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Capsule Reviews

Wo Hu    (2006)
The new Triad drama from director and editor Marco Mak is quite simply essential viewing; a dark and realistically gritty story of cops and gangsters shot beautifully and with one of the best ensemble casts seen for a very long time. Wo Hu is literally ‘stunning’, and should be seen by audiences everywhere who enjoy a genuinely great film.

The story is based around the alleged one thousand undercover officers planted in various Triad groups in Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Police in order to tackle crime in the city. After one undercover officer’s identity is discovered and he is murdered, Inspector Wai (Miu Kiu Wai) mounts pressure onto the suspected gang whilst trying to prevent the deaths of any more officers. In the spotlight of the investigation is Lai (Eric Tsang), an unlikely criminal and hopeful romantic who is greatly respected by the gang. Other central members of the gang are Wah (Francis Ng) and Yau (Jordan Chan), starkly different men, one a caring father who toys with the idea of leaving with his family and the other a crooked up and coming gangster. As few know the identities of the real undercover moles, suspicion brews in the group and makes for an uncertain finale. Meanwhile, many of the men hold deep, dark secrets, which they keep from the world and those around them. This will ultimately affect their decisions in the events that follow.

For a film of its theme and content, Wo Hu is exceptionally moving and paints a sympathetic and operatically tragic portrait of people who will ultimately suffer at the cost of a war far greater than any of them. The characters in the story are flawed and continue in the paths they’ve taken for years because it is all they know. Ultimately, it is a story of redemption and forgiveness that tragically few in this world, on either side of the law, will likely receive. The simple, emotional compositions of Wan Hiu Yung drive more truth from the characters than the dialogue ever could. And it is the scenes of stillness and quiet reflection that give the film a highly stylized and eerily calm experience. Wan Hiu Yung is a relatively new composer who will undoubtedly be hugely successful in the industry as he demonstrates, here, a clear talent in creating a score that contributes perfectly to the scene, rather than dominate it.

The cast is nothing short of incredible. To have these actors alongside each other seemed fantastic in itself but the fact that they all complimented each other and worked together so harmoniously makes this one of the best casts I have seen for a very long time. Eric Tsang, as usual, is absolutely perfect as the quiet, charming gangster, a definite favorite among the audience. Francis Ng gives what is perhaps his best performance since Infernal Affairs II as a reluctant mobster who will switch from being a quiet caring father to a menacing psychopath with just a change in his eyes. Former Miss Hong Kong, Sonija Kwok deserves a mention as she appeared both visually captivating and also gave a sweet and grounded performance as Tsang’s love interest. If she can follow a similar path to Chingmy Yau, she could potentially have a very strong film career ahead of her. There simply isn’t time to go into every actor, but they all worked perfectly and stretched their individual styles into new dimensions under the meticulous direction of Marco Mak.

This is without doubt one of the best Hong Kong films of 2006 and it offers a new and artistic vision to the gangster genre. It should be seen by Hong Kong fans, gangster fans, drama fans, and romance fans. There is little left out from such a rich film, and although it is essentially a crime film, it isn’t likely that you’ll have seen one produced quite this way. Wong Jing, working as producer, moulded a modern masterpiece here and has proven once again that he can work on serious, quality cinema. Wo Hu is an emotionally driven entry -- a moving experience.

Very highly recommend.
Mike Fury 1/10/2007 - top

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 1/10/2007 Mike Fury

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