review by Neo

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A good premise with an unfulfilled potential...
The undercover genre is like a child of HK cinema, and no matter how small the industry have become each year, there will still be films relating to this beloved genre that defines HK cinema. Director Herman Yau tries to be different; an attempt to show the life after being an undercover and in that he has created an interesting premise that could have been great. Yau have always enjoyed delivering the human and realistic side of humanity, usually the brutal and unforgiving version – think – The Untold Story, Ebola Syndrome. This is again relevant in On the Edge and the outcome is both a good thing and a bad thing. Life after an undercover is probably as predictable as what is on for lunch, but nonetheless, it is an interesting idea that is filled with wondrous potentials. Perhaps, the movie is best summed up as one filled with potential, but ended up with the audience grasping at the missed opportunities.

One of the most striking memorable scenes involves one of the cinema greatest actors – Francis Ng. Ng is simply breathtaking to watch and his ability to make something out of nothing is just incredible to watch. After a sting of misfire in Karmic Mahjong, Ng is unbelievably likable and suitably engaging. The moment he realise, that Nick Cheung is a cop, his eyes show immense range and his quirky dialogue juxtapose with the situation he is facing. Instead of riveting to cliché moments of undercover pointing a gun at his triad boss, Ng calmly jokes in a understated manner – “How many years have you followed me?” Nick replies, “4 years.” Ng asks, “How long have you been a cop?” Nick answers, “8 years.” Ng smiles, “That’s good, at least, it is not because I underpaid my lads, and they have to do part time as cops.” Such ingenious dialogue by Yau is worth mentioning and of course the way Ng expresses it made it more comical and memorable than it should be.

Nick Cheung is an actor that Neo believe as a better intense actor than being comical. Years ago, when Cheung was still in TVB, his performance as a good guy slowly discerning into a villainous role is utterly memorable still to this day and age. From then, I knew he could act and it was just a matter of time that HK directors finally realise his strengths. He is once again naturally intense and portrays a difficult role with depth and character. His dealing with Rain Li is undoubtedly cool, despite the fact that the chemistry seems rather blend. As much as Neo likes Rain Li, the same can not be said of her weak performance. Sure, her role is limited, but she is neither convincing nor scene stealing, meaning that Li still have a lot to learn before she can stand alongside the ranks of Angelica Lee and Karena Lam.

As good an actor as Anthony Wong is, he never seems to shine above a cliché role that has almost defines his character in recent years. Despite conquering more screen time than his counterpart – Ng, Wong seems to sleepwalk through the role without being memorable or bad. Then again, even if Wong sleepwalks through a movie, is still a par better than most actors in the industry.

As noted above, Yau’s work here doesn’t realize the potential that it could have been. Basically life undercover is crap and perhaps it can even be described as shit, but what it ultimately lacks is an emotional punch. The built up of the movie have some terrific sub-plots, and some credit must be given to a good performance from Eric’s son – Derek Tsang, who impresses Neo for the first time. Instead, Yau opts for the easy route out and the effects are like balloons flying up the sky then popping one by one and falling back down the ground. Sure, the realism is there, but sometimes, you need more than that.

All in all, On the Edge is still an adequate entry into the undercover genre and the fact that it talks about life after rather than before make this movie actually worth seeing. The premise is good, the built up is good and for once the flash backs provides more highlights and memorable scenes than cliché. Unfortunately the ending is blend, predictable and unfitting, which in turn wasted a well thought out idea. Still, memorable performances from Francis Ng and Derek Tsang as well as the ever improving Nick Cheung, almost made the movie better than it deserves. Then again, this is still a good movie; just that it “could” have been great…

I rate it 7.75/10

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Starring: Francis Ng Chun Yu, Nick Cheung Ka Fai, Anthony Wong Chau
Sun, Rain Li Choi Wa, Derek Tsang Kwok Cheung and director Herman To Man
Directed by: Herman Yau
Genre: Crime/Thriller/Undercover