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Written by Funn Lim


Nowadays, like Will Power, the plot takes over from the characters. There is no proper investment or writing in the characters. It is often a character does A B and C but not much is told why they do. They just do and since A is surprising, B is interesting and C is shocking, in the end we forget about the character.


SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS




Released in
2013

Cast-Character
Wayne Lai as Wilson Yu Ying Wai
Moses Chan as Morris Lee Ming Yeung
Fala Chen as Eugene Shum Yut Kan
Christine Ng as Sheila Luk Sze Ying
Jason Chan as Ching Ka Ming
Sire Ma as NaNa Lo Siu Lo
Vincent Wong as Gilbert Sung Ka Yiu
Elliot Yue as Lo Sam Po
Chung King Fai as Shum Yik Wor
Mary Hon as Ching Shuk Hing
Susan Tse as Mrs Song
Power Chan as Sung Ka Cheung
Samantha Ko as Elly Yip Nga-lai

Bits and Pieces and Some Rambling
From my opinion post on this series at http://www.point2e.com/2013/10/o-will-power-2013tvb.html
 
Plot
Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Power_%28TV_series%29


The two well known laywers YU YING WAI (Wayne Lai) and LEE MING YEUNG (Moses Chan) are against each other in court. Because YING WAI wanted to win a case, it almost cost him his life and after that incident, he had a new view on life. Experienced lawyer LO SAM BO (Elliot Ngok) viewed the changed WAI differently, and recruited him to join his law firm as a probate lawyer. Due to his debt, YEUNG was forced to go back and work at his mentor SUM YIK WOR (King Sir) law firm and collaborates with his daughter and lawyer SUM YUT KAN (Fala Chen). KAN had been in a relationship with the wealthy SUNG KA YIU (Vincent Wong) for many years, but YIU loves merit too much and had no interest in ambitions, which gave YEUNG an opportunity to win KAN's heart. When the hearing for a case involving a will began, the judge happened to be WAI's ex-wife and YEUNG's ex-girlfriend LUK SZE YING (Christine Ng), the two heroes meet again, but together they discovered there was another side to the case. The person involved just happened to be WAI's apprentice CHING KA MING (Jason Chan), whom had a huge connection to the case. The actions of the lawyer lifted a crisis of life and death...

The two lawyers battle for wins but one man goes too far to get what he wants from his biggest client...Yeung's boss.


COMMENTS
For the start of my review of Will Power, let me begin it with an end, which is my recommendation.

It is a highly enjoyable series that many will find they rather like it. I rather liked it a lot. I liked it so much I chased it every night and I find myself laughing along (during appropriate times) and cursing (during even more appropriate times). It is to me one of better series of 2013 which boasts some fine acting from very unexpected people as well as the usual expected people. And if you want my recommendation, I will highly recommend this for a fan of TVB who longs for a better series to watch, chase and root for.

But... and there is always a but... at the end of the day, after finishing this series, I find no compulsion nor any need or any want to return to it. It is for me a 1 time series only. Whilst most who upon knowing Will Power as a legal drama will go "nooooo", which is perfectly reasonable, as a legal drama itself, this series tries hard and at times does present itself as a smart legal drama. However for most of the time it just either falters and dies or never had a decent chance. The only truly impressive legal drama that feels like a legal drama that is from TVB which I really liked was The Other Truth but that in itself had its procedural problem. In Will Power of all the cases which is mostly succession cases (cases involving Wills and Probates and what nots) that is considered legally sound even if procedurally haywire is the trial for the rape of Nana. The arguments, counter arguments, theories, submissions, etc actually covered a wide ground that you will usually find in real legal world and the some of the arguments which led to the release of Gilbert despite being guilty of the act of raping Nana is actually pretty possible in its context. However like in many TVB legal drama, the execution of court room trials are often screwed by the "anyone can call anyone's witness at anytime during the trial presided by the same judge over and over again in all sorts of cases" approach. It is so messy and you will wonder is it that way in HK legal system? There is no proper start or proper end? Any time is submission time? Any time I can just bring in any evidence in any way? At least there was some good moments of possible OBJECTION!! sort of scenes but when the crunch time comes for a good OBJECTION!! moment, it never came. My biggest problem with such legal drama, apart from the pretty messy way it is presented is the fact that each and every lawyer in the trial seems to take everything like a personal insult and in Will Power, they take defeat very badly. And when I say very badly, I meant they slumped down onto their chair in a look of total defeat. If lawyers are that way every single day, therapists will make a killing. And in a curious twist, that "total defeat look" does not extend beyond the court room. Meaning once they walk out of the court room, the entire "total defeat look" goes for a reset and you have the "let's socialise with other lawyers look". Often lawyers are shown having wine in pubs. Here we have them drinking Mafitte (or is it Lafitte but somehow mispronounced as Mafitte or whatever?), a very expensive wine all the time. But at least, less on pub scenes and more on working late in office scenes which is quite realistic. I am also happy there isn't much nicknames but since this is a 100% legal drama, no police best friends etc, I suppose you don't give professional people nicknames. These may be nitty gritty stuff, but it is often the unnoticed nitty gritty stuff that lends credence to the universe you will see in Will Power which is reality based. That is where Will Power fails. For a series about the legal world, it is enjoyable. For a legal drama, it fails.

