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Written by Joanne Lee





"It has been dubbed as an Oceans Eleven wannabe – It was a little Pirates of the Caribbean if anything."





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SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Chinese Title
原來愛上賊

Cantonese Name
Yuen Loi Ngoi Seung Chaak (Fallen in love with a thief)

Released In
2008

No. of Episodes
20

Cast
Damian Lau Chung Yan – Jack (Ko Jit)
Idy Chan Yuk Lin – Bao Yung Yung
Joe Ma Tak Jung – Gong Yeung
Fala Chen Faat Lai – Minnie (Hong Mei Lei)
Johnson Lee Si Jit – BT – Ben Tam (Tam Bun)
Sharon Chan Man Zhi – Gong Kiu
Koni Lui Wai Yee – Wong Ming Cheung
Aimee Chan Yan Mei – Nana (Sum On Na)
Eric Li Tin Cheung – Che Hei Sin
Lee Ka Sing – Yau Dai Hoi
Evergreen Mak Cheung Ching – Chiu Kwan Ho
Ai Wai – Keyman (Kwan Yan)

Summary
Damian leads a group of Robin-Hood style thieves who meet regularly on the pretense that they are a charity work group (Johnson Lee, Koni, Eric Li, Al Wai), and Joe Ma heads a group of police officers (Aimee Chan, Lee Ka Sing etc). When Damian first meets Joe, they get along, but once Joe realises that Damian may be part of a robbery gang who killed his mentor (Law Lok Lam), he is determined to find his crimes and arrest him. The two need to cooperate when Evergreen Mak sends killers after Damian, and again when there is an armed robbery at a jewellery store; they end up forming a friendship of sorts. They agree to disagree about their methods of work, but find that their general aim to take down the bad guys is the same.

Idy Chan is a housewife who has a husband who has been cheating on her. He makes sure she takes ‘vitamins’ on time (which are actually psychiatric medication), and helps her to book a body check-up. When he tells her that he will be divorcing her, he shows her that her results show psychiatric medication in her system and that the courts wouldn’t award her custody. He takes custody of their son and lets Idy see him once a week. Idy decides to move out of the house and she ends up renting a small place at Damian’s. Her ex-husband is later involved in crimes with Evergreen Mak.

Fala Chen is Joe Ma’s wife. They are very loving at the start of the series, but as cracks start to show, Fala inadvertently becomes close to Evergreen (the boss of her company). Sharon Chan is Joe’s sister, who becomes involved with Johnson Lee without knowing his thief identity.






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Jack (Ko Jit)
When Jack was younger, he watched as the law was unable to punish the people who killed his parents in a building fire and he then decided to devote his life to bringing justice without having to go by the books. He believes in robbing from robbers and other evil rich people, and he believes in donating to charity and helping those in need. He is incredibly smart and takes care in planning, he also pays attention to detail (which you find out when he mentions that the first time he met Idy, she was wearing the same type of watch as an old one that he had that had meant a lot to him). The character is extremely likeable.

Damian Lau as Jack Ko
Damian was the highlight of the series. His facial expressions alone did much of the acting; he was serious when needed and hilarious during the comedic scenes. His eyes are just so incredibly expressive. You could definitely see him as the suave and admirable Jack. For his age he looks brilliant and for some reason I loved his hairdo. There was one small scene he had with Idy which was supposed to be funny (as the music suggested) that turned out kind of cheesy, but that is the only bad thing that I could say about him. The character is also much lighter than the one that Damian played in Drive of Life.

Bao Yung Yung
Bao Yung Yung is a naïve and trusting woman. She is kind hearted, optimistic, and simple. She often comes off as incredibly stupid, but then you realise that she’s actually just a little lost, not dumb. She has her moments to shine when she is dispensing advice or being an empathetic ear; she generally has a calming influence on people because of her caring nature (until she herself gets hysterical, in which case she gets quite hysterical indeed). Sometimes she was so annoyingly ‘C Lai’ – you could see that she didn’t know how to look at the big picture. I really liked the character, I thought she was sweet and cute. It is bizarre that she would have such a young child though.

