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
Distributed by Mei-Ah
The transfer is quite solid.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks - Dolby
The subtitles are Chinese or English or none.
There is a trailer for this film - and also
one for In the Mood for Love.