"I am very happy to see one of my favourite actor back in action; that is the wonderful Deric Wan..."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
What a tongue twister! "Dim Tzi Chak Chak Chak Juk Chak". WOW! I find this is one of the very rare type of titles that one can never forget that easily! But what does it mean? Remember "Dim Tzi Ping Ping ..." thing? Well this is like Who Is The Thief, The Thief Captures The Thief. Something like that. Ingenious title.
2002. I read that until now TVB is still not releasing this series in HK! Why? Why the cold storage?
No. Of Episodes
Deric Wan - Lau Kao Lung aka Ah Chung / Wah Hak
Yoyo Mung - Cao Tan Tan
Melissa Ng - Siu Din
Shek Sau - Wah Sam Seng
Li Ka Sing - Robert
Chin Ka Lok - John
Tavia Yeung - Siu Onn Kei
Sharon Tang - Chi Po Tou
Tong Ling - Mary
Gregory Lee - Cao Tung Chi
Liu Kai Chi
What does an honourable thief and a corrupt cop have in common? Their faces and when the honourable thief swaps his criminal life to be the cop, he ended up changing his police force and meeting the love of his life. But when the time comes for choosing to live a wonderful lie forever or be exposed and risk losing everything, what will this imposter do?
Lau Kao Lung is a famous thief in the swinging 60's. But one night he was stealing from the mansion of a corrupt police inspector named Wah Hak when he stumbled on his dead body at the bottom of the stairs. To his surprise, he looked exactly like Wah Hak. When he was about to make his escape, Wah Hak's subordinate, an honourable and curious John was already on his way up to see Wah Hak. As he had no choice, Ah Lung hid the body in a fridge and dressed like Wah Hak and tried to make his escape but was instead knocked unconscious by John. When he woke up, everybody sincerely thought he lost his memory and so begins his life as an imposter. Whilst he on the advice of Robert, his good friend wanted to steal enough and then run away forever, the earnest and honest John saw something in this Wah Hak that convinced him perhaps this Wah Hak had a conscience and was a good man. Everybody mistaken Mary, Ah Lung's sister as his mistress and when Mary was sent away to study abroad, Ah Lung thought he was save. And then he met Tan Tan, who was actually his pen friend whom he loved and she loved this "Ah Chung" too. But when she saw this Wah Hak, she hated this man. It was then Lau realise how disgusting the real Wah Hak was and life was not a bed of roses.
Wah Hak's subordinates hated the real Wah Hak, though all of them were corrupt. In fact his force was one of the worst, and Wah Hak worked with the triads to cause havoc to many other lives. Wah Hak ruled his subordinates with fear, keeping a little black book of their illegal activities. This new Wah Hak used the same method, but reluctantly and so that questions will not be asked. When the subordinates thought this Wah Hak has softened, they walked all over him. The real Wah Hak also had a frosty relationship with his famous radio storyteller father but who had an annoying grandma who doted on him and he doted back on the grandma because she was filthy rich. The real Wah Hak also seduced other people's wives, tried to rape many others and had little moral conscience.
But this new Wah Hak wanted to set things right, feeling almost guilty for assuming an identity that wasn't his. And so with his sincerity, he tore his little black book and in his own way woke his fellow colleagues. As respect was gained, his department cleaned up corruption and stayed away from the triads. Ah Lung also tried to mend Wah Hak's relationship with his father, and when he found out he was the cause that broke apart his father, Sam Seng with his real love, Chi Pou Tou (who was now the wife of a feared triad leader who was in jail thanks to the real Wah Hak), he quickly went all out to salvage their relationship, which ended up with the husband shot dead, Pou Tou returning back to the Wah household intending to marry Sam Seng and Pou Tou reunited with her long lost son, Tung Chi. In fact Tan Tan was beginning to like this new Wah Hak, amazingly considering what he did to her, albeit it wasn't Ah Lung then.
When everything seemed perfect, things would naturally crumble in the end.
