"I watched this series with zero expectation and ended up feeling rather fortunate that I was TVB obsessed because if I had missed this series and knew how great it was going to be, I would have kicked myself for being an idiot."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
First thing first, I love the English title and I definitely love the Chinese title.
Bowie Lam - Fong Nga Chai
Kenix Kwok - Lok Ying Cheung aka Natalie
Joe Ma - Ma Hau Yin aka Ken
Tavia Yeung - Wan Ka Lei aka Kelly
Benny Chan - Tao Chin Hung aka Dai Hung
Eileen Yew - Lau Yuk Yan
Evergreen Mak - Lok Chun Ying aka Sa Tam Ying
Ben Ng - Chan Sau Yung aka King Sir
Kwok Fung - Wong Sir
Law Kwun Lan - Fong Yee Gu (Nga Chai's aunt)
Mark Kwok - Howard
Rocky - Ai Wai
Yan - Derek Hung
Police modern day drama with tales of love, betrayal, loyalty, friendship, murder ... the usual tragic stuff in a modern series.
It's not confusing but reading this review may confuse you. Basically and in the tradition of the usual TVB modern day drama, everybody ends up with somebody in a very uncomplicated and monogamous way. So be forewarned; SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Nga Chai - at first with Yan but found out she was having a secret affair with his buddy, Tai Hung. Relationship broke off and he then realised he was secretly in love with Ying Cheung, his other best friend who in turn was way before Nga Chai realised his love for her was dating Howard who died and left behind a very pregnant "other woman" that is Kelly. Then Ying Cheung fell for Ken who wasn't dating anybody. Kelly fell in love with Nga Chai and in the end Nga Chai fell for her too. At the end of the day;
Kelly with Nga Chai
Ken with Natalie
Tai Hung with Yan
Who else? Oh yes, senior citizens also has a chance at love that is the story of Wong Sir and Fung Yee Gu, Nga Chai's very girlish auntie.
It must be pointed out that this series is not really about men, women and love. Whilst the subject may cover about 30% of this series, primarily this series is more about friendship and loyalty, trust and brotherhood, why one man can go so wrong and how his friends tried to catch him. It is a classic story of good cop vs bad triad member or more to the point, best friends against best friends from the wrong tracks. The focus of this story is primarily Nga Chai.
Nga Chai came from a respectable family full of dead cops. His father died on duty, trying to save Wong Sir who was now Nga Chai's superior. Nga Chai, not very educated was the sergeant, but with experience. Along with him he had a best friend in the form of Tai Hung, who respected him till no end. Life for Nga Chai was peaceful, with a doting girlfriend, loving aunt, a job he loved and living in a very eautiful picturesque village where everybody knows everybody else. Then things became to crumble for Nga Chai, the chauvinistic man. He found out his girlfriend was seeing his best friend, his other best friend, Ah Ying was working for a triad boss named Rocky, the girl he actually loved called Ying Cheung (a doctor) lost her boyfriend and entered a spunky spirited girl named Kelly pregnant with his child and when he confessed his love for Ying Cheung, Ying Cheung's heart was already with Ken, the man who took what he thought was going to be his promotion to higher rank. But as all series goes, in the end Nga Chai blessed the union of Tai Hung and Yan, he encouraged Ying Cheung and Ken, he helped Kelly through her pregnancy, and he respected his new boss, Ken. The problem that remained was Ah Ying.
