"Bad actors are unavoidable unfortunately and there were some very inadequate acting but Raymond Lam alone is enough to compensate for all that flaws. Definitely his best work todate."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Raymond Lam as Lok Bun (Ben)
Myolie Wu as Chung Ching Ling (Ling Ling)
Sammul Chan as Cheuk Wai Ming (Vincent)
Bernice Liu as Cheung Si Ga (Jessica)
Lok Ying Kwan as Hung Ding Wai (Homer)
Ruby Wong as Kwok Yim Na (Angela)
Juno Mak Jun Lung as Ma Ching Gin (Ah Leng)
Lee Kwok Lun as Lee Ming Kit (Marco)
Liu Kai Chi - Cheuk Sir
Lui San - Ling's mother
Winnie Yeung - Nancy / Ah Kwan
Please refer to the Episodic Thoughts in the Infosite. The main theme of this series is the ups and downs of 4 up and coming lawyers all with their own ideologies, own sense of justice and their steadfast conviction towards the law and their profession.
This series was my most anticipated series for the month it was broadcasted on ASTRO. I was drawn to the fact that there was one of my favourite actresses from TVB, Myolie Wu. But the surprising end was I realised sometimes it takes just one role to make on actor so stand out in his portrayal of this role that he himself as well as the character he portrayed became synonymous with one another and totally unforgettable.
This series boasts young actors, those with some experience in acting but not really greenhorns anymore. Obviously TVB are trying to boost the public profile of these 4 actors, namely Raymond Lam, Sammul Chan, Myolie Wu and Bernice Liu. Raymond plays the calm one, Sammul the devious one, Myolie the temperamental one and Bernice, to put it gently, the innocent one. The thing about these 4 characters is some actors would have been perfect for some roles but not cast in them whilst there are some whom the viewers had to watch night after night to get accustomed to this particular actor in this particular role.
Raymond Lam as Ben Lok
The Character Ben
Ben is my most favourite character in this series and definitely one of my most favourite of all characters. He may appear to be boring, since Ben is really a very decent fellow who believes in justice, love, friendship and loyalty to his friends. He seems perfect, but he is also prone to mistakes and he is also prone to making the wrong judgment. He is definitely not devious or mean, but at times he appears totally nonchalant about stuff, totally not bothered and not concerned when he really is very concerned about some issues. What I love about this character is the value he puts on his friendship with the character Vincent and Jessica and the way he would go about winning his cases in unconventional manner but still his integrity and character remain intact. Clearly a very morally sound character and more importantly, a good man to the core.
The Actor Raymond Lam
And then we have an actor more popularly associated with opera excessive expressions type of acting who has in his newly started career played a tyrant Emperor, an ungrateful brother and some roles that I can't remember. In fact I can't remember much about Raymond's series except for his breakthrough performance in A Step Into The Past and also Golden Faith. He is of course more well known as Louis Koo lookalike and frankly they even sound alike. So I was a bit apprehensive about Raymond being Ben, who is essentially a cool calm guy. Raymond has excelled in roles where he has bulging eyes, spitting saliva and of course that pained dark look where he will painfully read out his lines one word at a time when in moments of anger or shock. That was annoying. Which was why I was very surprised from episode one I was drawn to the character Ben, and as the episodes go by, I began to appreciate Raymond Lam the actor. He is technically not an idol type, he is not even a superstar type, but this young man has got the x-factor. Even at his worst, he is still watchable, and even acting in one of the worst series I have ever seen (Eternal Happiness) he was a standout. But in Ben, he found his character, and I believe Ben will be a character that defines his career and makes his fans sit up and stare. I particularly appreciate the fact that he toned down on his too-expressive acting method, and when his character is limited to few words and a close shot on his face, he let his eyes do the talking though his expressions remained basically the same. He changed somewhat in his style of acting and to me that can only be good news. I definitely will look forward to his other series.
When his Ben met face to face with Vincent (Sammul Chan) and pleaded with him again and again to return to the nice guy he was, by even offering to not see the one woman he loved. That was emotional. In fact every encounter he had with Vincent in the later part of the series are moving and very emotional and he played it best by being subtle. An acting technique rarely seen in TVB actors, because most of them would shout, scream, kick and hold the other and shaking them violently. His Ben hardly touched Vincent in these scenes and yet it was a powerful moment of his Ben trying to "shake" and "knock" some sense into Vincent.
