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震撼性醜聞 (1995)
Police Confidential

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 02/24/2007

“Don’t do anything stupid” says Carrie Ng, a Hong Kong official, to Zhang Fengyi, playing the corrupt and recently fired second in command of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in “Police Confidential.” Since the movie is by then more than half over it is already too late. Just about everything that every character does is both stupid and improbable with the added fillip of being incomprehensible to the audience.

“Police Confidential” is an unintentionally funny movie that deals with the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as the characters know it. The British are leaving and won’t be back. The Union Jack will be lowered for the last time and the Queen’s pictures will not long adorn office walls. The colonial administrators will be packing their souvenirs and the only way of life that anyone then alive in the Crown Colony has known is about to change completely. It is time to betray friends, make peace with enemies and create alliances with rivals. While the handover is neither Paris in 1789 nor Saigon in April of 1975 it will be much more meaningful than, for example, a change of parties in the White House in the United States which simply means a new set of consigliere to advice the chief capo. This makes all the jockeying for position by councilors, administrators and senior police officials an existential exercise—whatever the outcome is now it can be changed by the representatives of the PRC when they take over. One short scene early on underlines the futility of all this activity. A corrupt councilor has made a ridiculous speech about how the autonomy of their village depended on continuing male dominance of politics and everything else. He was answered by a female councilor (Carrie Ng as Carrie Ng) who pointed to a picture on the wall of the community center in which the meeting was held, a picture that showed the male councilor with British Colonial Office officials. She says that she has never taken money from the British, has never worked with them and never will. In a furious aside the impossibly sexist councilor berates an aide for not getting rid of the picture.

This illustrates the impossibility of the situation that all of them are in. Getting rid of the evidence of past collaboration won’t help with the new rulers. However neither will having an anti-colonialist background be of much use. And to assume that the independence of a village will continue after the handover is political naiveté at best and plain stupidity at worst. There is a lot freighted on this scene and it comes across well.

The other ninety minutes of “Police Confidential” are pretty bad, though.

Simon Yam plays a repugnant character, a police officer who has a sick enthusiasm extremely depraved and sadistic sex play. He likes to watch couples and is intensely attracted to prostitutes. Would call him a rouge cop but that gives him too much credit. Actually to call Officer Lui an idiot would be putting him too high on the food chain. He isn’t an anti-hero, just a sex obsessed jerk—even his mother in Canada turns against him. This is one of the characters the audience is supposed to root for.

The other character is Daisy of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, a lovely and effective crime fighter who falls for Lui one night when he randomly dials her phone number and tries to engage her in phone sex. Not the most promising introduction one would think, but since Daisy doesn’t seem to think it works fine with her.

The bad guy is Assistant Commissioner Cheung—just to make sure we don’t miss it he is often shot in close-up, lighted from below and with a sickly green or red filter so he looks like someone who wandered onto the set from a schlocky horror movie. Compared with Cheung Inspector Clouseau of “The Pink Panther” is a model investigator. Under his command the ICAC tries to set up Officer Lui and fails a number of times. When he is finally arrested he escapes from a large group of armed ICAC officers, kidnapping one of them and assaulting a few more. After this confrontation he continues to have the freedom of the city, even reporting to work at the Vice Squad without being noticed by those who are trying to arrest him.

I tried to follow the plot of the movie but since the writer and director weren’t concerned with coherence I gave up. It is looks like they lost control of things early on and just shot footage to be patched together in the editing room. None of the ICAC operations makes sense in any context—for example they mount a huge effort to bug a public meeting that is being filmed and taped by the press and they constantly switch their target from Officer Lui to Councilor Lam accomplishing nothing while doing so. The plot collapses on itself quite early and becomes nothing more than a bunch of poorly written and badly shot scenes. It could have been a decent absurdist comedy if the filmmakers realized just how inane all of their characters were acting.

