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Written by Funn Lim

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ORIGINAL POSTED ON 07.07.2012 AT MAIN BLOG


Cast-Character, Synopsis, Ratings
All here at Wikipedia

Released in  
2012

No. of episodes
13

EPISODIC REVIEW
07.07.2012

EPISODE 1
Guest star : Kenneth Ma and JJ Jia
Summary : One young cop's throat was slit and the OCTB connects this murder with a high profile robber and his team out to rob a high profile jewelry store, complete with bombs, guns, grenades and innocent hostages. The showdown will include the SDU who must strive to take out the robbers who will kill to escape whilst protecting the innocent.

Finally I watched the 1st episode. And my impression is it is like "Slam! Bam! Thank you Mam!!". The music is non-stop. And when I say non-stop it means it never stops, shifting from one tune to another. It felt like a long promotional video for SDU aka Special Duties Unit, sounds like some special class in school. And I suppose being an introductory episode clocking in at a new format of 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual 45 minutes, it felt like a mini movie. In fact from the first scene, I felt I was watching a wide screen format mini movie with colours that are very much of those you see in movies as in darker or rather less bright. There is an attempt at cinematography, with Jessica Hester Hsuan standing on a beach I suppose during sunset. The scene was lovely to look at. There are an abundance of men, so this is a testosterone driven movie, you see young man, old man, middle aged man, short man, tall man, skinny man, well-built man, all sorts so you can have your pick who to drool at. And all these men are almost always in uniform, another reason to drool. And they all carry small to medium to big guns, and our villains have hand grenades, homemade bombs, then there's the big I suppose SDU jeeps (black, no less). First episode and they throw every ammunition at you, less you forget this is a series of men, manhood and adrenaline rush for men. Because the women, represented here by the detective that is Jess is stable, quiet, meticulous and slow. She stands, she observes, she makes deductions, she walks slowly, no guns. Joe Ma, representing the SDU of course has all the guns. And in a telling scene, we have the obligatory female SDU member played by Mandy Wong who is more technician than field officer and when she says she has aspirations to be the 1st SDU field officer, the guys laughed and she angrily said "Why, you think I can't do it?" and the guy answered "We all don't think you can do it". Well guys, thanks for the vote of confidence. This is as sexist as TVB will let this scene be, because it quickly moves away after poor Mandy fretted a bit. But it is a sexist idea since let's face it, Tiger Cubs is a man's world with big guns and all. It is all about how big their guns are.

Frankly I enjoyed this episode for a simple reason; I like the mindless adrenaline rush. There is nothing subtle, nothing elegant, nothing sophisticated, just pure action after action, after a while it became rather mindless. Because everything was resolved so easily. We are introduced to one big time villain, and I say big time because his reputation or rather his stare precedes him. His downfall was rather mundane, rather blehhhhhh. That is Kenneth Ma who surely has made it into big time TVB 1st brother position for the fact that he has the honour of being the bad guy in this very 1st episode. And mind you, he was as bad as his character on paper would suggest. After all how many villains in TVB takes joy in slicing the throat of a young police officer and then his own colleague and then shooting people at random? Surprisingly he didn't kill the colleague's grandma, which I find ... interesting. His character kills indiscriminately, no doubt. His wife, the pretty JJ Jia in a needless wig is as cruel and could fight very well too. Together they're supposed to be this killer couple, Bonnie and Clyde if you will. They planned a heist at some local jewelry store and in the end the police tracked them down rather simply. How? This series chose to skip over the details. Just assume they used their GPS, tracking device, high tech computer stuff and oh yes, an Ipad or a tablet, whatever the brand sponsor may be. I must admit I wanted so much to watch this episode because I heard great things about Kenneth Ma and his villainous turn. You want my honest opinion?

