Cop on a Mission

Reviewed by YTSL

For many people, the term “B movie” is a term that is used to disparage or dismiss those cinematic productions -- usually, genre offerings (or, in some cases, the output of entire territories, including Hong Kong’s) -- that they think is unworthy of their viewing attention.  However, this surely is not the case with regards to “Love HK Films” webmaster plus main reviewer.  Instead, in doing such as describing this 2001 Marco Mak helmed -- plus co-edited along with Angie Lam -- effort as a “competent cop thriller that seems to relish its own B-movie charm”, Kozo appeared to have been pointing out the tautly paced plus tightly structured movie’s possession of an admirable lack of pretension.  Additionally, there is the high probability of its makers’ having counted quite a bit on their actually rather stylish work’s viewers being familiar with certain genre rules and archetypes that they seemed to have taken much delight in bending, twisting, reshaping plus generally playing against as well as with.

At the center of the crime drama whose Chinese title translates into English as “Know the Law, Break the Law” is a young fellow who has been tossed into an open grave and looks to be in the process of being buried alive when the film’s audience gets their first glimpse of him.  As the enthralling main story of COP ON A MISSION unfolds in the form of a giant narrative flashback, this bound up individual (whose name gets given as Mike and is essayed by Daniel Wu) is revealed to be a former beat cop who had been recruited to become an undercover operative after an on duty incident revealed him to be someone who is quick witted when he needs to be plus unexpectedly deadly with a blade as well as gun.  Independently of his erstwhile partner and supposed best friend, Chung (who comes in the form of someone who appears equally adapt at playing good and bad guys in David Lee), he gets asked to infiltrate and fast track up the ranks of the Hung Hing gang.
As it so happens, prior to being assigned on his first undercover mission, the serious faced Mike had previously encountered the Triad group’s dominant senior boss (who, together with three other characters -- two of whom are played by Ng Chi Hung and Karel Wong -- were known as the Four Kings) on two occasions.  The first time that the paths of the then off duty cop and the man he recognized to be Yum King Tin (who an inexplicably equipped with false eyebrows Eric Tsang portrayed with a considerable amount of panache) had crossed, the younger individual had eschewed a bribe attempt by the Hung Hing chief’s right hand man (The inappropriately named Chick is essayed by Tony Ho) and, instead, gone on to best the older personality fair and square at a fierce but friendly video arcade game.  Alternatively, on the second occasion that the already officially “on leave” policeman had caught a glimpse of “Big Brother” Yum, Mike had accepted the money thrust at him that -- this time -- was meant to help wipe away his memory of having seen a human sized bundle being removed from one of the private rooms of the restaurant at which he had chosen to dine one evening with his girlfriend (Wu Anya’s Gee also happens to be his mate Chung’s sister).
However, the COP ON A MISSION only really catches the attention of this leading underworld figure -- who was said to have 40% of Hong Kong’s gangsters under his command, be respected by another 40% of the sort of characters who one would generally do well to stay away from, and was someone who the remaining 20% would love to see dead -- after he single-handedly managed to ward off plus protect the middle aged Triad chief’s less than middle aged wife from being “chopped up” by a fierce bunch of assailants.  Once he did so though, Mike looked to make the most of this.  Consequently, and before too long, he -- who several individuals would come to feel a need to majorly keep a watchful eye on -- had risen to become the successor of one of the Four Kings (more than one of whose premature demise gave credence to the adage that a crime boss’ life is likely to get cut short sooner than many other people’s).
As one might expect, any upwardly mobile ascent up the many runged Hung Hing ladder is one that’s strewn with criminal actions, violence and dead bodies.  With regards to the straight arrow looking protagonist of COP ON A MISSION, the main question may initially appear to be not so much how many people he’s willing to kill along the way but who -- including relative innocents like a nameless individual played by Lam Suet who turns up in the wrong place, at the wrong time, more than once -- plus what he is prepared to sacrifice in order to ensure that his cover does not get blown.  However, certain of Mike’s actions also end up bringing into doubt what mission he really is on plus foreground the query he had posed to himself around the movie’s 10 minute mark of “Must I be a policeman like my father [whose crime-busting efforts had led to his wife as well as his having been gunned down when Mike was just 8 years old].  Or should I choose another road?”
Like some real life as well as more than one fictional covert cop look to have felt, the life of a Triad is one that can be filled with temptations that may ultimately prove impossible to resist.  In the case of the increasingly covetous Mike, being a trusted lieutenant of Hung Hing’s senior man gives him access to amounts of power and money that he had never previously been privy to.  Then there’s the not insignificant matter of his coming to be noticed by a female whose husband gets revealed to be as physically impotent as he is otherwise powerful (Big Brother Yum’s attractive wife Pauline is essayed by Suki Kwan).  Does Mike bed she who he who manifestly tickled his fancy before he ends up in the open grave?  Does he sever his relations with Gee if he did so?  Does Pauline’s husband ever find out that he’s been cuckolded?  And is it he who gets to have the final say as to Mike’s fate?  My hope is that post reading this review, you’ll want to find all this out for yourself.  Also, that after viewing COP ON A MISSION, you’ll agree with me that the answers were not sadly predictable even while being logical plus, more importantly, that this not particularly heralded -- but actually well made -- movie was actually worth checking out in and of itself.

My rating for the film: 7.