It so happens that when I was watching Will Power, I was also watching Legal High and Legal High 2. Legal High is a Japanese drama, 11 episodes of straight to the point wonderfulness. It is a legal drama. I am not sure if Japanese court or saiban is that way, but in my world, apart from the over the top lead character that is  Kamikado the sleazy lawyer, everything seems pretty normal to me. That series works because whilst Kamikado is that sort that is loud and often times annoying but funny, everybody else that surrounds him functions normally. No one tries to outdo him and so Kamikado is this sort of oddball. Will Power tries to have some sort of an oddball character with Moses' Morris who started out as a comic relief but 3 episodes in lost his sense of humour and sense of fun and became dead serious. Wayne's Wilson which started out as a serious character ended up providing some genuine funny moments and it is often the combination of Wilson and Morris that provides the genuine laughs rather than each alone or rather Morris alone. With each character having the lead, none really stood out for that matter. Will Power towards the middle lost a lot of steam because no one was effectively leading the series. Neither Morris nor Wilson is interesting enough to dominate. Maybe for costars this is good but for us viewers who look forward to some great moments, what we have are moments dominated by very good acting but not very memorable scenes. I kept comparing Will Power with Legal High because I find Legal High much better character wise despite being much shorter. There is also a very good reason for such a comparison.

Have you noticed these days TVB series is not concerned with growth of a character? It is almost always plot driven. In the past for the golden years, there was balance between plot and character. Plot thickens and the character grows, whether good or bad. Surprises are plot devices but not the main purpose. Nowadays, like Will Power, the plot takes over from the characters. There is no proper investment or writing in the characters. It is often a character does A B and C but not much is told why they do. They just do and since A is surprising, B is interesting and C is shocking, in the end we forget about the character. This is the case with Brother's Keeper, a series more interested in piling the shocks and dramas rather than letting the characters grow on us and actually have an actual story to tell. Which is why TVB has no consistency. Same can be said of Will Power, except it is not as bad as Brother's Keeper.

One character I feel immediately interested in is Gilbert and his brother Ka Cheung and the impact of the mysterious third part of the Will as well as what Ming got to do with it. I thought perhaps since this is a series about Wills and probate, maybe Gilbert will be the human factor, the growth factor that as a character will in the end be the purpose of this series. Often times Lo Sam Po often says his duty as a probate lawyer is to carry out the wishes of his dead clients. And in this intriguing case of the super rich Sungs, I thought Gilbert and Ka Cheung will be given room to grow into purposeful characters that epitomises the idea of carrying out the wishes of the dead clients. Alas, lo and behold, TVB in all its glory in setting up this series decided to go for the plot driven angle rather than character driven angle. Gilbert and Ka Cheung in the end are nothing but one of those shock tactics used. Gilbert from being bad to the core remains bad to the core to his death whilst Ka Cheung from dependent becomes as dependent towards the end. No brotherly unity, no brotherly love and the meaning of the Will by Mr Sung got lost about 80% into the series and when revealed, was nothing anyone will feel bothered about because by then, it really doesn't matter. In fact by then I was confused if the Will is valid, not valid, partially valid or what? The trials really confused me and I didn't quite care.