It was no big deal. Because their characters were so basic, there wasn't much to show for. There was no personality, we just know he loves her, she in the end betrayed him by becoming witness for the prosecution and I hope episode 2 will show his reaction because I love to see how Kenneth reacted when his most loved betrayed him so easily. Their story was so simplified that frankly all these hoo-ha over their portrayal was disappointingly overblown. Fans' PR works way better than TVB's PR I tell you! Kenneth came complete with shaved head and realistic looking tattoo but his cold stare just didn't feel chilly enough. The so called cutting or slicing of the neck was to me badly filmed. Why? The camera chose to move away when he was slicing the neck. I would very much prefer to see the slicing motion, without that motion it felt incomplete. Truth be told, Kenneth Ma hardly has any dialogue. You can count how many lines. He hardly has anything much to do except to sneer, stare, slice and shoot. It is a special guest starring role and one of a character that has more style than character development.

Note though. How crazy in HK that someone who threw grenade, shot police, etc will get only 8 to 10 years for robbery. In Malaysia, the fact that he held a gun, would  be enough for mandatory death penalty.

JJ Jia is pretty, the girl can act but only if she plays mute. The moment she opened her mouth, I can feel her nervousness at every line she delivered. She seriously needs to work on her speech because the way she speaks kills the magic of her performance which in this series is none. Again why I said so is because her character has more style than character development. She has lesser screen time time than Kenneth (and they're almost always together but that lesser screen time is just about a few minutes difference but poor girl has very little closeups) and that is saying a lot! All she needs to do here is pout, look bitchy and that's about it. Again a very VVVIP performance I suppose but to read the praises heaped on her, I shook my head in disbelief. Even Hannibal Lecter had to do much more in his 20 minutes appearance to get praises for his performance. The problem with JJ Jia's character as much as it is with Kenneth is the fact that their characters seriously lack development of any kind. And before we knew it, their story is over. I suppose maybe he will reappear for a grand finale with the way he stared at Joe Ma's eyes towards the end, which shows at some point he might break out of prison. I hope by then there is some story development for poor Kenneth.

As for other characters, again all seems like touch and go. We have the old guys, represented by Oscar Leung and his gang, and the young ones represented by Vincent Wong, the less assured one and Him Law, the very assured one. It seems you can use 1 or 2 words label for each character which means they're all pigeon hold in their characters and that is not good. I have nothing much to say about Vincent and Him Law's performance except these 2 are good actors with potential. I have a soft spot for Vincent Wong and in here he didn't disappoint in portraying a not so assured character that is bound to have some major dilemma and finally may even walk away from SDU or perhaps get better and decisive. I can see his indecision and to me that is good acting. At least he is not playing some arrogant bastard. That would be Him Law but the joke is he is just confident. I suppose he is good friends with Vincent's character with the way they look at one another. Him Law right now is "YEAH!! YEAH!! I CAN DO IT!!!" phase which to me I thought was ok. I mean some points he made were reasonable; a well-known cruel killer/robber was carrying a young hostage away. If I were him I too will run after that guy, kill him and save the kid. This means he is better off as a detective than SDU. Performance wise Him Law displayed the right amount of arrogance and confidence even if he looks tiny next to the many actors. I mean he is big but Vincent Wong is much taller so he looks sorta tiny to me.

Joe Ma is ok. So far his character development is ... zero. I know nothing about his character and frankly I am not interested to know further. Is all these head of depts so calm? So collected? Shouldn't he be the one to lose control going after the killer who killed someone he knew since that boy was a kid? Shouldn't the writer give him some emotion? He cries a little but not enough. Bland is the word. But he does look like SDU. And thank God his English is kept to a minimum.

