Written by Funn Lim
"In fact I find Bowie the actor rather sexy in here and that is rare; in HKTVB there is no sexy. There is mature handsome, playful handsome, irritating handsome but sexy? Not quite and here he was, to me very sexy."
SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS
"In fact I find Bowie the actor rather sexy in here and that is rare; in HKTVB there is no sexy. There is mature handsome, playful handsome, irritating handsome but sexy? Not quite and here he was, to me very sexy."
SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS
Ying Si Ching Bo For
Which I suppose translates to Serious Crime Investigation Bureau but then the English title says it better, Criminal Investigaton Bureau Files.
No. Of Episodes
Took the following from Dramawiki and assuming they're correct, my review will be based on the names below.
Bowie Lam as Tony Chung Shun
Christine Ng as Emily Ching Mei Lai
Wong Hei as Mark Chung Jing
Maggie Siu as Samantha Hui Sum Yin
Wai Ka Hung as Daniel Kwok
Kenny Wong as William Hung
Chan Hung Lit as Albert Chung
Chow Ka Yee as May Ching
Lok Ying Kwan as Yip Sir
Yu Yeung as Jimmy Chan
Joe Jr as Mo Sir
Queenie Chu Wai Man as Rachel Yu
Joey Chan Jou Yee as Michael Chung
Rachel Kan Muk Wah as Joey
Gregory Charles Rivers as Kim
Ellesmere Choi as Chiu Wei Lun
Annabelle Lau as Elaine
Patricia Liu as Vivian
A story about 2 dedicated policemen in the CIB unit, 2 dedicated reporter for some sleazy magazine, their love lives, their family and about everyone else in CIB and in the magazine company. In short this is a series about everyone and everybody. Confused? So was I, at first. More in Comments.
Complete spoilers so avoid if you must.
Tony and Mark are brothers who are both policemen. From the beginning we know Tony as a stable mature cool hea dof his unit in CIB, married quite young to Emily, an ambitious chief editor of a sleazy tell all magazine which seems to be the reference book for those in CIB. They have a 15 year old son named Michael and family life is loving if a bit forced due to the nature of their work. Mark was an undercover police for several years and recently got transferred to CIB under a female head of his unit, Vivian. Mark works together with 2 colleagues, Daniel and one other whose name I forgotten. Mark was seeing an insurance agent until he was dumped in a rather humiliating fashion, when he bumped into her leaving a motel with her boyfriend. Mark and Tony has a close relationship due to the fact that their father, Albert left them and their mother many years before for another woman. Tony and Mark never forgave their father, and their mother died a bitter woman. For many years Mark looks up to Tony as a father figure whose opinion he respected and Tony felt much guilt that Mark was the son who was left to take care of their bitter mother when Tony left the country to further his police training. Their relationship is as cordial as it is close and Mark gets along very well with Emily, his sister in law.
On the other hand, Samantha is an over ambitious and sometimes ruthless female reporter who was employed by Jimmy, Emily's boss. Emily saw this as a challenge to her authority as chief editor and from the moment Samantha stepped into the office, both had silently declared war against another. Each is assisted ably by equally as nosy and ruthless young assistant, Emily by her own younger sister, May whilst Samantha is assisted by her long time assistant, Joey.
Whilst the men at CIB seems to get on exceptionally well, the women at the magazine escalated from wanting to overthrow one another to full on war, especially when Samantha was investigating the story of an undercover cop, Mark and Emily is pressured to obtain more information about certain high profile cases eventhough she has never considered betraying her husband.
Whilst Mark seems to get into the bad books of Samantha who feels he is trying to annoy her for having investigated and made several allegations about him, Mark is actually a good natured man whose only weakness seems to be the fact that he is an overly law abiding citizen. Samantha gets annoyed everytime she sees him, more so when he stumbled upon again and again on her senile mother.
And then Mark and Tony's father came back into their lives. They found out that the other woman died some time ago, their father's house burnt down, I think in China and he was suffering from cancer. Tony thought Mark would not be able to forgive their father, Albert for what he did before since Mark was the one who took care of their mother whilst Tony was overseas but as it turns out, Mark when he heard his father was sick, homeless and alone, took his father home, much to the chagrin of Tony whom he himself realised he was not as forgiving as Mark. Albert wanted desperately to regain his sons' love, especially the more resentful and much older Tony and so he tried his smiling best to get into the good books of Tony who made his displeasure known earlier on. Things changed a little when Tony suffered from some sickness that had him blinded for several days as his father secretly visited him. With the advise of his mentor and good friend Yip Sir as well as Mark and especially Emily, Tony began to soften a little towards his father but still resentful everytime he remembered how he had abandoned them and their mother.
As investigations went on and on and as the magazine began to reveal more and more exclusives, the personal lives of these good people began to unravel. Emily overheard Tony's doubts of her innocence over certain confidential information that was leaked out, thinking perhaps she was the one who leaked the information and Emily was so disappointed, she could not forgive Tony, eventhough he had tried to apologise. Their relationship which was already very cordial before, filled with pretense and lies was now exploding due to the lack of communication which in the end became total breakdown of communication. Taking Michael to study overseas, Emily had time to reflect on her life and although she did not regret having Michael and delaying her career earlier on, she now had some tinge of regret that whatever she had done did not in the end earn his complete trust. It became worse when she suspected he was having affairs and he was accused of having slept with one of the informers. She felt resentful at his distrust so much so she began to retreat away and the marriage began to crumble to the point that Tony didn't know what else to do than to wait for Emily to calm down and he moved out of the apartment. Emily threw herself into her work and did many unscrupulous things to secure her position, and she became more vindictive when she found out that Mark was dating Samantha.
