This is a truly wonderful film that completely
played against my expectations. I had anticipated a police procedural type
of film, but it is far from that. Instead it is a very subtle character
driven film that explores the lives of three cops and the people they come
into contact with on their job. There is no real conventional plot that
goes from point A to point B as the film instead weaves together a series
of vignettes, dreams and flashbacks. Somehow though these pieces
end up forming a powerful emotional whole – a film that feels very much
like real life and characters that you care about.
The film is almost entirely told from the perspective
of Leo Koo – a young inexperienced cop on the streets of Mongkok. Much
of it is Koo internally narrating the stories of his two fellow officers
– Karen Mok and Eric Tsang , his own as well as those of the people that
inhabit their world. Patrick Leung the director uses this film technique
to make all his characters very human and often with only a few light brushes
of his palette.
In the opening scene, Koo and his comrades are
setting up a sting to catch Mainland prostitutes, but instead they land
Charlie Yeung a local girl. They throw her back into the Mongkok streets
– but she doesn’t let it end there. She begins leaving bizarre messages
for Koo on his pager such as “Tell him his mother called to remind him
to cut his toenails” or “his father called to tell him that he is trapped
in the men’s room without toilet paper”. This last message sends Koo off
into thoughts about his dad – an ex-policeman who was killed on duty. Much
of the film is played like that as some event or some word will send Koo
into a story and the camera follows his thoughts.
Finally one time Charlie leaves a message that
her pimp is going to beat her and Koo shows up to stop this. What he doesn’t
realize is that on the streets of Mongkok this now obligates him – she
is now under his protection. Slowly they start becoming friends, but she
is waiting for her fantasy man to return to her. Three years previously
she was present at a professional hit and the hitman saved her life and
promised to return. In her romanticized memory, the hitman can out do Chow
Yun Fat and in one sequence played in her mind – he uses a Chow trademark
move by jumping backwards while shooting with two guns – but here he just
keeps going and going back across the entire room in a slow motion dream
Charlie Yeung does a great job of giving life
to a somewhat cliched character – the prostitute with a gold heart – by
investing her with little quirks, great energy and an impish sense of humor.
She is also a compulsive liar and Koo never knows when she is telling the
truth – but it turns out that the hitman is for real and he comes back
to find Charlie and to finish a job.
All the characters in this film are played so
well and all are brought to life and made so believable. Eric Tsang as
a cop who loves his wife, but can’t stop fooling around on the side. When
she leaves him and remarries we can feel his pain as his heart breaks.
Karen Mok plays a tough cop who is being beaten up inside by an uncaring
boyfriend and a sick father.
There is some action in the film – well done –
but really not for the purpose of action as much as to say something about
the characters of these people.
The film is filled with great little scenes –
from an honorable loan shark fighting to save his kidnapped boss, to a
captured robber explaining why he had to come back for his wounded partner,
to Koo talking to the comatose father of Mok’s about his own dead father,
to Mok quieting two loud pretentious talkers at a movie to the final tension
packed scene where Koo discovers if he is made from the same stuff as his
This is a very intelligent, well acted and well
told film. I just didn’t want it to end and wanted to continue to hear
more stories about the streets of Mongkok.