Another character that could have some good growth is the strong Mrs Sung and she did have growth, as in became a better person but that was last episode and for the last 30 minutes or so. Prior to that, she had the potential of a great villain or a possible story of a great redemption of the wrongs she did to Gilbert by doting in him too much. The idea about DNAs and all that were thrown around to create some suspense but I felt so cheated when we find out Gilbert is not Mr Sung's son. How easy isn't it? What a plot spoiler. I just didn't expect Gilbert to die or the way he died. Poor Mrs Sung.

As for Ming, he was quite a funny character at first but again there was no growth. He remained as he was as before and I find it disappointing plot wise that I feel he is rather underused. And I wasn't surprised he was charged with a crime since it is very convenient and plot wise exciting but for someone who has watched the same thing again and again from TVB, it is boring and predictable.

The 2 leads are interesting with good chemistry but the tagline of best lawyers in town seems excessive. Morris and Wilson don't seem to be best lawyers in town to me because they don't look nor behave like one. I thought wouldn't it be funnier if they were the average joes but got caught up in major cases with major clients in major law firms? There arises the situation comedy as these 2 average joes, not that bad but not that great wrestles with their conscience and some incompetence to become better advocates?

Anyway, surprisingly there are 2 characters that stood out in terms of change and growth, one subtly, the other more obviously. The father-daughter duo of the Shums.

Eugene Shum is a strange name for a girl. Anyway she started out as someone who goes to court to someone who hangs around the office. The growth I meant though is her gradual dislike of her own father but in the end daughterly love wins over her disgust over her father's conduct. I like the fact that she did nothing to stop him nor did she do anything to help him. She just stood aside and became the moral observer. I also like the fact that whatever Morris did, he did it for her and for his mentor but he simply refused to trade his soul to the devil fully.

Shum Yik Wor is perhaps the best character in this series, growth wise. I will like to emphasise that his actions as a lawyer are the actions of real life lawyers except minus the devious evidence planting devils. The methodical way in which he cross examines the witnesses are truly one of the more realistic moments in this series. In fact when Eugene said her father had to do so much to counter Wilson's argument in court, I laughed. So much? Dear, your father trampled all over Wilson! I thought the old man did so well! The progression and true nature of his character becomes clearer as the series reaches the end and his ending, whilst pitiful is deserving. This is the only truly ONE character in this series that shows the potential of this series. And shockingly he is acted by a veteran I never really liked.

One character is however a total write off and that is Sheila the judge and ex wife of Wilson. Talk about one note, one sided, one dimension, no personality, cardboard personality, tree trunk, etc and you got the basic description of Sheila. It is not like she has nothing to do. She is a judge in 9 out of 10 cases in this series, be it criminal, probate, civil, everything. HK has very small legal world. My problem with this character is how unnecessary she is. Just because she is acted by Christine Ng, every attempt to maximise her screen time is made and she is inserted into every case there is and not to mention how unrealistic that is, it is also incredibly boring. I don't see why can't just take out Sheila's character and let Wilson have an unseen ex wife. Wouldn't it be fun to have guest actors as judges? Like spot and name them sort of moments. Her ending was also ridiculously stupid. She quit her job as a judge due to some unnecessary principle which I thought is the nail to the coffin so to speak. Sheila just nailed herself into her own coffin with that stupid ending. Of course the even worse end is Eugene ending up as possibly the youngest High Court judge, ever.

Story wise, Will Power has the potential. But the lack of room for characters to grow makes Will Power into a wasted potential. It just isn't sure if it is a comedy or drama but I will say it is more drama than comedy. The issues dealt with are very very serious stuff.

PERFORMANCES EVALUATED
Performance wise, Will Power shows its strength as a series. So story wise it is predictable, character wise nothing much changes but this is one series populated by veterans who gives surprising performance. And let me declare, I shall comment on them all. Notice the English names. You can't be a professional without an English/Christian name.

Wayne Lai as Wilson Yu Ying Wai
Wayne is a fantastic actor but he is not a convincing first class lawyer. He is however a convincing actor working as a lawyer. The greatness of Wayne is in his subtlety. I thought the compassion in his eyes when Power's Ka Cheung cried and urinated in court was so convincing, and I screamed GIVE HIM THE BEST ACTOR AWARD!! He may not be the most convincing lawyer, but he is a convincing actor.