Back to Samantha.
Samantha had a sad past and Mark did not know her past before until his own father played matchmaker and asked Mark to help fix her broken down laptop. Mark gave it to Daniel who himself looked into the contents of the laptop and revealed to Mark that Samantha had 3 fiancees and all of whom had died. She was considered bad luck but that didn't stop Mark from falling for Samantha. She wouldn't have given him another look if not for one bad move masterminded by Emily that almost caused her her job. Samantha became disillussioned and then she bumped into Mark. With Mark she began to relax and began to change her pace. She became less ambitious and began to make an effort to be Emily's friend as she realised their rivalry was too destructive for everyone they both knew. But Emily misinterpreted Samantha's good intentions and when she found out Mark and Samantha was dating, in front of a very upset Samantha Emily told Mark about how bad Samantha is for him and how he should avoid her as she is only using Mark. Mark thanked Emily for her concern but reiterated that Samantha was good for him. Samantha was touched but felt guilty when Emily and Tony seperated. She felt it was she who drove Emily to being more ruthless and when Mark suggested she meets Tony as a formal introduction, Samantha was nervous as she was afraid Tony might feel Samantha was the cause of the breakdown of the marriage. Tony made sure Samantha did not feel that way anymore and accepted Samantha as part of the family because Tony knew the breakdown occured long before Samantha appeared.
All was happy, and Samantha steadily retreated from her demanding job whilst Emily went full speed ahead. She was all along Jimmy's pimp of sort, breaking off his women for him and etc. She can be manipulative and demanding as well as bitchy but why she wanted to destroy Samantha, which was overheard by Tony who rebuked her was because she genuinely thought Samantha was using Mark.
One day Samantha was waiting with Mark's family for his arrival for some dinner I think when they got hold of the news that Mark was shot. He survived but Samantha became very afraid that she may be the cause since she was bad luck. She tried to ignore it, eventhough her own mother in law (played by Suet Lei) kept begging her to leave Mark if not she will cause his death. She happily ran towards the hospital to see Mark when she heard the news that the hospital's power went off completely. Samantha was convinced she will kill Mark in the end if she continued to be with him and so she decided to leave him for good. Mark refused her reasons but she made up her mind. At that point Jimmy asked Samantha for some exclusive pictures of Mark since Mark was mysteriously shot after another policeman was also shot. Nobody knew who did it. She was offered the job she wanted and Emily was convinced Samantha would say yes but to her surprise Samantha said no. In fact Samantha wanted to quit. Emily's perception of Samantha changed and realised Samantha's love for Mark was genuine and Emily began to see Samantha in a new light. They ended up being friends and although Emily tried to persuade Samantha to give Mark a chance, Samantha decided that he was better off without her. This prompted Mark to break the rules and to use all his power to find what happened to one of Samantha's suppossedly dead fiancee when I think it was Daniel who told him he saw Samantha's fiancee in a picture taken from Thailand in one of the files.
Meanwhile Emily began to soften towards Tony and wanted to reconcile and yet found herself unable to tell him. Tony began to realise he hardly knew his wife and his taste and began to retreat a little eventhough he was waiting for the day Emily would be back with him. They were not talking, and then they found out Michael was suffering from depression and was sent home early to recuperate. To their shock Michael became a rude obnoxious boy and for his sake they pretended to be back together again and lived under one roof. In actual fact Michael pretended to change which is the plan of Albert in trying to bring them back together again. The plan didn't work and Michael became very frustrated and left for his school whilst Emily and Tony spiralled towards the inevitable, divorce. But neither could suggest it.
At the same time Jimmy was going through a potentially expensive divorce. He knew Emily knew a lot of his secrets whilst his wife tried to get Emily to be on her side. Emily didn't want to be involved and Jimmy instigated Tony to find a divorce lawyer as Emily was the one who told Jimmy to tell Tony. Since Tony and Emily were not talking to one another, each made a wrong assumption that the other wanted to divorce. They ended up signing the seperation papers and took off their wedding bands. But Albert gave one last try to get them to talk but that didn't work. Tony called Emily and finally confessed his feelings but Emily did not hear him because she was busy trying to look for the wedding ring that fell to the floor. In the end Tony thought Emily did not want to be with him again and left it at that.
Meanwhile Mark found out that I think Samantha's 3rd husband did not die. He had in fact ran off to Thailand to avoid loan sharks and had married in Thailand. Samantha went to see him. And then I think her 2nd husband, Ah Lun came back and he too didn't die. He ran away because he got cold feet before the wedding. His mother, the senile one could not forgive him and whilst he wanted to reconcile with Samantha, the guys as CIB was beginning to suspect that he was the one who shot Mark. Even Samantha thought he was the one and followed him to Mark's house, and in the house she heard Albert scream and when Lun came out she hit him hard on the head. As it turns out, Lun wanted to see Mark to ask him to give Samantha a chance since she can't forget him and that he and Samantha was over.
It was not until the very end did the shooter of Mark was revealed and Mark was once again in peril but Mark was so frustrated that she challenged that man by putting his forehead against the gun and it was William who shot that man to death that saved the day.