Ah Ying, as we are told but never seen grew up very poor. Because they all came from the same village, Tai Hung, Nga Chai and Ah Ying were like brothers. Nga Chai in fact paid for Ah Ying's education, gave him shelter, offered him food and undying friendship, until Ah Ying decided he wanted to be rich and ended up working for Rocky, a very ruthless gangster on the rise who so happened to be Ah Ying's cousin. But Rocky was wary of Ah Ying and Ah Ying ended up kidnapping Rocky's son (with the help of Kelly's gangster brother) and killing Rocky. Nobody knew he killed Rocky and he was hailed the new triad boss, where he proved he was far more cunning and ruthless than Rocky. He killed, kidnapped, bribed, threatened his way to the top, to the point of bribing his best friend Tai Hung, who had fallen from grace due to his heavy debt which was due to his very spendthrift wife. But what Ah Ying didn't know was Tai Hung was then recruited as the mole in Ah Ying's organisation, but this only Ken and Wong Sir know. Tai Hung easily gained Ah Ying's trust but felt like suffocating living a life of lies when his wife basically walked out of him. Nga Chai also abandoned Tai Hung. And when Ken, who was actually going to die any minute due to a bullet lodged in his brain many years ago actually went for a surgery and fell into a coma, Tai Hung was basically all alone. Ken of course woke up but was removed from active duty as he could not walk. He was then replaced by a highly respected King sir, Ken's former teacher at the SDU camp. Tai Hung at the same time received orders to investigate who was Ah Ying's partner in the police (ala Infernal Affairs but less dramatic) and of course he found out in due course.
Along the way Nga Chai was suspended due to his behaviour towards Ah Ying and Tai Hung and then when Ah Ying asked somebody to ram his car against Nga Chai with Kelly inside the car, Nga Chai went berserk and stole a fellow police officer's gun and went in search of Ah Ying. But he found Tai Hung tied up and I think shot but not dead. It was then he found out King Sir was the mole and whilst trying to escape (Tai Hung was still in Ah Ying's hands), King Sir killed a fellow cop and later falsely accused Nga Chai of doing the deed. So now King Sir had everybody looking for Nga Chai who was the fugitive but nobody believed King Sir, except Ken who was told by Nga Chai King Sir was the one.
Anyway, can Nga Chai escape yet again? Where was Nga Chai hiding? What about Tai Hung? What will happen to Ah Ying?
Scroll below to read more.
BUT warning, SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Actually Ken and Wong Sir already suspected King Sir, who was very keen on capturing Nga Chai when Nga Chai told Ken that King Sir was the mole. There was no reason to disbelieve Nga Chai, an exemplary police officer. All along Nga Chai was hiding in a fellow colleague's father's yacht, which was why nobody could find him (the father was played by Joe Jr and the fellow colleague was Belinda Hamnett I think). Anyway when King Sir ran away, they all found him dead in a warehouse (I think). We see some flashback scene and Ah Ying plummeting him to death for being all too famous now. At the meantime Ah Ying was very angry he lost everything and kidnapped Kelly's baby at the hospital and threatened to throw the baby out of the window. Nga Chai tried to convince Ah Ying to shoot him instead and ended up apprehending Ah Ying. But Ah Ying refused to confess until an emotional visit by Nga Chai and Ah Ying finally confessed and found his two best friends again. Nga Chai had an opportunity to go for the interview for a promotion but we never knew if he actually succeeded. As a very happy ending, all couples got married at the ancestors' altar.
I watched this series with zero expectation and ended up feeling rather fortunate that I was TVB obsessed because if I had missed this series and knew how great it was going to be, I would have kicked myself for being an idiot.
I must confess I was keen on watching Bowie Lam and Tavia Yeung who won Most Improved Artist for this series I think this year at the TVB Anniversary. I was curious; did the zombie girl really did THAT well?
The opening song sung with much power (but not much tune) by Bowie Lam was perhaps one of the best and most catchy themesong I have ever heard. This song still plays in my head as I was writing this review. The first words were "Do great things....", even my 6 year old nephew knew the lyrics by heart. Then the series began with Bowie monkeying around in a village parade and my heart sank; maybe this series will be a dud. I was far too disappointed with Life Begins At 40, Perish In The Name of Love, all of which received such rave reviews from fans. But as the story unfolded with the appearance of Tavia then Mak Bau and more focus on Bowie, the series began to pick up around episode 7 or so when the love stories basically settled down.