I would also like to note his comic timing in several scenes, another surprising talent of his I never knew he had, that he could be funny. In a way he reminds me so much of Louis Koo who is not a very good dramatic actor but is an excellent comedian with perfect comic timing. Never guessed that the most boring personalities make the funniest comic.
None that I can think of, except maybe by his limited choice of wardrobe.
Sammul Chan as Vincent
The Character Vincent
Vincent is one character that has the potential of stealing the limelight from the character of Ben, because Vincent is not idealistic, hopeful or even morally upright. But he is a nice guy, except he will be willing to bend the rules to get what he wants. To him work is work, play is play. But when it comes to his father whom he loves dearly, he will do anything, good or bad for him, even if his father told him to just let go. As you could read from my episodic thoughts, the moment Vincent crosses over from decent nice guy to unethical angry man, the transition has been expected all along because from day one, there is something quite sinister about Vincent. But like I said Vincent is a nice guy, so that sinister side of him is always in check, that is until his father was no longer there to look after him and he feels Ben was getting in his way. In a way Vincent's anger at Ben is like two best friends fighting, only this time it is over a case, a woman, their career. To me Vincent is a very real character, there are people like that, and to me Vincent had the potential to become one of the most memorable character on TV. Problem is the writer decided to give Vincent a break and mellowed him down when he should have given Vincent more room to grow. I was actually hoping to see more of that sinister side, to see him go all his way to do the unthinkable (stop short of murder, but actually he did murdered someone in here) and then seeing him redeem himself in the most dramatic way. The series had some of these elements but essentially Vincent became rather subdued almost towards the end of this series. He didn't cross the line of ethics but he did cross the line of friendship. I was rather disappointed with what his character didn't do, though I very much enjoyed what he did do. There were comments posted on this disagreeing that Vincent should be the villain. And that is the problem with this series. There is no villain. Maybe in life things are as complicated as this series makes it to be, and yet as simple as it ended. Just that I was spoiled by this notion that there is a good guy and there is a bad guy. Vincent is the one in between, but his character in this series gets weaker and weaker as Ben's get stronger and stronger, until suddenly Vincent's character is so not there, his presence no longer felt, that is until the whole father got imprisoned thing happened and he shot someone else. But that was almost the end and in a way I feel the writing on the character Vincent could have been more improved, to reflect an even bigger difference between Ben's way of handling things and Vincent's way of handling things. But the focus shifted to love, and then to other things that subdued this storyline and in the end this never fully realised. I find it hard to describe it detail what I actually expect from these two characters and how their characters go about things, but I actually thought wouldn't it be great if the focus is not on 4 people, but 2 men and then the other 2 women are just by their sides. Of course after a while even the 2 women had very little role and not much to do but the storyline could have easily shifted from the friends theme to enemies theme back to redemption theme. Adding a few more episodes could help. All in all I felt Vincent's characterisation was inadequate, abruptly ended before it had been fully realised and not given much importance in this bad guy vs good guy storyline. The worst had to be the inconsistencies and that perhaps is the responsibilities of the actor.
The actor Sammul Chan
Truth be told, I never thought Sammul Chan as a very good actor. I thought he looked effeminate, much too young and much too weak and sickly looking. But it is of no surprise that he was cast in this role if you look at it carefully. This young man, like Raymond often played characters suited to how he looks. For example, decent nice man, sickly decent nice man, and so on and so forth. He is playing against type here and at one glance one might argue he is wrong for the role. But after hearing how some old grannies swooning over his smooth fair skin and gentlemanly behaviour, I must agree, Sammul as Vincent makes a very nice catch. After all Sammul looks educated, he looks intelligent, he has this professional look and this yuppie look and he is young enough and believable enough to be a yuppie. So looks wise Sammul is quite alright. But you must remember, Vincent is described as someone very intelligent, very serious in his work and yet playful when he is not, flirtatious and very popular amongst the girls and most of all, handsome. Sorry to say, I thought Raymond was more handsome in the traditional sense as in features but Sammul is really not bad looking. So all that being said, now comes to his acting which is really the most important element.