The last scene was Emily in the office alone when she was stunned by I think a stungun and it was one of Jimmy's mistresses who was insane. The next scene we see all of them at some funeral but Emily didn't die. In fact she was hospitalised and in that few days of rest she and Tony talked more than they ever did all those years and each began to find out each dislikes and likes and life begins anew for them.
As for Mark and Samantha, the last scene we see was Samantha was driving by when she saw Mark parked by the side, sleeping. It was the same scenario that she was in some time ago where it was Samantha parked by the side and Mark ended up fixing her license plate, cleaning the car window and even sat in his car watching over her as she slept soundly, woken only by the sound of her handphone ringing and he immediately hid himself and she left. In this last scene, it was Samantha who cleaned the windows, stopped the patrol police from waking him up and when he woke up to the sound of his handphone ringing, she hid. But he knew she was there and as they playfully teased each other, we the viewers found out they too began a new and the scene with them ended with Mark rubbing his nose lightly over Samantha's nose followed by a light loving kiss.
It took me about 18 episodes to realise what Tony and Mark do for their job and what is CIB about. As TVB would explain it, CIB officers do not hold guns. They're more of the analytical field, compiling statistics and information provided by their informers who are on their payrolls as well as taking care of undercover cops. But in TVB's interpretation of CIB's work, they first have meetings with the entire department. Then they have meetings with their own teams to which their own team members would have meetings amongst themselves and after work they will have private meetings in a pub to talk abou life and of course work. They're professionally clad in beautifully cut suits with sometimes over the top hairstyle and they spend their times glued to their sits, holding a pen and starts sprouting statistics and strategy. They are not involved in arresting people, rather that's the job of O-kei, in this series represented by robots who either has no emotion or has too much angst in the form of the guys in OCTB, forever clad in blue jackets, blue hat, marches instead of walk and will always breakdown a door by first doing a roll over the floor and then promptly kicked down the entire door. If OCTB is supposed to be a joke, let me stress that yes I get it. I do. In fact the men at OCTB is really the main cause of this series' failure of there was one because they're a joke by themselves. They actually march instead of walk and I don't think I have ever seen them smile, even once.
The series itself is full of in jokes. I read there are quite a few but in the 1st episode itself, you will see a direct rip off from Infernal Affairs. I thought that was funny and I thought the tone of this series would be comedy but then it became very very serious that somehow all these in jokes just didn't seem appropriate.
It is also interesting to note that the men in the police force get on incredibly well, especially in the form of Daniel and his partner as well as Tony and everyone else but it was the two female reporters and their assistants that provide the catfights, rivalry and declaration of intention to destroy one another. The rivalry of Emily and Samantha in fact dominated the first half of this series as they went on and on to kill each other off. The love relationship seems pretty set. For a moment there would be affaird between Patricia Liu's character and Bowie's character since everytime he sees her, cue the music that had me interpreting it as in the mood for love but they ended up being just really friendly and encouraging colleagues. In fact Patricia's character left halfway to care for her sick daughter and reconcile with her husband, not seen in the series. So I was wondering if the relationships are pretty set then what is the story about?
The truth is there is none. This is that kind of series that I could not predict the storyline because there is nothing fixed. The identity of Mark's shooter had me guessing till the very end, thanks in some part to Daniel's wrong accusations of everybody who appears in this series. In fact by the time the shooter was revealed I have pretty much exhausted the suspect list and I still didn't get it right. So I count the mystery of the shooter in this series a success and in the end the shooter who was revealed seems quite suitable. He had reasons to hate Mark.
Everytime I got this series figured out, it went the other way. A big part of the romance or the reluctance of romance is on the part of Samantha and Mark. They're the on and off again element of this series and is of course strangely watcheable for a very good reason.
Have you seen Maggie Siu and Wong He individually? Does it ever strike you that they're even remotely compatible? But yet when put together, their intensity for one another is very obvious and the way Wong He looked at Maggie and the way Maggie stared at Wong He, I find them having an abundance of chemistry. The last scene was especially effective because I have never seen such a seductive and loving scene between a couple that didn't have some form of some action on bed. They were fully clothed, standing and yet the way they looked at one another, the way he lightly brushed his nose against hers and then a light kiss with a hug was more intimate than any Hollywood sex scene I have ever seen. Who needs Lust Caution when such simple loving gestures describe it all? I was especially struck by Maggie's performance in that scene as she looked at a sleeping Wong He and she just stared, with a little smile and you knew this woman's heart is his to keep. Likewise earlier on, Wong He stared at a sleeping Maggie and you knew this man was falling for her despite the fact that she was quite rude to him. Something about her that made him look at her and something about him that made her stop and reevaluate her life. I find their love relationship totally convincing and beautiful, even if it was momentarily and almost destroyed by that silly bad luck thing plot. What's the direct translation for "Tong Zhu Tang"? The chinese language can be very articulate.
The same can't be said for Bowie and Christine. Individually they look good.