It's a well known fact I dislike a story that is all too focused on love. But this series knew when to talk about love and when to inject human drama. My favourite pair in this series is Tavia and Bowie for their chemistry, their banter and their changes in the name of love. But all other pairs had their moments too.The great thing about this series is it smartly moves from one couple to the other, one character to the other. It's not too short so as to miss out on character developments and yet not too long to be draggy. It all adds up to an explosive climax and a very happy ending.
Half the time we see very little of Ah Ying's past but we know because we heard Nga Chai, Tai Hung and Ah Ying's version. We knew so little about Ken and his lonely childhood without his mother and yet when they met each other again, you will know they missed each tremendously. We didn't see much of Ying Cheung and Howard but by Ying Cheung's devotion to Kelly, we knew she must have really loved him. In fact I find Ying Cheung a very determined and persistent woman. Any woman in her position would have pushed Kelly down the stairs but because she loved Howard so much, when Howard died (in a tragic car accident) begging her to take care of Kelly, the other woman she just found out like a minute before he died who was also pregnant, she took it to her heart to see that Kelly give birth to Howard's child, though Kelly seemed unconcerned. In fact my only grouse is Kelly didn't seem to love Howard as deeply as I thought she would have.
At times I did wondered what Howard an educated lawyer saw in Kelly, basically a bad girl turned good. Then I realised Ying Cheung must have been far too busy to care much about Howard, so it was natural Howard craving attention fell for the more dependent Kelly who had a gambler for a brother. In a way Ying Cheung changed when she began life with Ken where she was more caring and attentive.
Kelly at the meantime was at first very money minded but we all know she must have had a very tough childhood with a brother like that. But she loved Howard. And as her pregnancy progressed, so was her love for Nga Chai who suddenly turned into this very attentive and loving man. He was a chauvinist, which was why Yan fell for Tai Hung, the one who was sent to see her in his place everytime she had a problem. It was obvious Nga Chai was cold to Yan because he didn't really love her. And when he fell for Kelly, he was still manly but yet you see this subtle changes in his behaviour. It was impossible not to love Nga Chai. Kelly herself became more responsible and in the end she told Ying Cheung to keep the money she was paying Kelly to give birth to the baby because through Ying Cheung she gained a sister.
I believe this series and its relationships were mostly about craving for attention, love, or power representing the shield to loneliness.
With that I must talk about Ah Ying, one of the most complicated villains I have seen in recent memory. It is very obvious the three characters, Tai Hung, Nga Chai and Ah Ying shared a very happy childhood together because Nga Chai screamed at Ah Ying when he was going to throw the baby out of the window that "Remember we made a promise to each other, whoever has a child first, the other will be the godfather. Remember?". And it was obvious Ah Ying could redeem himself because when he was about to throw the baby out, the baby's hands brushed his face and he looked at the baby, unable to throw the baby out.
There was no doubt, he was a good man but he was ambitious, in the wrong way. So again and again he did many evil things but in the end his final quiet moment witn Nga Chai who was reminiscing about their past was very moving. I was moved to tears as Ah Ying was refraining himself from crying. The scene was so simple. I must describe it because 2 great actors, one very raw emotional scene in a very depressing setting, that was a police lock up. Nga Chai came in to see the stubborn Ah Ying who had just tried to throw Kelly's baby out of the window and just days before tried to kill Tai Hung and him. Ah Ying quickly said; "It's no use, you coming here. I will not co-operate and I will not confess.". Nga Chai quietly said; "I came here because it is your birthday. I remember you were very filial when you were young, always paying respect to your dead mother. I will pay respect to her from now on on your behalf ". Then Nga Chai gave him a red boiled egg and Ah Ying slowly ate them as he talked about his past, how he was so poor, and bullied and how his mother would make him red boiled eggs on his birthday. Nga Chai talked about when they were young running over the hills, how his aunt made Ah Ying some Tong Yuen on his birthday when his mother was gone. Ah Ying was very quiet then and Nga Chai quietly told him; "I may be a sargeant earning a low salary, but I am happy. You became a boss in a triad, you have money, you have power but are you really happy?". Ah Ying by this time has stopped eating. Then Nga Chai asked him gently, "If you have anything you want me to do, tell me and I will do it for you". Then Nga Chai began to leave when Ah Ying suddenly said; "Do you know why I have always feared you when I was young?". Nga Chai looked confused and Ah Ying tearfully said; "Because I always treated you like my big brother ... but you're not my big brother. ... I have a request. Can you make me red boiled eggs on my birthday every year on my mother's behalf?". Nga Chai nodded and left when Ah Ying called out to Nga Chai and said he will confess.