Siu Dim, the pregnant cabaret singer and best friend of Tan Tan was in love with and became dependent on Tan Tan causing much havoc to Tan Tan and Ah Lung's relationship. Ah Lung then discovered Wah Hak was actually not Sam Seng's son but was a bastard child of Sam Seng's wife and another man, which explained why Sam Seng was very cold to Wah Hak. More so when Ah Lung found out Wah Hak knew about his true paternity and he even beat up Sam Seng and threatened his own real parents. With that grandma Wah was so enraged she passed out and refused to speak to him. Chased out of the Wah household, the worse was to come. When Pou Tou was identified as the one causing the havoc in Sam Seng's life (and not this new Wah Hak) and she ran away back to Malaysia, everybody also found out Tung Chi wasn't the love child of Pou Tou and Sam Seng, which Pou Tou knew but so desperately wanted a child, she shut up (her child drowned many years ago, but she didn't know). Mary came back and was dating a fellow police officer, Onn Kei's brother but when Ah Lung confessed, Mary pretended to be his mistress and her relationship with her boyfriend suffered. Then came the biggie; Wah Hak's body suddenly appeared out of no where and John, Onn Kei were beginning to suspect him. Sam Seng identified the body and said it wasn't Wah Hak. Then Sam Seng told Ah Lung to take some money to run as he knew he wasn't Wah Hak and that he didn't believe he killed Wah Hak. Even if he did, Sam Seng wouldn't blame him for killing a monster. Onn Kei was persistent in catching Ah Lung but John gambled his own reputation and he believed Ah Lung will surrender. Indeed, he surrendered after much thought and then the real question arose; who killed Wah Hak?
The Ending Revealed
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Tan Tan confessed that she killed Wah Hak, as she was kidnapped by Wah Hak that night who attempted to rape her. He pushed him down the stairs and when she saw he wasn't moving, she thought he was dead. Siu Dim confessed she killed Wah Hak because she went in search of Tan Tan and saw a delirious Wah Hak who attempted to rape Siu Dim but Siu Dim knocked him with a vase. Thinking he was dead, she tried to run when she heard some noises. She quickly hid in the cupboard and she saw Ah Lung. In fact she saw Ah Lung dressing as Wah Hak so she knew Ah Lung wasn't Wah Hak. Then later she said she saw Ah Lung and Robert burying the body. Jealous that Tan Tan loved Wah Hak and not her, she made an anonymous call hoping Ah Lung will be caught. But there was no evidence to prove Ah Lung's innocence as there was no evidence to prove the guilt of Tan Tan and Siu Dim. And there was a death penalty then. But in the end Ah Lung wasn't charged with murder because Wah Hak died of drug overdose and not the pushing down the stairs or the vase. But Ah Lung still had to go to jail for 5 years because he impersonated a police officer, amongst other charges. At the meantime, Onn Kei went back to school though John, who rescued her from the altar when she was about to enter into a loveless marriage and then confessed he didn't love her realised he was indeed in love with Onn Kei. But Onn Kei placed career first and so they separated. Then Pou Tou who was in Malaysia was diagnosed with lung cancer and had only a few months to live.
5 years later, Pou Tou suddenly appeared and told Sam Seng the doctor misdiagnosed her and she ended up doing charity work and was much happier. They didn't get back together because love is the root to all pain and suffering. So they became friends. Grandma Wah was still alive and accepted her weird family. Robert ended up with Siu Dim and they both raised her son in America. At the meantime Onn Kei returned and promised to give John a chance to woo her. Ah Lung was released from jail and married Tan Tan. But when they were about to exchange their vows, the church's door suddenly swung open and there by the door was Wah Hak. Gasp and the end.
I will say it here first to get it off my chest before I get an ashmatic attack because I can't breath from all those nonsense; the ending has got to be the worst aspect of this series. I do not understand why the ending was as such, I will not even dwell on it, I will not analyse it and I will refuse to even acknowledge it happened. All I can say is it was all stunt and no substance. Any credibility that this series has is marred by such a stupid meaningless ending.
And now back to my review.
I am very happy to see one of my favourite actor back in action; that is the wonderful Deric Wan and doesn't look a bit older than mid 30s when I suspect he is in his early 40s. I mean Maggie Siu, his frequent partner in those wonderful TVB years is already 38! He looks real good. But has his acting suffered in the long absence from TVB?
I don't think so. He did not fail in his roles (as Ah Lung and as the disgusting Wah Hak) but this series failed him. He deserves to be in a better series with an even better cast. In fact I want to see him with Maggie Siu who is now relegated to the roles of mother, to Charmaine Sheh of all people. Deric Wan gives layers to this Wah Hak and Ah Lung. As Wah Hak with that moustache and that perm of his, he looked menacing and disgusting, especially that hyena laugh. But as Ah Lung and his straight hair which is not very 60s like, he lookeds kind and sincere and even gentle. I see such vast differences between these two men, and frankly I would never believe memory loss could justify such vast differences in personalities. But this is TVB land, and with the plot in this series, anything is indeed possible.
Thus the problems aren't the acting or the characters. I find all the performances very satisfying, the characters interesting. The problem is the very core of this series; the story, or rather the flow of it. It is inconsistent, whether in the aspect of the plot, what the characters say or do or even the props. Not much effort was put into preserving the timeline in this series as I often see many props that did not exist in the 60s or even the 70s and all of them speaking of medical procedures which could not have existed back then. Even the hairstyle of the guys are a bit way off the reality mark. Though the the girls dressed like back then and the police headquarters looked authentic, I can't get over the highlights on Shek Sau's hair.