Moses Chan as Morris Lee Ming Yeung
This is one of Moses' better roles todate and funnily, his expression hardly changed from serious to serious. This is one actor who can survive an entire series with one single expression. His acting is not great. He is also not a convincing first class lawyer but earlier, he is convincing with his comic timing, especially those scenes where Morris was harassed by debtors. But apart from that his acting is pretty usual with the frozen look. I enjoyed his performance but this series shows next to Wayne Lai who is capable of so much more, Moses is rather restricted. However he has great chemistry with Wayne Lai and his performance is enjoyable because he is one part of a dynamic duo. The only problem with Moses in this series is towards the end his character disappears from screen a lot, as if Wayne is the 1st lead and he is 2nd which is most likely the case. Wayne seems at times to be the main actor carrying this series.

Fala Chen as Eugene Shum Yut Kan
This is by far a much better role for Fala than that insipid Triumph In The Skies II's Holiday. Her Eugene may be fresh and green as a lawyer, but she has a conscience. Whilst she is bound by her love and respect for her father, she never quite helped her father at all as well. I like her Eugene. I also like the nitty gritty stuff like how earlier she would run after Gilbert carrying his sunglasses or cleaning after him, like how she is mothering him and he is taking her for granted. She is more relaxed with Moses than with Francis Ng and it shows. She may not be a great actress but given a good role, she is competent enough to be memorable in it. And I like her style in this series. My only objection is Eugene started out strong but towards the end faded into the background.

Christine Ng as Sheila Luk Sze Ying
The worst character and one of her worst performance.

Jason Chan as Ching Ka Ming
2nd worst character and the worst performance in this series. I read how Jason Chan will win Most Improved Actor and I just choked on my KFC. How ridiculous is that to give Most Improved to someone who has deproved or rather never improved? The only improvement is in wardrobe perhaps? He was unconvincing with his briefcase, he was unconvincing with his co stars, he didn't look like he bothered much when his Nana got raped and even as a defendant, he can't even do the dejected look convincingly. He just looked totally and absolutely lost all the time and that is his best acting look. His best moment was the writing demand letters for Nana and replying to himself, etc. That was a situation comedy and it was funny but then anyone in it will be funny. Off camera, Jason Chan is a charming sort of guy. I kinda like him. But in front of the camera, I hate him. He is to me the male version of Miss HKs who can't act and is thrown in front as lead and with fake positive news to convince us he is the next big thing. Right now he is my next big headache. He has successfully made Ming into a non entity and that is a tall order since Ming is the younger character's lead character. Is it the way he talks? Yes. He needs speech therapy. I am not convinced by everything he said. "I killed a guy?" Really? "I love you" Really "I just pooped in my pants" Really. In retrospect his best role was No Good Either Way and that is because he was playing a sleaze ball that no one is convinced about. But other than that, everything else is just a matter of how bad it was. Like all Miss HKs, I hope he improves. Takes years but if Gallen Lo can improve from a log of wood to a very good actor so can he. Meanwhile he and Selena Li should marry and have fluffy babies. They're so alike.

Sire Ma as NaNa Lo Siu Lo
Ahhhh scandal scandal poor poor Sire. She is a competent actress but Nana is such an annoying character who went through some terrible moments. I hate how there is no follow up to her Nana. After the rape case, her Nana is discarded, no more surprises, no more story, just there.

Vincent Wong as Gilbert Sung Ka Yiu
My candidate for Most Improved Actor for 2013, Vincent Wong proves yet again he can endure dozens of slaps by a veteran and he can almost outshine half of them. He is a good actor, learning his way around giving credible convincing performance. I had high hopes for his Gilbert but was more let down by the writing than his performance. I can't fault his performance.

Elliot Yue as Lo Sam Po
He is the unexpected comedic element in this series in the beginning. I find his Lo Sam Po rather mysterious at first, who appears when someone died, etc. He is the honourable character as opposed to Shum Yik Wo and each has different approach to their conduct as lawyers. Elliot Yue was fun to watch and whilst he is not Paul Chun Pui, he proves that veterans can still be a highlight in a series populated by younger actors. In fact he is one actor you won't overlook in this series.

