January 2, 2022 – This Hong Kong action film about police corruption and cops gone bad is loaded with moral ambiguities, along with car chases, explosions, shootouts and martial arts combat scenes.
The heart of the story is the relationship between two men, police officer Cheung Sung-Bong (played by Donnie Yen of the “Ip Man” films) and Yau Kong-Ngo (played by Nicholas Tse). Bong is an honest cop, while Ngo, his former police partner and friend, has become a ruthless criminal, after serving time in prison for the killing of a criminal in his custody.
Bong testified against Ngo at his trial, but it turns out that there were mitigating circumstances in his crime. There were also police supervisors who didn't tell the truth at his trial. It is pretty easy to see how Ngo feels that he was unjustly treated by the system, and why he wants revenge.
His own relationship with his old friend Bong is more complicated than that, however. The two men still have some respect for each other. Ngo forms a gang of ex-cops who served time in prison because of Bong's testimony against them. They pull off a daring robbery during a police raid that results in the death of a number of Bong's colleagues.
It takes time, but Bong eventually traces the stolen drugs and money back to Ngo's gang. Bong begins to dismantle Ngo's gang, and at the same time, Ngo murders one of his own men for being careless with money and stolen goods. Ngo becomes increasingly bold in his schemes, planning a bank robbery while he is under investigation for another robbery. The next crime is being set up even while he is in police custody.
While the police are misled by fake evidence that Ngo left for them to find, Bong is able to figure out Ngo's next move and hit his gang before they can get away. This sets up another sequence of big action scenes, culminating with a one-on-one bare knuckle fight between Bong and Ngo.
The main reason I bothered watching this movie was because of the presence of Donnie Yen, who is one of the world's best action stars. In this film, Donnie Yen is also the action director, and some of the action scenes are spectacular. Hong Kong action films have long been famous for great action scenes, particularly martial arts fights. This film is directed by (and dedicated to) long time Hong Kong action director Benny Chan Muk-Sing, who died shortly before the release of this film.
There is not much in the way of character development in this film. There is some attempt to depict a bit of complexity in the relationship of Bong and his pregnant wife, Anna Lam (played by Lan Qin) but it is clear early on that the only reason Lam is in the movie is to be put in harm's way. While there is not much character development, there is plenty of character motivation.
The basic structure of this story is very similar to a number of other movies about cops and criminals who know each other. One movie I was reminded of while watching this is “Heat” (1995) in which the cop/criminal dynamic between characters played by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro is very similar to this film.
Like “Heat,” this movie makes the argument that the world is not black and white, but rather is shades of gray. When the police department is corrupt (and this one is) administers in authority ought not to hold officers like Bong to black and white standards. On the basis of pure action alone, this movie rates a B.
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