Clean My Name, Mr. Coroner



Reviewed by YTSL

In “Playing with Strangers”, three identifying traits of Ruby Wong’s character were her liking borscht, Teletubbies and James Yuen movies.  Although I do not share the strength of that agreeable individual’s passion for all three of those items, I can see the enjoyment and comfort that comes from (her) having a fondness for them.  With regards to the output of screenwriter-director Yuen:  This would probably apply most to the works he crafted under the United Filmmakers Organization (UFO) aegis (among which are the under-rated “Always on My Mind”, the exuberant “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”, its “Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?” sequel and the first effort he helmed, “The Wedding Days”); but it bears noting that he hasn’t done too badly when working with others as well (Cf. his having scripted “A Moment of Romance” plus put in double duty for the Wong Jing produced “Your Place or Mine”).

Clearing the name of an undercover cop who has been framed may not be a story-line that leaps to mind when thinking of James Yuen movies.  Upon looking beyond the surface though, some of his trademark gentle touches do indeed become apparent.  Also, and in much the same way as Milkyway Image’s “Comeuppance” (which this film reminds me of to some extent), this surprisingly generally low-key ensemble piece -- which does have some tender romantic and chuckle-inducing moments along with the necessary allotment of emotionally darker ones -- is one more Y2K work that benefits from having a polished script along with quality performances from its quite diverse cast (whose supporting actors include producer Joe Ma along with character actors like Wayne Lai and Jerry Lamb).  Credit too is due to its prolific scriptwriter for CLEAN (sic.?) MY NAME, MR. CORONER! having some of the most three-dimensional characters I’ve encountered in any film.

A case in point:  The “Mr. Coroner” referred to in CLEAN MY NAME, MR. CORONER! is shown to be a bow tie-wearing, wine-drinking, classical music-listening and soft-spoken individual as well as an expert plus dedicated pathologist.  A fastidious man of good taste and high principles, Keith Ko (who is very well played by an actually restrained acting Francis Ng) leads a rather solitary life -- he has problems finding a woman who can deal with his matter of fact discussions of his grisly line of work over dinner -- of fairly dull routine...until a troubled man named Fred enters his office and gets him involved with a situation in which Fred stands accused of killing, then decapitating and cutting off other end sections of his police partner as well as having absconded with the HK$5 million in cash which had been meant to be used in a sting operation involving Mainland Chinese counterfeiters.
Although Fred has his faults (including a bad temper and foul mouth), it is pretty clear from the onset that he (who is played by Nick Cheung) is innocent of the crimes that he has been accused of committing.  Rather, the big question in CLEAN MY NAME, MR. CORONER! is who has set him up to look like the immensely guilty party.  After seeing the headless corpse, Fred is convinced that his (former) partner, Herman Law, is alive and the real culprit.  But did Herman set up Fred on his own, or are there others that are looking to pin the blame on Fred so that they can escape with all of the money?  If the latter, who are they?  Also, where is the current location of the loot which Fred has been asked to turn in, along with himself, at the old police station where his commanding officer (C. K. Lau, a 25 year veteran member of the force, is portrayed by former Shaw Brothers star and 1999 HKFA Best Supporting Actor, Ti Lung) has an office, from whose verandah he likes to look out at the surrounding area?
In trying to track down Herman, Fred and Keith not only manage to find his (then) very pregnant wife, Bobo Lam, but the coroner also successfully delivers the woman’s baby after her water bag burst in the middle of Fred’s questioning her about the whereabouts of her husband.  Someone else whose movements are worth taking into account is Rick, who is one more plainclothes policeman working in the unit headed by Officer Lau.  However, CLEAN MY NAME, MR. CORONER!’s fourth major character is not Herman, Bobo or Rick but, instead, a quiet bartender whose name is revealed rather late in the film to be Ling (and who comes in the welcome form of Stephanie Che).  Though her link with Fred does not initially appear to be all that strong (he had gone to her bar to get a drink for 87 consecutive evenings but uttered only a single line each of those times prior to her taking a seriously drunk and unconscious him off the street into her apartment for one night), Ling’s presence in his life turns out in some ways to be his salvation.
Lest it not already be obvious, I really enjoyed my viewing of CLEAN MY NAME, MR. CORONER!; this particularly after the first ten minutes taken to set up the story, when things really get going.  For those who had not thought to check out this crime drama which happens to be an artfully detailed drama as well as suspenseful “whodunit” because its title made them think it was a black comedy, do consider giving it a go.  And especially for those who believe that Nick Cheung’s presence is guaranteed to ruin a movie and/or still have to cotton on re Francis Ng’s possession of a large amount of acting ability, this is one offering that really may be worth checking out to get you to change your mind -- and have a change of heart -- re two individuals who probably are going to figure quite a bit in many future HKSAR works.

My rating for this film:  7.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by Mei-Ah

The transfer is quite solid.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks - Dolby Surround.

9 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese or English or none.

There is a trailer for this film - and also one for In the Mood for Love.