Idy Chan as Yung Yung
This is Idy’s comeback series after a long layoff, and it shows. Her acting looks quite stiff and raw, and in her first few episodes she looks quite unattractive too. As the series went on, however, she got infinitely better and if she chose to film another series, I think she’ll do very well. It seems she was also intentionally made to look bad when she was first a housewife; she had bad hair (was it a wig?), less defined brows and minimal makeup. After the makeover, she looked much more attractive. She particularly impressed me when she was crying a river in the final episode.

I have noticed she has garnered quite abit of criticism for several things that I feel are unwarranted, so I’ll just jump to her defence for a minute.

“She looks old”
For someone who has been out of the limelight for so long, she hasn’t felt the need to spend thousands on upkeep like those who have stayed in the industry – she’s aging gracefully…and her skin is still enviable. The woman is pushing 50 – I don’t know why people still seem to expect her to look like ‘Little Dragon Girl’. Besides, she is paired up with Damian Lau! Any younger and it’d begin to look creepy.

“She is fat”
She isn’t the thinnest, but she is still of a decent shape. Anorexic is not the new black, and it most definitely never looks good on people of a certain age.

“Her voice is coarse and annoying”
I saw Idy being interviewed by Stephen Chan on ‘Be My Guest’ and her voice is much clearer. From what I’ve seen and read, on her first day of filming she spent the whole day screaming and shouting at her character’s ex-husband, and consequently lost her voice; she also developed a throat inflammation, and insisted on continuing so that she would not hold anybody up. Some of the scenes had to later be re-dubbed, which is why sometimes it sounds a little out of sync.






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Gong Yeung
Gong Yeung is a dedicated policeman. He places his career first, which causes problems with his wife. He starts out by seeing the world as black and white, but gradually begins to realize that there are also many shades of grey between good and evil. Not as likeable as Damien’s character, but at least he isn’t dislikeable like the rest of his team.

Joe Ma as Gong Yeung
He was good, but he didn’t really need to do much. All his scenes were serious ones. It’s not so different from characters that he has previously played; Joe always looks good as a policeman.

Minnie Hong Mei Lei
Minnie is sweet and helpful. She is generally amicable, and a smart capable career woman. Later in the series, you see that she is also quite stubborn and rebellious. For a smart woman, she does make some really naïve choices and is extremely unreasonable when arguing with her husband, and after a while it got annoying as hell. However, all in all, she is a good character.

Fala Chen as Minnie
Fala Chen is constantly improving, but there is always room for more improvement. Her Cantonese is good, but sometimes there are parts where she says her lines awkwardly and without expression because it seems as though she’s concentrating hard on memorising the lines. I think that she is too young for her character, but nonetheless she wasn’t too bad. Her emotional scenes could do with a little more work.

The Thieves -BT, Wong Ming Cheung, Che Hei Sin, Keyman
BT (Ben Tam) – John Lee Si Jit
BT is a computer hacker and also Jack’s cousin. He is in charge of the technical aspects of the operations. He is also one of my favourite characters, and most of the comic relief came from him. He throws in random English words in his speech (and it’s funny seeing Damien answering in English every now and then to mock him) and he always likes to wear his black Michael Jackson-style hat. Johnson Lee was absolutely brilliant.

Wong Ming Cheung – Koni Lui Wai Yee
Nicknamed ‘Cheung Geuk Hai’ (Long legged crab), Wong Ming Cheung is a young aspiring actress. She is also a sharp shooter, and the firearms work belongs to her. The nickname is very apt as Koni does have incredibly long legs. I believe this is her first series, or at the very least one of her first, so I was impressed. She came off as natural, cute, and her lines weren’t delivered stiffly. It’s hard to tell whether she’ll be any good when given a different type of character, but for this one, she was good for a newcomer. Her emotional scenes could also do with a little work.

