Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film
reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong
Simon Lui Yu-yeung. Image courtesy Winson.
Director Billy Chung Siu-hung and actor/co-writer Simon Lui Yu-yeung are back with yet another slickly produced crime thriller. Like most of their other collaborations, UNDERCOVER BLUES is moderately involving but ends up being hobbled by a weak screenplay.
Ray Lui Leung-wai. Image courtesy Winson.
Veteran cop Frank Chan (Ray Lui Leung-wai, who also co-produced) discovers that old protege Joe Wong (Daniel Wu Yan-zu) is now working undercover in a triad gang. The HK police department lost contact with him when he went to Malaysia with his boss, Spanner (Blackie Ko Shou-liang), ostensibly to see some races. Ordered to locate Joe, Frank assembles an unorthodox team, consisting of the depressed Charles (Wong Hei), whose wife is on the verge of leaving him, Simon (a blonde Mark Cheng Ho-nam), whose underworld dealings have gotten him into trouble with the I.C.A.C. department, and Frank's former partner, Fred (Simon Lui Yu-yeung), who is now a feared triad enforcer. Once the group arrive in Malaysia, they are threatened by a local gang but eventually locate Spanner. The dai lo and his men were ambushed while making a deal and the attack cost Spanner one of his hands. Joe, however, has disappeared, and Spanner believes that he is being held by drug kingpin Hung Shing. Further events, and Fred's personal agenda, place everyone in great danger.
Wong Hei. Image courtesy Winson.
The visuals are slick and the leads are glacially cool but we are not given enough reason to care about them or their assignment. Chung resorts to replicating one of the most famous events (and even one of the most famous shots) from RESERVOIR DOGS and the script contains some laughable cliches (one character mentions that he plans to turn his life around if he survives and is fatally shot less than ten seconds later). The novel relationship between Ray Lui and Simon Lui's characters (both with their own take on the way things are) is an asset and one sequence features the most unusual bomb you will ever see. Ultimately though, the movie mostly just spins its wheels and amounts to little, making this Buddy Film Workshop's weakest genre offering to date. Taiwanese actress/model Jessey Meng Guang-mei (who co-starred in RED CORNER), Chapman To Man-chat, and Wong Chi-yeung also appear, while Liu Wai-hung and Natalie Ng Man-yan have parts so lacking in substance and screentime, one wonders if they signed on as a favor to someone.
Daniel Wu Yin-cho. Image courtesy Winson.
Mark Cheng Ho-nam. Image courtesy Winson.