By that time I was crying buckets! CRYING! That scene was pure raw emotions, marvelously played by Bowie in his usual cool demeanour and Mak Bau's silent tears rolling down his cheeks. You knew this man could be redeemed and you knew he had gained his friends back. I forgave him for his evil deeds. How not to forgive a repentant man?
Then his colleague asked Tai Hung and Nga Chai why they treated the bastard Ah Ying so nice? Why bother? And they both said, "You will never understand". How true. It's brotherhood.
At this time I must pause my comments for a moment and think happy thoughts. That scene was a bit depressing but worth describing every detail. So happy thoughts ...
Other than the one described above which I shall label The Bestest Best Moment, I would say every scene Bowie and Tavia shared together, especially the ending scene, very romantic. Again I must describe this scene.
Kelly wanted to get married, Nga Chai looked uninterested. Kelly said; "I have always wanted a big wedding in a church, complete with a red carpet, with thousands applauding us, in a carriage and I wearing a very beautiful white wedding gown". The next day when she was carrying the baby to the ancestral altar, she saw a very long red carpet. Nga Chai smilingly told her; "I can't afford a carriage, so will you accept a chinese carriage? I can't afford an expensive famous wedding gown but will you accept this "Kuan Kua" from a famous shop? We don't have thousands of people but the whole village, please clap your hands!". And Kelly tearfully rode the chinese stretcher, telling the baby loudly "Finally your mom's getting married, finally someone wants your mother!". That was perhaps the funniest moment in this series.
One early scene when Kelly was being very unreasonable and she was drinking alcohol whilst she was pregnant. Natalie tried to stop her and Kelly said quite arrogantly; "What have you done for Howard? Did you know he love me the best? I am pregnant with his child, what about you?". Very immature girl. Natalie just looked at her and said; "I have done many things for him, I don't just say it. Loving him doesn't mean saying it or expecting him to love me back, ask yourself, what have you done?". The scene had much better dialogue than I can remember. Anyway later that night Kelly took a very drunk Natalie home and she saw Natalie at her most vulnerable where Natalie in her drunken stupor said; "Howard, be with me, take me back, I want to have your child, how can Kelly treat her baby like this? If I have your baby I will give birth to it, and take care of the baby...". Kelly then realised loving someone is not about playing dolls, walking on beaches or saying I love yous. It's more. I felt sad for Natalie. She loved too deep and stupid Howard never knew how much she loved him.
Whilst this series is wonderful, there were some cringe worthy moments. Nothing is perfect as they always say.
I guess the early parts and also Kenix's horrendous pronunciation of the words, "Howard" (sounded like Hawood) and "clear" (sounded like "krear"). I was speechless.
Also some technical absurdities, like how a guy (Ken) on a wheelchair can travel up the many floors of a very old building (presumably without a lift) to meet Tai Hung in a secret meeting?