But those are small problems. I can imagine the 60s without seeing 60s all around me. What I can't accept are potholes in the plot, all of it will get full marks in my TV Mistakes page. All of these occurred when the writer wanted to end this series and probably has written far too many pages to remember what he wrote just a few pages before.
For one, the location of Wah Hak's body. It was quite obvious (to me at least) that Ah Lung hid the body in a fridge. He never removed the body, nor did Robert. But when after an anonymous call and everybody went to the mansion and Ah Lung panicked as he was afraid they might search the fridge, the door was opened and presto! The body was gone! Then the question became who took the body? Definitely the one who killed Wah Hak I thought. But much later into the series, Siu Dim said she saw Wah Hak and Robert burying the body. That couldn't be! Ah Lung never buried the body, Robert did not acknowledge taking the body in the first place and Ah Lung genuinely was sweating when the fridge door was about to be opened! So after all the guesses of whodunit and whohidit and whotookit we are suddenly told Ah Lung buried the body. To say the least, I was dumbfounded but really I must be forgiven for my one minute of dumbness because it was the series which took a dumb turn.
Then we have the story of Siu Dim hiding in the closet and seeing Ah Lung dressed as Wah Hak which she told the story much later into the series. That would mean Siu Dim knew all along Ah Lung wasn't Wah Hak. In a way there is consistency because the real Wah Hak caused the death of Siu Dim's dad but Siu Dim didn't go all out against Ah Lung. Perhaps an indication that she knew he wasn't Wah Hak? I don't think so because this series not only lack consistency but also intelligence so it couldn't have been this way. The writer couldn't have looked so far into the future because nothing Siu Dim did earlier would indicate she knew something was amiss.
Then 5 years on suddenly Siu Dim was with Robert when just a few years before she was still madly in love with Tan Tan.
But the worst has got to be TVB's perverted sense of justice, or should I say narrow minded justice.
You see, I was very confused why Onn Kei and John were so eager to blow Ah Lung's cover when they both knew Ah Lung's Wah Hak was such a good man. John should know since he once incurred the wrath of the real Wah Hak who threatened bodily harm and John was scared. But they both were way too eager. To them he was an impersonator, he was wrong, they believed he didn't kill Wah Hak and they knew Wah Hak was despicable but he was wrong to impersonate and so he must pay for the wrong doings. I ask you, what harm had this new Wah Hak done? Nothing. In fact he salvaged the real Wah Hak's reputation that the real Wah Hak should thank him! It's all too confusing for me. In the end I realise that this series poses a rather interesting question;
"In the pursuit of the truth, is the truth the only "truth" that mattered?"
For John and Onn Kei, yes, it was the only thing that mattered, in the expense of all else. Sam Seng was more logical. He said give him a chance. But it was Ah Lung who wanted to live back his own life, become Lau Kao Lung again and so he accepted the consequence. Again that was rather idiotic. If I was the judge I'd give him the minimum sentence because this imposter cleaned the police department of corruption, made real dedicated officers out of his men and cleaned up the streets. And that should form the basis of his punishment? Should he be jailed at all? I just can't get over how determined Onn Kei was in nailing Ah Lung. In the end it was the satisfaction of revealing the truth to the world that mattered to her the most, not the consequence it will bring. So out an honourable imposter and in perhaps another corrupt inspector. I don't get the logic. Am I advocating that Ah Lung should continue to impersonate Wah Hak? Maybe not, after al it was his choice to choose to do so or not, so in a way John's decision to let Ah Lung decide save the illogical aspect of it all. Maybe employ Ah Lung to be cop? Definitely because such good man is rare and the irony is, such a man was found in a famous thief whilst the real supposed good guy that is Wah Hak was the real bad guy.
This series could have dealt more on that line but after 20 episodes where most of it was about how Ah Lung and Tan Tan pursued their relatioship, not much is left for the development of the original plot; that of a thief who impersonated an inspector. I would have preferred to see that rather than Siu Dim, Tan Tan or even Sam Seng's story, most of which are relevant but nothing new.
I am also dumbfounded by how this series tried to complicate simple matters; for an example, Sam Seng was hiding in his secret chamber in the house and Ah Lung, John and gang wanted to find him but didn't know where. Then they saw the clues in Sam Seng's room that indicated a triangular object should be pushed to enter the chamber and after much search they found the object. It wasn't the object that was the problem but the clues. Why would a man who knew perfectly well where his chamber is would plant such clues for himself so that he will be reminded where the gateway to his chamber is when he himself created such a gateway and such a chamber?? Why all the fuss which took 15 minutes to find and in the end was blank suspense or some may say a red herring in the suspense department? Why waste time?
