Protégé 門徒 (2007) – Hong Kong

It’s a great film, so stop using that needle…

It’s May and it’s about time and once again director Derek Yee delivers quite possibility one of the best movie of 2007. As Neo always describe these sorts of moments as finding a gem in a pile of shit, such is the state of a cliché cinema that HK has become. Yee have created a powerful film, an almost flawless display and once again showing what a real HK film should be like. It is full credit to Yee’s ability to extract the best from the potential filled Daniel Wu, a touch of lost flair from Andy Lau, capturing the innocence of Zhang Jingchu and perhaps a career boost for Louis Koo to finally step out of his comfort zone. It is Yee’s ability to combine the above comments with relevant social concerns and in turn creating a powerfully driven and emotionally charged movie about the consequences of drug and beyond. It’s been a while, since Neo clapped his hands and the effort that Yee and producer Peter Chan puts in deserves a lot more and in the progress showing to the HK audience that HK movies are still worth watching. Now that’s something to be proud of.

The movie goes like this: Wu is the undercover who earns the trust by being Lau’s protégé and in the process of cracking a huge crime and nailing his boss, Wu discovers the world of drugs both from behind the scenes in Thailand to the point of making love with a drug addict…

It is a magical feeling that allows the audience to reflect upon the consequences of their actions and inactions. Yee goes beyond the undercover genre and miles above the drug industry, by using the imageries of birds as a focal point of humanity. Remember the days of the bird flu, and all of a sudden people are afraid of bird. Is it the bird’s fault that they have caught the flu or is it the fault of human nature. As a result, we have to kill the birds and dispose of them, in order to stop the problem from getting worst. So why didn’t we stop the problem, before the problem even arises? Such are questions that Yee tries to portray and after all, why do people take drugs. We all know drugs are bad, but yet people still addict into it. So does the fault goes towards the drug addicts for wanting it in the first place, or does the fault lies in the ones who create and sell them. This is where Andy Lau comes in and somehow he managed to portray the character in a manner that you do not usually see Andy as. Then again, he could well be right, perhaps it is all about supply and demand – they want it, so I sell them.

Going into the film, I had no idea who directed it, but within seconds, you could feel the atmosphere and style of direction that only Derek Yee can manage. Daniel Wu should be proud of this performance, even though at times it’s seemed like a rehash of his previous role in A Nite in Mongkok, but still it is easily Wu’s best ever performance. It is his ability to carry the film on his shoulder with Andy Lau looking on, is an image that shows the fact of Wu’s finally coming of age. It is great news for HK cinema and his facial expressions and acting have steadily improved. Not unlike Andy Lau’s protégé, Wu is just as hard working and as Neo claimed from day one, you can see the effort that Wu tries is clearly his best. It shows that hard work might not make you a natural talent, but at the very least it does make up for it. Another person worthy of praise, is the scene stealing cameo performance from Louis Koo, who for the first time in years, he is able to step out of his shadow within the blink of romantic comedies. It is bravo effort and an immensely tense display of druggie. Andy Lau has decided to take a step back and allow a young protégé in Wu to shine and in the progress he is able to portray a character and a personality that you rarely see in Lau’s work. It is different from his acclaimed performances in Infernal Affairs and Running Out of Time, but instead this time his outsmarted and those moments in the toilet reminds us of what Lau is capable of.

It is also worthy of noting the return of much missed Anita Yuen, and while her role is almost non-existent and irrelevant, it is a welcoming return and clearly acted beyond her limited script. Last, but not least and quite possibility one of the most memorable performance in 2007, it is Zhang Jingchu. Zhang, who shined so brightly in Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords, depicted a menacing display of being torn into a world of drugs and the tension of being a mother with an air of innocence in seducing Wu. It is ultimately a portrayal between the beauty and ugly side of human nature.

All in all, Protégé is a powerful film that leaves the audience thinking and continues to think. Drug is a bad thing, but sometimes it makes you wonder whether it is the feeling of emptiness caused by human nature and events that is far worst. Drug by itself is never a bad thing, but it is the people and their actions towards the drug that makes it a bad thing. Yee have shot a beautiful film and the use of birds to ultimate express the core of the film is nothing short of brilliance. With a team of Yee and Peter Chan, it is hard to imagine what can really go wrong and not surprising together they have created something important. It is probably not flawless, but in Neo’s honest opinion, he can not find any. Perhaps you can criticize the lack of development of some characters, but really it isn’t worth noting. Yee have created something special and delivered a present to the doorstep of every eagerly awaiting HK cinema lovers. It may sound cliché, but Neo just love it… (Neo 2007)

I rate it 10/10

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