Category Archives: Louis Koo

HKAFF: The White Storm 掃毒 (2013) – Hong Kong [World Premiere]

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 28th October 2013

Directed by: Benny Chan
Produced by: Benny Chan
Starring: Louis Koo, Lau Ching Wan, Nick Cheung, Lo Hoi Pang

In cinemas Hong Kong from 5th December 2013

Reviewed at the World Premiere at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013

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After the disappointing and over hyped action / thriller blockbuster, “Cold War”, the makers behind “The White Storm” decided to make a lesser publicity storm, instead letting the quality of the film to tell a thousand words. Director Benny Chan managed to pull of the impossible, while Nick Cheung continues to show why he is one of the best versatile actors in Hong Kong, along with the ever dependable Lau Ching Wan and the ever improving Louis Koo. The film can easily be over hyped; instead, Chan manages to deliver on nearly all levels and even exceeding expectations. The result is a hugely entertaining, highly commercial, extremely saleable, thoroughly plotted and hugely satisfying movie event of the year. Let’s make a bold statement, if “Cold War” won Best Film last year, then expect “The White Storm” to storm the awards. At the end of the day, a good film is all we ask for and The White Storm provides everyone in Hong Kong for something to cheer about.

Lau Ching Wan amply carries the film with perhaps the most interesting character of the lot. In the scene on the cliff when Lau has to make a choice between his two lifelong brothers, the look and stress on his face shows a man who clearly knows what he is doing. A lesser actor, would easily and simply look away from the camera or overact, but Lau does neither and his stare at the camera and the audience almost made the audience feel as though they are the one making the decision. The film itself poses the question of making a choice between life and death and especially on your most loved ones. It is a difficult question and one that director Benny Chan pulled off without being cheesy. In fact, the film may contain numerous plot holes, but Chan smartly covers them up and whether you like the numerous twists and turns or not, the film remains an edge of the seat affair and most importantly everything works. It is by no means a small feat as there are some moments in my head I was wondering how on earth Benny Chan is going to pull it off, and when he did it in spectacular style, it is all the more sweet.

In my honest opinion, I feel that the star of the show belongs to Nick Cheung. After his career defining performance in Unbeatable, Cheung simply steals every scene he is involved in during the final chapter of the film. His charming smile and sharp turn in character makes him a perfect candidate for chewing the scenery to perfection. His movements and acting is simply showing a man who is in the prime of his career and that level of confidence cannot be undermined. Cheung starts off being level minded, the simple guy with one ambition of becoming a good cop and essentially the mediator of the trio of brother-ship. Cheung does exactly that, but as the film goes on, it shows one very important thing about life. How living in a country like Thailand and combining a near death experience can change you, your values and eventually your outlook on life. I was in Bangkok, just last week, walking through the streets of Patpong showed me how cheap life was and it is easy to understand how it can change people, their values and the principles that they used to hold. In fact, Nick Cheung of the past may not be able to pull of such a change of character, but here he did it to perfection.

Perhaps the weakest link of the film comes to the ever improving Louis Koo. Koo lacks character and conviction and despite having the role of undercover, he is unable to express his emotions and internal turmoil as effectively as he should have done. It is disappointing as this can easily be the role that Koo can finally shines, instead he is constantly overshadowed by far more natural Lau Ching Wan and the scene stealing Nick Cheung. His scenes with his wife could have been more expressive or even more emotional, but instead everything seems regulated to the background. While Lo Hoi Pang as Thai War and Drug lord, spots a ridiculous hairdo, which at times over shadowed his acting and menacing appearance. Still, few can appears in so few sequences and remains largely effective. Lo Hoi Pang with a Rambo like machine gun is worthy of the price of admission.

All in all, “The White Storm” is easily the most entertaining film of the year, an edge of the seat thriller, smash buckling action affair and a powerhouse of acting experience. Hong Kong movies usually suffers the predicament of not finishing off a promising premises, leaving plot holes uncovered and predictable ending due to Mainland censorship. This is where director Benny Chan succeeds, well others before him have failed. He managed to conquer the above flaws of Hong Kong cinema and in turn created something that is just short of a masterpiece. Few films have the same amount of tension that this film is able to generate, the intensity is always there and every expectation that Chan manages build he succeeds in dealing with the resolution. Hong Kong cinemas need films like these and after several decades of directing, Benny Chan finally got it right, balancing commercial expectations with a good storyline and passing the rigors of censorship. A topic about drugs is nothing new as Johnnie To explored earlier in “Drug War”, but of the two, Chan wins the battle and for that Hong Kong cinema fans should be grateful. Let’s just say Hong Kong cinema is the biggest winner. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10

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Romancing In Thin Air 高海拔之恋II (2012) – Hong Kong

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“He waited and survived for 7 years. He was only 500 metres away from getting out, before he died…”

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Johnnie To is back in form and it is only fitting that he does it with the much awaited reunion with Sammi Cheng. I always have a soft spot for films that touches me and makes my eyes watery. There is no denying that Romancing in Thin Air follows the reins of many other tear jerkers. In fact, my friend ended up crying non-stop for a good half hour end to the movie. In that sense, despite being a tact cliché, To manages to strike a chord with the audience and in many ways that is something worthy of cheering about. In a day and age, where many film makers forgotten the need to relate and connect with the audience, this film does exactly that. Sure, there is nothing truly original about this film, but To aims for the targeted audience of hopeless romantic and pretty delivers all the goods required.

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Sammi Cheng puts in the best performance of the film and easily once again gracing the screen with her stunning screen presence. Cheng has matured from her Needing You days and is now a veteran in her own rights. The former box office queen is charming, extremely likable and handles the emotional sequences and demands of her role to almost perfection. Cheng should be given credit for much of the film ability to connect to the audience and without doubt, this is clearly one of the best all-round performances of 2012. Destined for another best actress crown? Why not, should be the answer? On the other hand, Louis Koo continues to labour through another role, without truly standing out. It is a shame that Koo never explores his true range of emotions and fully utilise his acting ability. Despite toning down his overacting in this role, Koo is at best, just a safe choice and nothing more.

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All in all, Romancing In Thin Air is most probably the Notebook movie of the year for the Hong Kong audience. Cutting off the slightly too manufactured finale, the film is certainly beautiful to look at, both visually stunning and with polish production values. In many ways, this film is a perfect date movie. It’s been a long time running, since a Hong Kong production attempts to connect with the audience via emotions and the resulting tears jerker effect. Still, Romancing In Thin Air cater for the needs of its intended target audience, if you don’t like these sort of flicks, it is unlikely to win over you, but for all those hopeless romantic out there, Johnnie To have done you all a flavour. A sure win crowd pleasing emotional affair…

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Neo rates it 8/10