Worst was when Nga Chai was interrogated by the ICAC or whatever they are called for his misconduct against Ah Ying, Tai Hung and everybody else. I remember there was a corrupt senator bought by Ah Ying who complained about Nga Chai and his misconduct. The way they interrogated him was plain stupid. Nga Chai kept saying this senator was corrupted, owed Ah Ying money and Ah Ying used him to get back at Nga Chai and the officers said, "No, no relation". How dumb can the dialogue be? You must remember Nga Chai came from a family of policemen, 3 generations to be exact where his father died saving another high ranking cop. That must speak for integrity, how can they take Ah Ying's allegations so seriously and disbelieve their own brother? A bit of background check would have revealed the senator being heavily in debt. Sometimes the police in here are so stupid.
The speed in which Ken recovered from his major disability was unbelievably fast, to the point that Kelly was still pregnant or just given birth and lo and behold, he could run!
Interesting Old Plot
Have you ever noticed lately there were so few series which showed a corrupt officials or cop? Maybe to promote the civil service in the public opinion. This series was like a throw back to the good old days where some cops are corrupted, some officials not without flaws. But there is a distinction between bad cops and good cops. If we have cops like Nga Chai, life would have been peaceful. I kept thinking if only Nga Chai was in Holland Village and he was Mo Yang Yang, he would have punched that Edison straight in the jaw and break it! That's how tough I think Nga Chai is!
The cinematography in this series is excellent. The various sites, the various landscapes, the backgrounds, I never thought HK could be so beautiful and spacious. You have to watch this series to see HK differently.
Ken's house is too big and too cold. In fact too impersonal. The decor for other houses is in the usual high standards of any TVB series whom I believe they have highly trained interior decorator. It's practical and not too unbelievably high class.
This series for all its flaws in some scripting and some scene was almost flawless when it comes to performances. The notable ones are as follows ...
I am sure Bowie must have gained legions of adoring female fans after watching this series. I love how his Nga Chai became a very different man towards the end and yet looked so cool. I especially remember the scene where Bowie was appearing as I think a witness and he was wearing this amazing looking coat. He looked so handsome and we all know, he's not. In fact he looked the same all these years, except for his receding hairline and mind you his hairstyle is laughable but Bowie definitely had so much style and coolness, in the end nobody laughed. His performance was flawless. I love the way he interacted with Tavia, with everybody else and that final scene with Mak Bau. This is definitely one of Bowie's defining roles and a definite highlight in his illustrious career. The scary thing was he rarely changed expression! Like Mak Bau, they're like chameleon and yet not quite and yet so convincingly different in each role and yet something familiar. Definitely a Bowie Lam's series.
Now many praised Joe Ma and how he was so good looking in here. No doubt, he's like a walking supermodel in here but the pin up title I would argue should be given to Bowie Lam. Joe Ma is good looking but from many years until right at this moment, I find him boring. He lacks the screen presence. Acting wise, he is quite alright, emoting the right emotions at the right time but somehow I don't find him manly or attractive or even interesting. I find Bowie all that and more but Joe, Joe was like Ordinary Joe. I have nothing to criticise about his performance but frankly I have nothing to praise either. He is definitely not a leading man material though he looks like one. So for once ugly man wins over handsome man because of sheer screen presence.
Interesting character he played because it was not the lead and yet not a sidekick. This is what people called, a supporting role and a role many fans can never understand. The battle of who's the lead is always the main topic in all discussion forums and I am sure fans of Benny will argue; "He's not the lead" and cry buckets over it. Maybe it's time to realise and understand, sometimes a supporting role is every bit as important as the lead role because someone must support the lead. The lead can't do everything. Benny Chan is the supporting character in here. His performance has greatly improved from his past performances but he still has that theatrics mannerism, like bulging eyes, pursed lips, you know not real acting. What is real anyway right? Anyway, he was quite alright but it was obvious, Bowie presence was all consuming and at times Benny looked like an amateur. Again his character Tai Hung was very important in this series but his performance was lacking that something.