Bowie looks handsome in a very masculine yet educated yet authoritative yet mature way. I am in a dilemma because I can't admit it since I never quite felt that way that I do about TVB male actors except for one or two. I mean Kevin Cheng has my vote as the handsomest and most debonair looking actor in TVB. Alex Fong Chung Shun, when he doesn't talk simply looks ravishing and very handsome as well. Raymond Lam is handsome of course but like a young man way. The rest are just too kiddie for me to feel any way remotely attracted to them. Bowie too. I mean in Dance Of Passion I find his performance totally lacking in everything and he simply looked like a brute. In fact in most series he looks like a brute. His small eyes, forever thinning hair ... he and Wong Hei do look like brothers. Whilst Wong He as Mark is clearly the younger and more playful one, Bowie's Tony hardly do any running or anything physical. His actions in this series reminds me of the 1st half of Jewel In The Palace where the characters walk from point A to point B, sit and talk. In fact he sat a lot in this series. And he was forever clad in well cut suit. Oh my the suits... they deserve a name for themselves, because they're a character in themselves. Anyway Bowie...never in jeans and T-shirt from what I remember, maybe a pyjamas but always, always in a suit. Some may disagree with me but I will admit it here; when Bowie first appeared in this series, as a mature man with a wife and a teenage son and in a highly paid job (look at his apartment! look at his car! look at his suits!) and well respected, I kinda forgot he was a policeman. He seems more like a corporate CEO. Anyway I looked at him and I felt.. immensely attracted to his Tony, even when his Tony never quite could reveal his feelings for his wife, Emily. Throughout this series Tony has been true to his wife; he never cheated. Of course he suspected her but he apologised, he gave her room to think about their relationship. For a man in such a high powered job, he was not pushy at all; in fact you can say he is a bit soft but then he loved his wife, he didn't want to push her. Just like Mark when he was dealing with Samantha and her insecurities. I find all these traits very appealing and I found myself very attracted to Bowie's Tony. In fact I find Bowie the actor rather sexy in here and that is rare; in HKTVB there is no sexy. There is mature handsome, playful handsome, irritating handsome but sexy? Not quite and here he was, to me very sexy. I just don't know why I felt that way. I told my sis, "Eh Bowie very sexy lar" and she concurred. I guess this has to do with my age, my perception and the fact that pretty boys charms me but mature stable somewhat good looking man (ok he's not handsome but he's not THAT ugly) attracts me. He looks like a man who can take care of his woman and for that I feel Bowie was well cast. Perfectly cast? I don't know but definitely well cast. Performance wise, ok at times he seems breathless but that is his habit. Bowie has been forever like that like forever. There was a time Bobby Au Yeung is the quittensential professional mature man, with some annoying traits but now Bowie can be that too. Not just by profession but by demeanour. And he hardly changed his acting style at all.
Christine on the other hand had the more severe look. Her hair is black, in fact very black and cut with such severe cut that she looks harsh and cold. In the beginning her Emily seems like 2 woman in one; the cold calculative manipulative ambitious devious Emily at work and the loving, understanding, warm Emily at home. But we know she is a little bit of both. Somewhere along the way she must have realised she may have made a rash decision in marrying Tony. She said she didn't regret marrying him or having Michael or even taking time off to take care of the family but I think somewhere along the way she felt she may have given up a little too much. She changed for the worse; she pushed Tony away and said things like "Don't you understand? I don't feel that way about us anymore. You feel that way, but I don't. Not anymore." Quite obvious isn't it? And Tony slipped away to give her time and the more time he gave her the more she changed. She became more career minded. She was already ambitious but she never quite take the work back home. Now she worked all day in the office perhaps to catch up the old times. She was bent on destroying Samantha, she was ruthless to the point Tony had to ask her "Why are you so bent on destroying her? Shouldn't you give people a chance?" which of course she retorted to get out of her face. She was rude but not in an impolite manner. She began to talk less with Tony and already the relationship wasn't a very communicative one. They hid secrets from one another and that perhaps made Emily feel that this marriage was not right to begin with. She went as far as to insult Samantha in front of Mark who quietly accepted her comments and rebuked her in a very polite way. I have a feeling Emily must have married very young, perhaps was pregnant when she married Tony and supported his career all these years as she languished away. Then she started working again and by the time the marriage broke down, she may have felt she should have done this earlier. As she married young, she also spoke in one scene about her duties as an older sister, taking care of her younger siblings and in some way since Mark is so close to her, she must have cared for him too. All these feelings of resentment of marrying young and felt that she has given up too much too soon boiled and overflowed; and Samantha bore the brunt of her dissatisfaction with her own life and her past decisions.
And yet one very telling scene which I felt was very powerful was when Emily earlier on brag about her life to Samantha; "I am a happily married woman with a great career, a boss that trusts me, a husband that loves me and a son that adores me. You? What are you?". It was vindictive and malicious and Samantha felt the daggers in the statement because it was true; Samantha had 3 dead fiancees, 3 mother in laws and no one else. So later into the series when Emily began pushing Tony away, her statement rang even clearer; why can't Emily see how lucky she was?
To me Emily was one chameleon like character which perhaps did not have the most drastic change but perhaps the most significant change. In the end when she realised she really didn't want to divorce, she couldn't get herself to confess that to Tony. Neither could Tony but at least he did during a telephone call but she didn't hear him. From secretly highly ambitious to all out super ambitious, in the end Emily transformed into less career minded and the last scene was her considering the role of a housewife because she realised nothing is more important than family. Tony softly rebutted her saying "As I have said before, I have never stopped you from pursuing your career" which is true. He is a very understanding husband, she was a very understanding wife, they're very loving parents but the problem is they never quite tell that to each other. This series is like a look into a seemingly perfect relationship which deep down is a troubled one.