Interestingly it is Jess' character that captured my interest. At first she looked bland, boring and yes usual Jess. In fact her performance is Jess. Nothing special. But her character is a madam aka detective aka investigator who is ... suicidal! Yes! That is because she lost her beloved in a blast some years back, and she is deeply unhappy. She doesn't smile. She seems to want to die when chasing after the killer, in a car, driving towards one another and she never braked. I like that aspect. That to me is different. Usually we see such characters being men whose wives died tragically but this is a reversal of role and making her suicidal to me makes her character somewhat interesting. But Jess is bland. She speaks in a monotone. She looks boring. When her character should have anger issues, she looks mildly ... bored. The reason is simple. Jess is simply not a good actress. If you're her fan, sorry but that is a painful but actual truth. She can act but she is simply just a one note one expression one facial look actress. I almost fell asleep hearing her deliver her lines and her character makes some important discoveries about the villains. Why I find her character interesting is the idea of it but the execution will depend on Jess and so far I am not impressed.

Everyone else, no comment except to say they have so little role, so little to do, so little focus, their faces become mere memories, their performance forgettable not because they were bad actors but because no focus. Way too many characters, too much focus on action which I understand why but character development for 1st episode is almost nil for all other characters except for 4 or 5 characters.

But my major peeve factor is the editing. This episode is so fast paced, it felt like time jump. One scene we have the usual intro of SDU. Next we have new recruits, jump to one training jump to a real crisis and jump to another training, each having no connection to the other. The only story to have consistency is Jess' character but the SDU team is like one long trailer. I felt like I was watching a promo for this series, a cut and paste scene of perhaps a longer version to come. It felt disjointed. That is the one major aspect I didn't like. For a TV series, 1 and a half hour is long, and it aims to settle one case per episode but yet it lacks in development and the editing is terrible. If it is a movie which it feels like it, it would have garnered bad reviews because it felt like one long MTV. I wouldn't say it is shallow but it is pretty all brawn and no brains for the most part.

But that being said, the first 10 minutes was fantastic. I was immediately drawn to the story, the look and feel but when the new recruits were introduced, I fell back to earth. And when I saw the obligatory pub scene (opened by Joe's parents by the way) and each junior buddy-buddying with the seniors such as the head himself, I was very frustrated. Typical TVB. And then everybody knows everybody and the nicknames, one I heard is called Chin Yan (in Cantonese it means bastard but in English it sounds so mild) which I shook my head in disbelief. It is just so frustrating that 1st 15 minutes had so much potential, so much promise but in the end the entire episode done in by shoddy editing, bad character development and villains I feel did not have much to be memorable.

One character was memorable and I am sure you must agree and will be memorable for the entire series; Fu Chai (I am suddenly having self doubt that the name may not be Fu Chai but I am 99% sure it is so I am sticking with Fu Chai), the young cop whose throat was slit by Kenneth. It felt so terrible; his first duty and he was murdered so cruelly. Such a senseless death! Only 25 and in real life, such a tragedy would have happened. But I didn't like how unemotional everybody was and the only one who showed some emotion was Him Law who didn't even know him in the first place. I would have wished to see some police force solidarity - it is one thing to murder people but to murder a young cop on his 1st patrol duty so to speak, I am sure the real police force will be very emotional. That lack of emotion to me shows that this series in this episode at least is more concerned with style rather than substance.

Verdict
Not THAT bad. Choppy editing, unconnected scenes, very little development but quite a lot of style. Hopefully episode 2 and beyond will get the emotions, editing and character development right. By the way Michael Bay just called and said "This is my kind of baby!". Seriously, if this is Hollywood version, Michael Bay IS the director. Except Michael Bay will have more explosions! Bigger guns! Obligatory slow mo walk to Linkin' Park music!! Jess will be vase! Mandy? The one standing silently looking at the carnage!!!!!! BUT this is not a Michael Bay movie, so less a few of those stuff. But I am sure you know what I mean when I call this a boys' club, men's show. With TVB treatment of course. Seriously, really not THAT bad.

Interesting Fact
Reading Wikipedia, each episode costs HKD1 million to make. It does look expensive, that much I will agree. And I read many were injured in the filming of this series. I am not surprised. Look at the amount of blasts and shooting and running and jumping. I feel their acting of fear or tiredness is real. There is simply not much time for slowing down, unless you're Jess whose character is mostly standing or lying down.



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