Sammul has been given what I would call a badly written character. At first Vincent is a gem of a character but as the series progresses, this character became weakened by lack of purpose. I am not saying Vincent is a pointless character, but I feel his character could have been given more depth, a more striking difference between him and Ben. The actor who plays this character could have been given a chance to play a nice person but flawed in his character, as Ling calls him. So in a way Sammul can't be blamed for whatever his Vincent lacks. BUT there are some scenes which I feel was badly done by Sammul, most obvious are the dramatic moments. Definitely Sammul is not a very good dramatic actor. When he is laid back, he is laid back, but when he is dramatic, whilst he does act and behave like one, there were times I thought he wasn't convincing enough. His drama moments comes with scolding, giving that person that killer stare and all but I thought and I always felt Vincent should have been a more sarcastic person. After all he feels he is smarter, he is more superior. He doesn't say he is more superior to Ben's face but he feels that way sometimes, and he is innately arrogant. This is the ugly side of Vincent. Sammul lacked that arrogance. In fact there were times he smiled too much, although I call them smug smiles, but really smug smiles are nothing. I have this impression that Vincent has an edge about him, that he is capable of doing great things and at the same time he is also capable of doing damage. There is a dangerous edge to Vincent, which is why he walks with his head held high, in part because of pride, but really in essence it is because he is arrogant. He knows he is good at what he does, and that is why Vincent is so dangerous in a sense. Sammul had none of that actually.
At the same time, when Vincent fell, he fell hard. When his girlfriend left him, his father went to jail, he thought everybody deserted him, that Ben betrayed him, that Ben valued everything else above their genuine friendship, he changed for the worse. That edge in him tipped to the dark side and he became very unreasonable and very annoying. You feel like slapping him for what he said to Ben, what he almost did to Ling, how he betrayed Jessica and ultimately his own decency, that little shred he had left in him. All these make for a very powerful portrayal of a man trapped in his own anger. Unfortunately, the writing failed the character, and the actor could not go beyond the standard fare of an unreasonable character. I must admit, in a way Sammul handled these emotions badly. One could only imagine if Deric Wan were to be perhaps 15 years younger, what he would have done to this character.
And then we come to perhaps the most interesting element of this character. What makes him still as engaging if not fully fleshed out in character is his treatment of Jessica. As he goes about destroying his own life and all, and as he mistreats his other real friend, he is genuinely nice to Jessica. He felt remorse but thought he had to betray her. He used her and then mockingly told her he used her but in actual fact he may have been saying go away, you see the real me, I am ugly, leave me alone! This is like showing his true self to Jessica which explains why Jessica was willing to forgive him, in part because she is crazy about him but I thought Vincent was very genuine and very real when he is around Jessica. In the same way the reason he was genuinely hurt by Ben over Ben's choice to reveal the truth Vincent wanted hidden was because he actually treated and accepted Ben as his true friend. You won't be so angry or so hurt if you don't care about that person. As Ben genuinely cares for Vincent, I believe Vincent actually cares about Ben. This is what make Vincent a good guy. And in the end when he shot dead that scumbag, I thought his decency returned to him because he did what he must to to protect his friends, not harm them like he almost did before.
I may be quite philosophical about Vincent, but I am trying to explain my view of this character and to give an informed criticism of the actor. Frankly the only time I thought Sammul did well was towards the end as he looked at Jessica with such concern and such guilt in court. The way he looked at Ben when he told Ben he was sorry. That nice guy, albeit smug smile galore nice guy. But Sammul doesn't have in him the arrogance that I spoke before. Which may be a very comforting news to his fans, because I really find Sammul Chan a decent fellow. He comes across as polite, gentlemanly, soft spoken and treats people with respect. I can actually trust him. Like Moses Chan actually. And these two had big problems playing characters with serious flaws in their ... ermm...characters (as in values).
Overall a decent performance but better writing and a more accomplished actor could have given this character more to feast upon. Remember my recommendation of Kevin Cheng in this role? He definitely has the looks, he has this arrogant air to him and yes, smug smiles and all. He has that dangerous edge, I can't trust him. I am sure he is a decent fellow but he has this incredulous look, like mocking me, like "are you serious" look. Perfect as Vincent, acting wise of course maybe not.
Myolie Wu as Ling
The Character Ling
One character that I liked at the beginning and hated towards the end because of her cynicism. I didn't like how she viewed Vincent, though what she thought was all true but sometimes must give a bit of chance but she seemed more inclined to hate than to really look and give a fair judgment. When fighting cases, she is often too emotional, too involved personally ala The Practice. The worst time was the way she treated her adopted mom. That was over the line. But really Ling is a nice girl but flawed in many ways.