Halfway through Emily was difficult to watch. She was bitchy to the max but there was a redeeming quality. She meant what she said; family is always first. Even when she had an opportunity to advance her career at the price of betraying her husband and family, she never did. In fact she mistakenly thought Samantha was using Mark to advance her career but when she found out that wasn't the truth, she not only saved Samantha's job, in the end they became friends. All those rivalry stemmed from a misunderstanding; that she thought Samantha was ruthless and would hurt Mark and Samantha simply hit back to save herself since she is more of a survivor. When that wasn't the case, Emily actually said good things about her when her own sister insulted Samantha. Likewise Samantha refused to betray Mark and Emily too and so she quit and joined a broadcast company as a TV reporter. In a way Mark and Tony are two very lucky men; they have very loyal women.
But why then did the marriage broken down? This series tackles this question. It is interesting because Emily and Tony did not seperate because of another woman, neither was Tony a bad husband or Emily a negligent wife, both are loving capable parents and both did not have any vice that drove the other out. In fact one of the best scene had Emily shopping with Jimmy's wife, Elaine. Elaine was hoping to get Emily on her side to reveal Jimmy's many affairs but Emily refused, saying "Even if I were to be your witness, imagine how ridiculous that would be for you since I would be a divorced woman and I would be attacked as a woman who hates man so my credibility would be gone". Which is what Jimmy was planning when he deliberately caused a rift between Emily and Tony. Jimmy was Emily's mentor, Elaine her classmate so they were pretty close. But Elaine replied "But you and Tony are different. You didn't break up because of some other woman or man, you didn't fight, it wasn't about money.. in fact your separation with Tony is so amicable I envy you! I wish all divorces can be like you and Tony, without fuss, without reason, just good clean break" and Emily looked like she was wondering too "Yeah lor, why then Tony and I separated??". I wonder too.
I find that aspect of this series, especially Emily's evolution from episode 1 until the last very interesting to watch. I am a sucker for study on human behaviour and to me this series provides that aspect adequately. Unfortunately I just don't quite see the chemistry between Bowie and Christine and I suppose that is deliberate.
Likewise on the part of Samantha, she too is an interesting character by herself. She was highly ambitious and probably a survivor since she survived the deaths of 3 fiancees and a very vindictive mother in law (of first fiancee) who would always say negative things like "I beg you to leave Mark! You know who you are! You are a bad luck, you will kill him like you killed 3 others. Leave him for his own good! It isn't that difficult to live a life without men". She quietly accepted those mean words perhaps she felt they were true. Anyway before Mark she threw herself at her work. One plot to overthrow her by Emily, she mellowed down tremendously. In fact she slowed down and went hiking, lunches with Mark to the point she fell for him. Again you can see the change in this woman. Not a drastic change but a very significant change.
Both these women changed from highly ambitious to in the end realising that perhaps they have got their priorities wrong. Maybe you will disagree with this perspective in life, I too in some aspect but this series presents this aspect in perspective in a very subtle way, represented by Emily and Samantha.
As for the men, Mark and Tony hardly changed throughout. In fact they were pretty consistent.
There are other characters too that illustrate this perspective issue.
For example, Patricia Liu's Vivian. Little is know about Vivian except for one telling scene where she was having wine with Tony with that "let's be lovers" type of song (bad choice if you ask me because they were never lovers) blasting away and in that one scene we found out she was married, in the midst of separation, had a daughter, daughter was very sick, she had to take long leave to take care of daughter, daughter cured when mom and dad got back together, realised in her attempts to leave her husband that she may have acted rashly and ended up back with her husband for a second shot at the marriage and was leaving the job to be a housewife. Again you may feel perhaps this woman is sacrificing her career which was unnecessary but this series again presents the debate on perspective; you know which priority is your most important one and you should strive for that. I always thought Vivian would end up being Tony's lover and Tony would leave her to go back to Emily but this series really surprised me in that aspect; it wasn't that simple nor was it that dramatic.
In fact nothing really dramatic ever happens. Even the cases investigated by CIB are forgettable. Towards the middle suddenly CIB officers stop investigating but they still have meetings. The series went full speed ahead with the relationship issues. Not just on love...
