Queens Bench III

Reviewed by YTSL

Early on in my exploration of what Hong Kong cinema has to offer, I came across certain films that were representatives of genres that I hitherto had never realized existed (e.g., gambling movies, prostitute dramas and gigolo comedies).  Around the same time, it became just as apparent to me that some other types of movies are rather thin on the ground of the so-called Eastern Hollywood; with legal dramas as well as military epics, science-fiction productions and animated offerings being among such category of works.  Alternatively put: I don’t expect to see a Hong Kong effort along the lines of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Verdict” or “The Firm” appearing on the horizon any time soon.  Furthermore, as can be seen by way of this absorbing 1990 Golden Harvest presentation (or more light hearted works like “Justice, My Foot!”), the lawyer protagonist of a Hong Kong movie is not likely to be played by the HKSAR equivalent of Gregory Peck, Paul Newman or even Tom Cruise.

Instead, in QUEEN’S BENCH NO. 3, it is Alfred Cheung -- who also directed, co-produced (with Chan Pooi Wa) and co-scripted (with Wong Wang Gei) this legal drama that seemingly inevitably possesses the kind of humorous elements with which those who have seen the “Her Fatal Ways” movies that he made his name with will be eminently familiar -- who has the lead role as a barrister named Alan Chang whose record is hardly stellar.  More specifically, at the time that the rather nerdy fellow got enlisted by Lawyer Wu (how Carrie Ng’s solicitor character gets referred to in the English subtitles) to defend an accused rapist cum murderer named Chen Tsu-Hui  (who gets essayed by Tony Leung Kar Fai), this actually not incompetent attorney possessed a professional batting average of 0.000.
Despite his client being shown early in the film to be a falsely accused party whose attempts to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the victim (a young woman named Li Hsiao-Lien) had been grossly misinterpreted by an upset group from her home village, it initially does look like QUEEN’S BENCH NO. 3’s lead character is set to lose yet another court case; and one, this time, whose repercussions would include the innocent Hui becoming the first Hong Konger to go to the electric chair.  Among the primary reasons for thinking this is that barrister Chang and the man he had been engaged to defend find themselves up against an incredibly formidable foe in prosecutor James Fong (played by Sunny Fang).  And as if it was not bad enough, that very successful legal eagle also is apparently able to call upon an entire vengeful village to help convict he who, it would seem, had no business whatsoever to be in the vicinity of the crime as well as their rural home area that fateful December evening.
As the viewers of QUEEN’S BENCH NO. 3 know full well, Hui -- who had been hoping to shortly go off and make a new life for himself in the U.S. -- actually was on his way back from a friendly visit to say goodbye to an old flame when he happened to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  However, this information is not known to others, including his own legal counsel, for much of the movie.  Why this is so is due to the woman who Hui still loved a lot having a jealous and abusive as well as rich fiancé who would slap her around even more if he were to find out from anyone that she and Hui had recently seen each other once more.  As such, not only was Ling (who’s more formally known as Miss Chen and portrayed by Carina Lau) reluctant to readily step forward to be Hui’s alibi but he -- who ran the risk of being more honorable than he ought as well as was thought to be -- was also unwilling -- at least until the utter severity of his situation gets pointed out to him -- to reveal that there actually was someone who could help account for why plus how he came to be in a place that he normally would not be found.
Still, even after Ling decides to throw caution to the wind and step forward to testify on behalf of Hui, the case for the defense proved to not necessarily be entirely water-tight.  Consequently, barrister Chang found himself having to not only discredit the testimony of opposing witnesses but also use rather devious psychological means to get the real rapist cum murderer (again, it’s far from a major spoiler to disclose that this happens to be village elder Fang’s only son, Kan) to show his true colors.  In the first few minutes of QUEEN’S BENCH NO. 3, ample evidence got provided of Hui’s legal counsel not above resorting to trickery when needed.  This notwithstanding, it would seem that it’s only after he gets provided with unsolicited plus eccentric advice by his confident, even post being disbarred, lawyer aunt (Carol “DoDo” Cheng was accorded this eye-catching guest starring role) that Chang’s tactics turn out to verge on the inspired and maybe even downright ingenius.

My rating for the film: 7.5