a working class family in these turbulent times. The movie is told in a first-person narrative from the perspective of a boy (Big Ears): his father is a shoemaker who works hard but hardly earns enough to feed the family (also thanks to the corrupt British police force), his mother is a happy-go-lucky person helping the father selling shoes with her fast tongue, and his bigger brother is one of the most popular students, successful both in sports and in class. While other families are leaving Hong Kong for good Big Ears and his family cannot afford to do so and will have to go through an increasingly difficult period of their lives.

ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW may or may not be an authentic account of Hong Kong in the 60s (for those who haven’t been there a whole dimension of the movie is certainly lost), but it succeeds in making us feel sympathetic with Big Ears and his folks. Most of the time the script is subtle and involves the audience emotionally, lets us take part in Big Ears’ observations of family life, working life, school and relationships five decades ago. It’s the simple life and the unpretentious kind of filmmaking that sets ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW apart from many other dramas.

But as so often there’s a but: latest after two-thirds of the movie’s running time it becomes obvious that Law doesn’t really know how to dramatize his story. Once the 60s are reconstructed, the places, people, their routines and possible ambitions laid out in front of us we all realize that this is not enough for a work of fiction. It’s almost like you can sense that it strikes Alex Law at the same as the audience.

The conclusion he draws however makes things worse. First of all more and more obstacles are piled up in front of the family, to an extent that feels increasingly unrealistic. Sure, the protagonists usually have to go through more than real people as their fate is representative for all of us, but there’s always a point when enough is enough. ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW goes beyond that point and feels like a soap opera that tries to add more drama by the minute.

Secondly the movie starts to be repetitive by playing the same cards over and over. That’s when I really started to dislike Big Ears who replaces character development with crying. Get a grip. And in the father’s case scolding and screaming becomes methodological. Certainly it all starts with a good reason, but the movie never gets over it.

So the crying gets ever more, the screaming gets ever louder, the events get ever more dramatic and the movie unfortunately turns into a real tearjerker. It’s not that it is that obvious, as the overall tonality and approach don’t really change much. But the way the script runs into a dead-end and applies the most simplistic measures to counter its loopholes is anything but subtle.

Instead of taking the story to a whole new level or presenting us with a proper conclusion it gives us a big crescendo and then the story ends, coming back to some of the melodramatic plot threads about double rainbows and so forth. Did that makes sense to anyone by the way? The double rainbow did not seem to relate to anything much really; what’s supposed to be a symbol of some sort fails to transcend beyond a phenomenon of nature.

ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW could have been so much more but it mostly recapitulates memories of what life was like in the past. Maybe Law didn’t want to take the movie any further than that; I am very well aware that ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is a sincere film and not meant to be bland entertainment. However, instead of a good story that is set in the 60s we have a movie set in the 60s…and then what?

ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is kind of almost almost there – a little less almost there than other almost-there-movies. If you grew up in Hong Kong in the 60s, watch it. If not, almost almost there awaits.

J.