Friendship amongst colleagues get a big boost in this series. Of course it is cliche, I was always and still is complaining why colleagues are such best friends in TVB world. But this series takes it one step up; it actually preaches it. When Samantha was with Mark and Mark apologised for being late since he had to fetch a colleague back home as he or she was sick or something, Samantha looked surprised at Mark's closeness to his colleagues. Mark said "Well shouldn't colleagues be as such? Helping each other?" and Samantha must have thought about her relationship with Emily and she sighed "Perhaps it should be". We also see a lot of scenes between Tony and Yip Sir. I suspect Yip Sir was Tony's mentor but Tony, has he had more education and more merits actually climbed the ladder faster and became Yip Sir's superior. And yet there wasn't any rivalry at all. Yip Sir was Tony's advisor and when Tony looked like he didn't want to accept Yip Sir's advise, Yip Sir tersely said "I know you don't want to listen to what I have just said but I have known you for so long, I feel those words must be said". The level of their friendship and trust in one another extends beyond being colleagues and often times Yip Sir was very honest with Tony. Again isn't that what friendship means? A friend should be one who say things you want to hear and things you don't want to hear. If a friend can't be that honest for your own good and your family can't be that honest as well, who can? I find Yip Sir to be a very level headed man. Then there's Mark and his colleagues turn subordinates, Daniel and the other guy whose name I forgotten. Daniel may have tried too hard to please Mark but I do believe on some levels he did it with good intentions. Daniel believes colleagues should be friends first and foremost, more so when a policeman depends on the other for cover. But Daniel can be over the top and very intrusive to the point Mark blew his top and shouted "Stop meddling in my private matters! Why not like this? We are colleagues and nothing more!" and Daniel was very hurt. Later Mark calmed down and softly said to Daniel "I am sorry for being terse with you. Although we are colleagues, are friends foremost". Even the relationship between Emily, Tony and their son Michael is more like friends than parents. Michael can tell his parents everything and Tony and Emily could tell Michael everything. Which is funny that Tony and Emily can't tell each other that. One very good scene which I thought at first was weird since no parent can be so open with his or her children had Tony messaging Michael via computer. At the same time Emily was doing the same. Each parent confessed to Michael the marital troubles but assured Michael everything was fine whilst Michael tried to persuade both. Then Emily wrote "Having been away from your father for some time during the trip to England (I think it was England, but can't be sure where's the sun studying), I remember the trip very well. I remember having to go sight seeing alone and for once I felt free. I didn't miss your father, I was alone and I felt happy". Immediatly there was a call and Tony called Emily to take the call as Michael was calling them and when Emily took the call, it became a 3 way call and it was Michael scolding Emily saying "Mother, how could you say that! How could you say you feel happy without me and father by your side! Father loves you! I love you! How can you feel complete without us?" Tony looked at Emily sheepishly, Emily said to Michael sheepishly "I didn't mean that. I just meant what I felt at that moment that's all. It doesn't mean anything". But actually it did.
And then there was the relationship between a parent and a child. The siblings in here are close but the parents are not. For me the best scene or scenes in this series was between Albert the father and Tony which can be emotional. Tony overheard Albert said to one of Samantha's mother in law "In all my life I have but one regret; I have failed this woman that I loved and I have never given her true happiness and until the day she died she never felt happy. I have failed her and nothing I could do could ever make it up to her". Tony thought he was talking about his mother so when he was very friendly with Albert and he said "I never knew you felt that way about mother" and repeated what he overheard, Albert was in a dilemma. He confessed; "I wasn't referring to your mother. I know I have failed you, Mark and your mother for leaving and being with this woman. The truth is I have perhaps met her at a wrong time but I couldn't ignore my feelings. However I felt I have failed her, not your mother. At least your mother could die cursing me, at least she had a venue to express her hatred for what I did, but this woman, although she was with me, she never felt happy. She felt guilty and until the day she died she never forgave herself for what she did to your mother. It is because of her I feel most guilty. She had no where to vent her pain and so she suffered in silence". Tony listened. The next morning Mark saw Albert who said "I think I may have to move out" and Mark asked "Why?" and Albert said "I don't think your brother would want me here anymore". Mark was confused but Tony walked out, hardly smiling and Albert looked at him nervously and then Tony gently fixed Albert's tie and chatted lightheartedly. Albert smiled a smile of relief whilst Mark asked "Can somebody tell me what's going on here?". Quite a funny scene and touching as well. I find the dialogue here very effective and very poignant although Chan Hung Lit was very difficult to understand.
The mood of certain key scenes was helped by the fantastic music with the appropriate ha-ha-ahhhhhhhhs inserted certain scene or some songs except for that "let's be lovers" music that appears whenever we see Vivian and Tony together. The themesong however was horrible and horribly sung by who else but Bowie Lam. I thought good, now we have Wong He screeching away for the end song and to my great surprise, the end song was always an English song. Luther Vandross or Craig David? The song is familiar, very recent but can't remember the singer.
The camera work also helped. You will see probably TVB's most inventive camera work in the 1st episode, and towards the end it became standard camera work but changes are good, very good. In fact the 1st episode has my vote as perhaps the best opening in terms of presenting the characters.
Ok, so it was long winded. Same scene repeated I think 4 times, from the perspective of Tony, Mark, Emily and the CIB. Since I didn't read the summary, I didn't know the relationship. It started with Mark, and his colleague got shot. Then the next perspective I realise was sayyyy Tony and it was from his angle, going back to those moments Mark was almost shot and he was sitting having lunch. Then it was Emily, ending with her having lunch as well and talking on the phone, cut to Tony on the phone as well. Then at the end of the 1st episode, this crazy frustrating mixed scenes were blended together and in that moment the viewer will know Tony was actually talking to Mark, Emily was having lunch with Tony her husband and there was several cover operations going on, on one side CIB and on the other O-kei. I find it very refreshing to see at least some innovative storyline but sadly that disappeared by episode 3. Can't blame TVB; that way of storytelling can be long winded, cumbersome and those without patience, confusing. But do give episode 1 a try. Superb if you ask me.