Che Hei Sin – Eric Li Tin Cheung
Nicknamed ‘Hao Lo’, he is the resident driver. He drives a taxi during the day, and he is the group’s mode of transport. He is married, but seems to be quite a metrosexual - I’m not sure I understand the white man-blouse with pink flowers. It’s good to see Eric Li in a ‘good’ role, he seems to gets playboy ones usually. I’m not a fan of facial hair at all, but I’ve never though Eric Li was good looking until I saw him here with facial hair. It looks great on him.

Keyman (Kwan Yan) – Ai Wai
As his name suggests, Keyman is the one who can unlock anything. Ai Wai is great, one of those versatile character actors who can act as anything. Like Eric Li, it is good to see him as a good character because he always gets stuck with the evil ones.


The Police: Nana (Sum On Na), Yau Dai Hoi
Nana – Aimee Chan Yan Mei
Nana is a newbie police officer who is extremely enthusiastic. She grew up overseas and always uses Cantonese phrases in the wrong context. The character wasn’t overly developed and I found her slightly irritating. Aimee wasn’t horrible, but as a newcomer I was more impressed with Koni. Aimee also needs to work on her pronounciation and diction too, she slurs all her words.

Yau Dai Hoi – Lee Ka Sing
Dai Hoi has a brash demeanour and doesn’t like to follow the rules completely. At first this clashes with Joe Ma, but over time they work well together. Why does Lee Ka Sing always get these cocky characters where he always has to look angry?


Gong Kiu – Sharon Chan
Gong Kiu is Joe Ma’s sister and eventually Johnson Lee’s girlfriend. She works with a security company. She has many scenes, but I didn’t find her storylines all that riveting. She was there to put more family with Joe, and also to give herself, Johnson Lee/Koni Lui a little bit of a love triangle, but aside from that, she seemed a little bit redundant. Sharon is a decent actress, but she didn’t do anything ground-breaking.

Chiu Kwan Ho – Evergreen Mak
Like Sharon, Evergreen was not groundbreaking. The character was just a typical villain who had some daddy issues. Evergreen is a character actor so it’s not often that he will churn out a bad performance, and this was no exception - but the character was just way too predictable.


Chemistry
The Robbers
A fresh combination of actors/actress, and it was a really good one. They seemed to be having a lot of fun, and having Koni as the only newcomer, with the other four as seasoned actors, it gave their scenes much more depth and definitely helped Koni to immerse herself into the scenes better. The five characters worked well together, and their own separate back stories and fully developed characters helped it along. Keyman and Jack in particular had a great deep friendship and they shared a few meaningful chats during the series. They all came off as playful and mischievous, and thoroughly likeable. You couldn’t help but cheer them on when they were faced up against the cops. Illegal activities or not, they are definitely the protagonists.

The Cops
Unlike the robbers, I found the characters very two dimensional and under developed. They gave Lee Ka Sing’s character some back story, and they paired him up with Aimee to make it more interesting, but aside from that they were very much cardboard cut-outs. The other cops were not given much to do, and several guys seemed to float around in the background not saying much more than “Yes Sir” and looking intense. The only one with more substance was Joe’s character, who had so many scenes with Damian and Fala that the police squad interaction was minimal. And when faced up against each other, the cops were the ones who seemed threatening and unreasonable whereas the robbers were just smiling and doing their own thing. There was one scene where Damien is catering for Joe’s farewell (Fala booked it, not knowing their history) and as he is smiling, being civil and trying to leave, the police were blocking his path, being rude and arrogant, and generally acting like gangsters. Only Joe remained calm, cool and civil. They all became painful to watch at times.

Damian and Idy
I thought they were cute, but much better in their casual scenes than their romantic deep-and-meaningful ones. Possibly partly due to the fact that Damian had laughingly mentioned in several interviews that Idy always refused to let him hold her hands! It was good that they didn’t rush into it, and because you knew that they would hook up (as the opening credits very clearly indicates) it happened nice and naturally. It has been said that Idy’s character is useless, but I felt that she was needed to further Damian’s character. Without an emotional attachment, Damian’s character is essentially flawless. Everything he plans to perfection and there is no way that the police would outsmart him. Idy’s character is needed to ‘humanise’ Damian more, to give him some conscience problems. I liked them together, but they really did get caught in some cheesy scenes that made you want to cringe just a tiny little bit.