Excellent performance. Apart from Bowie, Mak Bau made this series an instant actor's actor paradise. Don't you all wish that all the best actors (not the most popular ones) are gathered in a single scene to show acting powerhouse? We have that in Golden Faith with Deric Wan and Gallen Lo and in here again there's Mak Bau and Bowie Lam. One singular scene towards the end was the defining moment of best scene and best acting but frankly throughout this series, Mak Bau gave a very excellent performance. Notice his little gestures, like when he was falsely accused of murder and how he wiped his tears in frustration, you will believe this man is innocent, like how he suddenly stood straight and tall and you know this man is consumed by his greed for power and killing people, the way he looked at the baby as the baby's hands brushed against his chubby cheeks, you know this man can be redeemed, how he quietly ate the egg, the way he looked at Bowie and Benny ... you can see pure and raw emotions without over the top acting. Yep, Mak Bau had that tendency but in this series he kept it all under control, so much so he gave one of his defining performance (I would argue JTTW was his other defining performance).
Same old same old, but I have this feeling this is the real Kenix Kwok, head strong and determined, like Ying Cheung. I like this Ying Cheung actually, as I find her a very honourable person. Many argued her role was secondary, she had little to do. Again there is a thing called supporting role. The women in this series may hold supporting roles, but their roles are very important to the development of the story. For one, Ying Cheung. Without her, how will Ken find the will to live? Without her, how can Kelly gain a trusted friend and mend her ways? Her acting is nothing spectacular but it's not bad either. The thing is I can't see past her thin frame. That basically threw me off course, if not I might be able to enjoy her performance more. Standing next to Tavia who was like the definition of youth, I realised Kenix has aged. How time has passed.
She definitely deserved her award. From the first scene to the last, she gave what I can only describe as a very heartfelt, honest and real performance. Her Kelly is energetic, cocky, high spirited, an absolute joy to watch. I have never liked Tavia whom I thought was a credible actress but a boring one. I called her zombie girl or zen like girl because she looked daze or too peaceful all the time. Maybe it's her sleepy eyes. But in this series she proved me wrong and gave perhaps her breakthrough performance. She really looked like a pregnant woman. I look forward to her other performances though I have this series, this may be a one time praise because she still looks boring to me. At least she has the privilege to say "Hey, I was never a Miss HK and was never in a Miss HK pageant, I earned my way through acting school!". And for her decision to choose the difficult way to stardom, I would like to give her my utmost respect. The funny thing is the people you don't find interesting makes capable actors. I don't find Mak Bau, Bowie or Tavia interesting in real life but in this series in their ordinariness they proved they have something extraordinary.
I must comment about this veteran actor. Excellent performance.
Looked a tad too old for Benny, the way she drawled her lines was annoying but other than that I find her performance satisfactory. She does have chemistry with Benny though, which is odd.
Wonderful performance, but Law Kwun Lan, the lady who played the aunt tends to overact. Maybe she came from a theatre background. Ben Ng was a surprise actor in here but I knew he was the corrupted one because it was sooooooooo obvious and thanks to the all too revealing previews. He looked like one too! At first I was thinking Wong Sir but well, when Ben Ng appeared, who else eh?
What about Mark Kwok?
I thought he was going to be a jerk, well he died a jerk since he cheated on his girlfriend and leaving his girlfriend with his other pregnant girlfriend. Small role but important.
It's a pity that many fans at various forums disliked this series, prompting other fans to avoid this series. Certainly they have all missed out on a gem.
A must watch especially for Bowie Lam, Tavia Yeung, Joe Ma and Kenix Kwok fans. Bowie Lam, Tavia Yeung and Mak Bau themselves are worth your hard earned money to watch this 20 odd episodes. And the themesong itself is worth listening again and again and the end song by Benny was a very good song too though Benny sung it badly.
First in my new rating system, whilst there are flaws, I must give this series a perfect because of the never been seen before all round excellent performances by most of the actors in here. Though the story is rather predictable, I actually enjoyed the process of getting to the ending. That in itself is worth the rating I have given just before this last sentence.