The Actress Myolie Wu
This is one actress I have been following from her first series to this present one, and she gets better and better as each series goes but even her first series, though she was nervous, she did brilliantly. Maybe her voice may be the reason why some dislike her but apart from that, she is not blessed with movie star good looks. She has loads of rumours but frankly I do not care. It is her as an actress that I most admire, and I really like her recent works, most notably Doomed to Oblivion where she played a spunky ex-con woman with an attitude and her best role todate, Golden Faith where she played a mentally challenged person with such innocence and was totally lovable. In this series she plays a career woman, fresh into her career, but governed too much by her heart. I would not call her her best performance and definitely nothing much compared to the other series I mentioned but looking at this one alone, I must say, she did exceptionally well. Her tears, her anger, her frustration, her cynicism were all very well done and I was very convinced by her performance. She has a bright future, something which I have said in her first series. She once proclaimed she loves acting, and I can see her passion in every character she has played. My fear is she still turn into someone endorsing slimming products, far too busy endorsing stuff that she forgot about acting. But she recently did some stage shows, which showed her dedication for perfecting her art. I have no bad comments about this actress, the only thing I can criticise her in this series are two factors:-
1. she was at her weakest when in a court room she was very emotional whilst testifying but I could see some deliberate movements on Myolie's part, making her performance flawed; and
2. her character, Ling is so badly written towards the end, it is such a pity for the actress to play such an inadequate role which from capable lawyer to a wallpaper towards the end.
Bernice Liu as Jessica
The Character Jessica
This is one character I disliked at the beginning because she was so stupid, naive and does not look, behave, act or argue a case like a lawyer. But as the series progresses, she showed herself to be a person of determination, very trustworthy and a very good decent woman.
The Actress Bernice Liu
Absolute sunshine to watch, her dazzling smile, her cute expressions, her very athletic body, all very nice package. Problem is her acting is really bad. But she does get better as the series progresses as her Jessica went from goofy silly stupid naive and innocent to smarter, more determined, more confidence but still as silly and goofy as ever. A delightful person to watch, a very interesting character, a very bad actress.
Some MTV Awards moments ...
NONE! No kiss, NONE! What is wrong with this series apart from inadequate writing, bad acting and some very boring characters? There is no kissing scene. I want one, just one. But in a way this is positive. There is no pre-marital sex (except for a hint of it thanks to Vincent's one night stand but we see nothing), no big time cozy hugging, no touchy-touchy, no punching (maybe got but I can't remember) and definitely no kissing, not even a peck on the cheek. I want kissing actually. In a way the characters are in love, but I can't feel passion, I can't feel sexual chemistry. Not even Vincent and Jessica though I am convinced they're in love but sometimes it doesn't hurt to have one passionate kiss. Just one.
Definitely Raymond Lam. I have been gushing about him in every episodic thought and I think I have explained myself adequately why he's the man in this series. What a fantastic portrayal. I love subtle acting and coming from Mr Opera-ish Acting himself, I am very pleasantly surprised.
I won't name Sammul Chan because he is really not the worst but I can't put down a name here. So I would say none.
Without any doubt on my mind, Ruby Wong. The fact that she is still in this industry is the biggest mystery, apart from Sonija Kwok still getting acting offers.
None. No villain. Maybe the writer for screwing up the story and some characters.
Very difficult to choose just one. Mostly the confrontation scenes between Vincent and Ben, Ling and her mom, Vincent and Jessica, Ben, Ben, Ben.
Most Favourite Couple
Either Ben and Ling or Vincent and Jessica. I was of course hoping for Ben and Jessica. Ermmm most favourite had to be Vincent and Jessica. I cheered for this couple from earlier episodes until the end.
Most Unforgettable Moment
Plenty but one stood out for me was when Ben said in his calm but a tad desperate voice when he was begging Vincent to return to the path of righteousness that for friendship, he was willing to give up his love for Ling. I love him the most then.
Most Favourite Character
Ben, the best boyfriend/friend/son/brother/being in the world. Vincent is ok, but Ben is better.
Not very consistent in its writing but definitely a good show. You will learn something about the court system too but I am still confused whether Ben and Vincent are Solicitors or Barristers at the beginning. Also very good and strong performance from some leads whilst the veterans gave this series some good acting moments. Bad actors are unavoidable unfortunately and there were some very inadequate acting but Raymond Lam alone is enough to compensate for all that flaws. Definitely his best work todate. Fans of Sammul Chan may appreciate something different from their idol. Fans of Myolie Wu may appreciate her good performance though dislike the direction of her characters whilst fans of Bernice Liu will definitely love her in here.