Damian and Joe
They cooperated before on the Drive of Life, so they have managed to build up a good rapport. They’re great in their scenes together, whether it be the cop-talking-to-robber conversations, or the friend-to-friend ones. Joe’s character towards the end seemed much closer to Damian than to any of his police squad; if only the cops had such good chemistry.

Joe and Fala
An odd pairing, and I would be inclined to say slightly mismatched. Fala seems too young for Joe, and they looked a little uncomfortable together. I thought it was probably more Joe’s problem than Fala’s; Fala was cute and lovey but Joe looked so stiff in their scenes. It made it hard to sympathise with the couple when they started having problems, as they didn’t really capture my liking from the outset.

Idy and Fala
This is another reason that I think Fala was way too young for the character. Had she been in her thirties, I would have found this friendship a little better. There wasn’t too much wrong with it, they had a good rapport and you could believe that they had a friendship, but I just feel that it would have been better for Minnie to be someone a little older.

Johnson Lee/Sharon Chan/Koni Lui
I preferred Johnson with Koni. They were more playful; Sharon’s character always took too much of a moral high ground. It was cute that there was continuous height jokes aimed at Johnson, as Koni and Sharon are both very tall. The ending was sad for all three, but I do think it was a good way to go. I was quite sad at BT’s demise, but I think that was the point.


Overall
I loved it. The storyline was riveting and there was always something happening. It was fascinating watching the robbers doing dodgy business, the police and Damian’s crew both tapping the robber’s phones whilst the dodgy business is going on, and then watch Damian’s crew intercept the money while the police fruitless search the original robbers. Confusing as that might be. The robber gang absolutely made the series for me, their scenes were the sole stand outs. Idy was also good, but everyone else was really quite ordinary which is a shame, as the series could have been even better had more effort been put into the other characters.

It has been dubbed as an Oceans Eleven wannabe – I’m always very wary of HK series imitating anything Hollywood as lack of budget and time always end up making the HK series look cheap. Thankfully this was not similar enough to Ocean’s Eleven to make a good side by side comparison. It was a little Pirates of the Caribbean if anything. It also threw in masses of love stories to further distinguish itself, making it unique on its own.

I liked that the theme song was just a simple jazz tune. Singing would have ruined the atmosphere.

Apparently there were three versions of the ending filmed – they ended up choosing one as the proper ending, and they put one as an ‘alternate ending’ onto the website. I’m a sucker for a happily-ever-after, so I was quite upset that they chose for Damian to die as the official ending. And to be shot by a background police guy who seemingly pulled the trigger out of fear and incompetence? What a disappointment. The alternate ending had Evergreen being shot by the police before being able to shoot anybody else, and then Damian being arrested before finally reuniting with Idy in the sunset. That reuniting scene is the last one in the opening credits which is also why I was extremely surprised that he died because I didn’t think that they would put the scene in the opening credits if it wasn’t part of the actual series.

After the initial disappointment, I can see why Damian’s death is the ideal ending. Firstly, it was a little more shocking. A happy ending is way too predictable. Secondly, it made the end shooting (and the many angles that they took it from) much more interesting – Evergreen shot at Damian (who was saved by Evergreen’s father jumping in front of him and taking the bullet), Joe shot at Evergreen and the random policeman shot Damian. They showed all three standing in a line simultaneously being shot – it was brilliantly filmed. Idy delivered the same monologue to Damian in both the endings, but in one of them Damian is going to jail and in the other one, he is dying. The third ending is supposedly Damian being in PVS and I’m guessing Idy delivers the same dialogue. She does the monologue extremely well in the alternate ending; a little bit of a waste that it’s not the official ending. Nonetheless, good choice of official ending or not, it is sad in that the very last scene was the camera panning out, where we see Idy on the dock, alone.

It seems I’ve gotten carried away as this is a really really long review, but all in all a good series. And since storyline seems to be the most integral part, it’s probably not bad when dubbed into other languages too.

Rating
4 out of 5






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