And then there was Siu Dim's pregnancy. I understand in a loose fitting dress, sometimes you can't even see the belly until almost at the end of the pregnancy. But Siu Dim was always in qi paos and they're tight fitting. She was pregnant half way through the series even before all the suspense began and even until the end I didn't see her belly. It will indicate that Ah Lung was impersonating for a very short time but too many things had happened and it wouldn't be just half a year or even less. The consistency in the timeline was almost nil.
It was all these tiny details, the stupid ending and some major TV mistakes which really spoilt this otherwise wonderfully acted series. Like I said before, I can't find fault in the performances.
I thought Chin Ka Lok was wonderful as the wide eyed boy who loves to seek answers to questions he himself posed, Liu Kai Chi was magnificent as the jilted husband bent on revenge, Melissa as the lesbian who loved her best friend and used Tan Tan's love for her as a way to hold on to Tan Tan, Deric Wan as I mentioned above and even Shek Sau in the later scenes where he begged Ah Lung to run as if like a father to his son. Yoyo Mung was quite ok but her role can be played by any other actress. Li Ka Sing was wonderful yet again as the sleazeball who refused to go the good way and insisted on being a criminal. I enjoyed Tavia Yeung's performance though I thought she tried very hard to emulate the 60's talk (almost like Maggie Cheung in Old Time Buddy) and didn't quite succeed. I must say though I do think Tavia Yeung has potential but because she is way too serious with her art (she is probably the only one actress in recent years that I heard of that became an actress after graduating from TVB's acting academy rather than the usual way, Miss HK way which gives her credibility but doesn't mean she is a natural born actress) and thus I couldn't enjoy her performance as much because she looked way too serious and way too sleepy. She is not a leading actress material not for the lack of beauty but for the lack of screen presence and charisma. But I do think she can act. Even Sharon Tang was wonderful as Chi Pou Tou, Mary Hon was the usual and Gregory Lee was quite wonderful as the rebellious son turned good son.
Perhaps the one character which I enjoyed watching and I think is my most favourite character in this series that is Grandma Wah. I do not know the actress' name but she is my favourite older actress in TVB who consistently delivers in all her roles. Her Grandma Wah is unapologetically mean, she's not a benign nice old grandma. You will see the resemblance of her in the real Wah Hak. I loved watching her meanness and her motor mouth that spoke of insults, rarely flattery. I enjoyed her explosive scenes with Sharon Tang's Chi Pou Tou and her strained relationship with her only son, Wah Sam Seng. I enjoyed how she reasoned her meanness with Ah Lung, who was exasperated to say the least. An excellent character and an excellent performance.
All in all I find this series very entertaining, despite the inconsistencies and those mistakes. Ignore the stupid ending, the plot holes and all and just sit back and enjoy the performances, which I believe is one of the best I have seen this year, for an ensemble effort. All I can say is Deric Wan deserves a better material and a prettier leading lady but he must start somewhere. At least he is the lead in here and that is a good start. I will toast his return and hope he will be offered a role that really stretches his acting abilities and which matches him with Maggie Siu again (but I will bet she will play his mother!) and Felix Wong again. I long for the good old days like Looking Back In Anger.
Not a must watch but fans of Deric Wan may want to watch this. Entertaining and nothing too stressful to watch. Good if you want good acting but must be willing to ignore weak plots. Just try not to be fussy.
(purely because of the acting)
Imagine this! I just realised this. Gregory Lee was in Looking Back In Anger, and he was very very young. Deric Wan was very very young too and so was Maggie Siu and Kiki Sheung. BUT now Gregory Lee is so big now, has a Miss HK girlfriend as well and still Deric looked the same, albeit a few wrinkles but not much. Now boyfriend of Sonija Kwok which I feel damages his credibility as an actor for falling in love with an automaton who has no feelings when she is acting. Made in heaven, as in direct opposites will always attract one another?
How time flies. But the question is can he fight with the younger actors to land himself a plum role? Now HK movie industry is ruled by pretty boys (not really pretty or handsome but terribly young) from other countries who can't even speak proper Cantonese and who can't even walk right. Like boy bands, these young actors will probably rule HK TV/movie industry one day. But can they act? 9 out of 10, no. I see acting as an art, and these young boys haven't suffered enough to know the art of acting. Deric Wan is here to stay, only if he is not as picky in his roles as I am in the roles offered to him.