And what is most surprising about this series is that in some scenes, it can be very witty and very very funny. Such as Daniel's constant suspiscion of his colleague's sneaky manner and he thought he shot Mark. The way he accused him again and again and the explanations given should be seen to be believed. Then there's this character William Hung who seems more like a yes man to his boss. He was from OCTB (O-kei) transferred to CIB and he believes in feng shui so he actually put gold chimes into each of his boss' rooms. The idea that these policemen can be very superstitious was quite funny and the reaction of his immediate superior, Kim played by TVB's only caucasion actor was funny. In the last episode William thought Kim hated him so he went to Kim to give him his request to transfer and Kim not only shouted at him, but actually slammed the door at his face when William asked "Well then, what time should I give you this request?!" and Kim said "If you must, come back after midnight!!!". And in this series funniest scene which could also be quite tragic, around midnight Mark was alone in office. He was walking out when one suspect shooter of Mark escaped the OCTB guys, stole a gun and had it pointed at Mark. At the same time Daniel and colleague was in office and tried to talk the guy out of shooting Mark. And then Kim appeared with Emily's father (a feng shui master) also appeared talking and saw what was happening and that suspect feeling very frustrated cried "Don't you people ever go home?!!". That was so funny and suddenly a shot was fired and it was William who fired the shot and you must remember why Wiliam was back in office; he wanted to give the letter to Kim at midnight! It's true, nobody goes home at CIB. And later we found out why Kim was prejudiced against William. Kim scolded William about the gold chimes not because he was not superstitious, in fact he believed in feng shui but it was because his astrological chart said that year he can't have gold in his office! And he avoided William because William was born in the year of the dog and he must avoid dogs! Why William was asked to come back was because after midnight there would no longer be such restriction. Silly but funny.
The biggest mystery though was who shot Mark. I kept guessing and guessing and in the end I guessed wrong and that was even when I exhausted all suspect already! Quite a mystery actually.
However the story was at times ridiculously funny. Maybe it was trying too hard but I found the following almost a reason to just avoid this almost, quite almost crappy series:-
1. Joe Jr's comb over. Already that man is bald, can't the writer give him some dignity as to give him style? why the comb over? I can't take him seriously.
2. the character of Daniel and the performance of Wai Ka Hung can be over the top sometimes, especially the unnecessarily dramatic argument between Daniel and Mark over the issue of Samantha towards the end. In fact I felt it was not just badly written but should not have been that way in the first place. Daniel clearly stepped out of the line.
3. What's wrong with the OCTB guys? Why are they always marching? Why is it that when they leave a room they march? When the come into a room they march? Why when they open a door they almost always break it down? And why in every operation they would either do a tarzan-like stunt or their favourite, roll over and point the gun? And don't they never ever smile that they're so robotic and yet when they're emotional it felt so wrong?
4. what's up with William Hung? What is his job? Does he even have one?
5. Why the inconsistencies in Kim? Earlier scene had him dismissing feng shui as superstition and yet the last episode he was actually very superstitious? Somehow forgot about that one tiny point?
6. I don't get the ending. I mean it is an ending alright but it was as if too much has been edited out. The ending was in fact quite horrible. I like the ending for the characters but I didn't like the ambiguity of it. Like
a. when Emily was hurt by Jimmy's crazy ex girlfriend, what happened? Who saved her? She looked like she was in peril
b. when Emily was in the hospital, how much time has passed since the attack? Was she disabled or was that wheelchair just a standard prop for patients in a hospital?
c. when did Emily and Tony reconciled?
d. when did Samantha and Mark reconciled? I mean one scene they're barely talking to one another and the last scene, loving, kissing and even hinting on them living in together since Mark said "I didn't bring the keys, I don't want to disturb father" and Samantha said "Well why didn't you call me? I could have given the key to you".
e. so what about Yip Sir and his love lost with the owner of the restaurant? What happened?
I was so confused with the last 15 minutes I just feel there were so many unanswered questions. The ending was like neither here nor there and I was very disappointed with it.
And what is most ridiculous is two very capable reporters should open their own magazine publishing business instead of one being a TV reporter and the other considering retirement. After all they did all the jobs, they have connections and I am sure they have some money. And how could a policeman, however high ranking afford such a big apartment, such big expensive cars and sending his son overseas for studies? His wife paid for it? Are there no poor people in TVB dramas anymore?
The ending almost killed this series where things suddenly slowed down real ssssllllooooooowwwwwwwwww, just to drag the ending to the perhaps 1 hour mark.
Luckily the performances were consistent.
I have said what I wanted to say about Bowie Lam.
Christine Ng, also I have said what I wanted to say, except I must add this is perhaps one of her best performance. Emily is complex, at one point totally could be hated but somehow she is a decent woman who labours under some major misunderstanding. It would have been nice though to see Emily smiling happily at Tony for once.
Wong He gave an above average performance which borderlines "back to his old self again" type. There was a time he was bloody pretentious. Somehow he looks smug about it. He still do but Mark is like his older characters he have played that established his name; goofy, silly, cute, nice, lovable, and rough on the edges. His best performance was when he looks at Maggie, he actually looked smitten! Anyway why I say above average instead of great is because I was so disappointed with his recent performances that I feel a slight improvement to his old self does not merit those over the top praises. There are still some moments he seems rather pretentious. I don't know why but I just feel at times he was like reading the script instead of actually actin the script. But at least this is one of his better performance in recent memory. By the way Wong He looks good in here, put on a bit of weight but still looks like a capable athlete with a very well toned body. I am sure he can outrun everybody in this series.
Maggie Siu was a revelation. First of all she looks ultra modern, hip and very feminine without looking weak. I love her image in here and the boots and everything else. Her performance was quite spot on as well as those reporters who are very ambitious. The way she held her phone, the ear piece, and every aspect of it. To see her having something to do in a proactive manner rather than her dismal character in Dance Of Passion was very welcoming. I love her scenes with Wong He and as smitten as Wong He looked, the way Maggie looked at Wong He it was as if he was the one, the only one true love of her entire life and for eternity as well. How can you not love such a convincing performance?