Chung King Fai as Shum Yik Wor
This is another actor you will not overlook in this series. In fact towards the end he has so much screen time, so much more than Moses that I can't help but feel he is sharing the leading actor's duty with Wayne! I never like King Sir as an actor. I dislike his expressionless monotone voice and yet here, there were raw emotions. His scenes with Fala playing his daughter, there were genuine delights and affections, his ruthlesness in court and how he conducts his cases, his sparring with everybody else, the way he was manipulating Moses' Morris. This is perhaps his best work. His Shum Yik Wor is complex as a man, selfish as a boss, loving as a father and scheming as a lawyer. Most of all he is manipulative even to his clients. He is the villain in here and yet I can't hate him much. He schemes but within the legal ambit (except for the incredible lapse of judgment when Gilbert died- that was more out of ego and what he could do). His character is perhaps the best written and Chung King Fai did not disappoint. I find that rather shocking.

Mary Hon as Ching Shuk Hing
Standard performance and I dislike how she did not stand up for herself when she was slapped. After all she stopped being the mistress like more than 2 decades ago. I wonder though why Mary never gets the role that Susan Tse gets?

Susan Tse as Mrs Song
A disappointingly developed character but wonderfully acted by Susan Tse. Her dozens of slaps on Vincent Wong is fantastic but it was that raw emotion, that calmness before the storm, the unleashing of the slaps and her cries and tears of frustration that was as scary as it was moving. You will feel for this woman.

Power Chan as Sung Ka Cheung
So disappointing. I don't mean his performance. Power Chan delivers, most of the time. I am talking about his character who never really had much to do and in the end is more or less the same. But within the ambit of what he is given, Power Chan shines with his wonderful portrayal of a likeable and innocent Sung Ka Cheung. His best was the court room scene and well matched by Wayne Lai and oh, I hated that Shum Yik Wor at that moment more than anyone! Pity though that this character was not given room to grow.

Samantha Ko as Elly Yip Nga-lai
Samantha Ko is fast becoming one of my most favourite actresses in TVB. She has improved so much since The Last Steep Ascent. She stepped up her game in Friendly Fire in one of those rare portrayals of rape victims who refuses to be a victim and she was simply delightful in Bounty Lady. This girl is not the best looker or the slimmest or the best actress there is but she is charming. Like Eliza Shum, she is cute. Unlike Eliza Shum, I notice she has less coverage which is good for her. In here her Elly doesn't have much to do but well, what more can I say? I am writing this in light of Bounty Lady so it is a bit biased but seriously though, I am looking forward to Samantha Ko's next performance.

A SUMMARY
Best case
Nana's rape trial. Convincing, somewhat.

Worst case
The intimidation and the very unspectacular fall of the gangster as well. I watched in total disbelief why no arrest was ever made to the intimidation to Sheila. That case was to me the pimple of this series. Except it started with a good premise about the gangster's right to the symbol of power within the triad. I mean that is interesting and Legal High would have made a great fun case out of it. TVB chose to make it into Wilson rescuing Sheila. Bo-ring.

Best performance
Veteran
Chung King Fai. Give that man an award.

Lead actor
Wayne Lai. Nominate that man for an award.

Supporting actor
Power Chan.

Young actor
Vincent Wong. Give him some award.

Worst performance
Jason Chan. Banish him to Never-Act-Again-Land!

Best Scene
The slaps by Susan Tse on Vincent Wong perhaps. The ending scene of Shum Yik Wor telling I believe Morris to take care of Eugene if I remember correctly. But to me if was that moment, that short moment of Ka Cheung crying and scared in the court room and Wilson looking at him with such.. compassion. Not pity but compassion. That is why Wayne Lai is acting God. Since TVB is Hindu style when it comes to Gods, Wayne is one of the acting Gods.

Worst Scene
Sheila saying she quits her job and then Eugene becoming a judge. Yeah, not some Ming scene. Worst actor but not quite worst scene.

VERDICT
A legal drama not from TVB universe? Legal High is better. But within TVB universe, Will Power is one of the better series of 2013.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Funn for sharing your review. I agree with you that this series has potential to be great and it did end up beibg the better series of the year. I officially like Fala, Power Chan and Vincent Chan now from their convincing performances. Btw, feel free to have a look at my new amateur blog at www.anthonytvb.blogspot.com.au if you have any spare time

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anthony,

    I always have free time for fellow amateur critics sharing the same passion as me. Will definitely have a look!

    ReplyDelete

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