Chan Hung Lit is fast becoming my favourite veteran actor. His performance in Dance Of Passion was hindered by a complete lack of characterisation but in here he had little action but loads of words. He looks refined and handsome in his well cut suit and glasses and cane. He does look like Wong He and Bowie Lam's father, except more handsome. His cantonese is stil hard to understand but not as hard as way back then. After War & Beauty I had a soft spot for him. HEY! He was Bowie's father in there as well!! No wonder the chemistry was there already! Anyway I enjoyed his performance in here and he is fast becoming THE actor to play someone's father.
Kenny Wong was surprisingly quite funny eventhough he had little to do although he proved pivotal to the story since he was the only officer in CIB who holds a gun as he was just transferred from CIB.
Patricia Liu looks convincing as a policewoman since she does look like a strong woman and an intellectual. But she had little scenes and anyway this series is already overcrowded with characters so less focus on her is ok. But I was pleasantly surprised she didn't end up as Tony's lover since I did expected that. If it was Astrid Chan (assuming her name is still Astrid since chinese stars have a habit of changing their english names), I would bet you all my fortune that she would end up falling for Tony. Whether she actually has an affair with Tony or not does not matter. Astrid Chan has been condemned to forever play the role of a mistress/would be mistress/wannabe mistress.
Joey Chan playing the son Michael is quite ok although how old is he? Not 15 right? Not much comment actually. But he does have more chemistry with Bowie and Emily than Bowie and Emily themselves.
I was quite impressed with 3 female performances; Rachel Kan, Queenie Chu and Chow Ka Yee. I find Rachel Kan, the one who played Samantha's assistant very pretty in here. She gave a credible performance. Chow Ka Yee was quite cute and played the character of an understanding but just as ruthless sister of Christine Ng's Emily very well as well. As much as I enjoyed watching the rivalry between Emily and Samantha, the rivalry between the assistants were also very well scripted. Now Queenie Chu, who plays Jimmy's former lover was surprisingly very watchable. Her Rachel was smart, capable, hardworking and surprisingly honourable. I find it quite funny that a mistress when given a meaningful job to do actually liked the fact that she had a purpose in life that she quit being the mistress! She can improve of course but maybe this role suits her like a glove. She does look like a naive young mistress in the beginning and I find the way she delivered her lines suitable for the mood of that scene which is almost very tranquil like. I suspect anything more she may fail to deliver but for this series itself, I think her performance deserves a mention.
Ellesmere Choi is a waste of screentime. His role is just to throw in some drama and some suspense and it all turned out to be a fluke. And the man himself looks bloated. My reaction upon seeing him was the same as the reaction of the maid when she saw the young Michael walking into the house with spiky coloured hair and tattoo; which is "OH MY GOD!!!". What happened to Ellesmere? How can he from secondary become almost first choice to now back to secondary and worse, in the danger of slipping into ke-le-fe-dom?
Joe Jr was a waste of screen time. His hair, his wig, his performance killed his character. If he didn't I would.
Yu Yeung will forever be remembered as "THE LUCKY DEVIL" for having hugged/touched a min 4 beautiful women in War & Beauty, an honour previously and consistently held by TVB's favourite Emperor, Kong Wah who has my vote as Bowie's replacement for the character of Tony if there was ever a sequel. I miss Kong Wah. Anyway Yu Yeung played his role of the disgusting Jimmy to the hilt. His mouth and the way it moved did the trick.
Whilst Lok Ying Kwan delivers a strong performance, his character Yip Sir, apart from being the obligatory friend and mentor in this series, hardly had anything else to do. He didn't get the ending he deserves. I mean give him a proper ending, give him a wife.
Now the biggest and most pleasant surprise was Belle Lau playing a rich woman, Elaine, wife of the devious Jimmy. So her role was extremely short but I was very surprised to see her really looking the part.
The guys at the OCTB were just flukes. Nothing much to do and I suppose meant to be the joke of this series. It quite almost turned the table and made the series into a joke.
Very interesting series with very interesting filming techniques, the 1st episode must be seen to experience what is the difference whilst the rest of the series is less about CIB and crime investigation but more about human drama and relationships or the disintergration of it. If you're looking for a consistent story, this is not it. It is in fact slow and at times you may be wondering what is going on. The ending itself may leave you cold since so many unanswered questions. But if you're looking for good storytelling with compelling characters that actually goes through changes with the main actors delivering the goods, this is it. This series takes time to get used to and to digest but I find the characterisation not only compelling but very true to human nature. Emily turns out to be a very compelling character to watch. None of them are complex at all but just ... well compelling.The soundtrack is used to great effect but the themesong suck. The dialogue is at times realistic, sometimes moving and interestingly sometimes witty and seriously funny. This series actually has all that but there are also some elements that leave you cold. Whatever it may be, fans of Christine Ng, Wong He, Bowie Lam and especially Maggie Cheung should check out this series. All 4 major actors delivered the goods and this is a rare thing in TVB series these days that the actors can be consistent individually and in an ensemble cast. Moreover, see if you feel the same way I did about Bowie Lam.
I really like the following poster. In fact I don't think I can ever erase from my memory that they're not actual brothers although they look it, eyes wise. If you notice carefully, nothing else matches.