In what may be the lowest of many low points Officer Lui, after saving Judy the prostitute from chopper wielding killers tries to convince her to testify at a hearing involving Cheung. The scene is full of pathos and bathos with Judy sobbing that she is worthless and that no one would believe her while Lui tells her that he is no better than she is but he is willing to do the right thing and she should also. Time is fleeting—the hearing is in the last hour of its last day and if Judy doesn’t get there in time (they have to travel from Macao to Hong Kong with the entire HK police force and most of the ICAC trying to stop them) Cheung will be the de facto ruler of Hong Kong until the handover. So before they start out take a few minutes to have sex. Which isn’t the worst of it. The entire scene takes place in an alley—a handy oil drum serves as a place for their coupling—under a broken pipe that drenches them, dumping hundreds of gallons of water on them. For reasons that might have made sense at the time (but probably didn’t) they don’t move—they get drenched by the broken pipe and stay under it while water continues to cascade onto them. Some people aren’t smart enough to get in out of the rain—these two aren’t smart enough to move to a dry spot when it isn’t raining.

It is a very dark movie—not bleak, just dark. Faces peer out of surrounding blackness even when they are people working in an office. This could have been the cinematographer’s choice or just another display of technical ineptitude. If it was a choice it was a bad one. The editor may have done the best he could with the footage supplied—there is no indication at all that anything good was left on the cutting room floor. Simon Yam does a voice over trying to explain the unexplainable and title cards with the date and time are dropped in occasionally in an attempt to keep the audience from being completely confused. The first half of the movie is a flashback—there is no reason it should be and only adds to the irrational complexity of things.

Linda Wong Hing-Ping is very attractive and a decent actress and Zhang Fengyi could carry an air of menace if his character wasn’t so incompetent.

I dropped this one into my DVD player because it starred Carrie Ng which is not reason enough for anyone else to endure it.

Not recommended

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 07/29/2006
Summary: No Good Reason to Watch

This movie doesn't have much going for it. Simon Yam's character is totally unsympathetic; one doesn't care whether he prevails, gets jailed, or is killed. He's supposed to be a clever, rebellious cop who has a weakness for women that gets him into trouble from time to time. But he comes off looking like a pervert prone to temper tantrums. Ugh.

Mild spoilers ahead.

The leading lady is simply a flower vase. She encounters Yam as a result of a mis-dialed phone call and they hit it off, calling each other frequently. Why someone who's as straight-laced as she is would develop warm feelings for the phone stranger isn't explained, but eventually they do meet and she comes to realize that he's an honest, heroic type, and they appear to start developing a tender affection. But no, Yam inexplicably proposes to a prostitute he doesn't even know in order to save his reputation and the taxpayers of Hong Kong. And the chicken joyously accepts, apparently realizing in an epiphany that Yam is actually a great guy and a good catch. Does that bother our flower vase? No, not a bit; as long as she knows he's out there somewhere remembering her, she can live happily ever after. Yeah, sure.

The plot revolves around one character's attempt to set up Yam, but he does it in a way that would be easily discovered and thwarted by a rookie cop, though in this movie he almost succeeds.

Somewhere along the line, the director suddenly realizes that Yam's character is a conceited pervert and decides he better layer on some sympathy. So he shows two quick scenes, in one of which we find out that Yam's ex-wife's new hubby is now preventing him from seeing his young son. That might have worked a little if we'd been shown Yam had a relationship with the boy or if we hadn't been told that Yam was responsible for the breakup of his family in the first place, because of his whoring. This is followed by a quick, collect call Yam makes to his parents in Canada, presumably to ask for financial assistance, only to be rebuked because word that he's a bad cop has hit the streets of Toronto or Vancouver and brought shame upon the parents. This sends Yam into tears. Oh, that worked; now I have sympathy for him; on with the story!

There's almost no credibility to be found in this film. Avoid it.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 12/29/2001
Summary: A bit old........

This movie has a old feel to it. Feels like i have seen it all before!! Though the ending was good, and the movie moved in a good constant pace, i felt like this movie was rip off of a lot other movies. OR is it they are ripping off the ideas of this movie?

Anyway all the actors play there roles with great enthusiam. The power struggles between characters is exciting to watch, but the one criticism i got with the movie is Simon Yam falling for the pro SO easily, and they bearly know each other. I was put off by that!!

A good old movie, which feels like it has been done before.


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 12/09/1999

This is a big, rich, exciting, slightly out-of-control movie thatstill leaves me unsettled. I'm not sure that it's a completely coherent whole, but that's all right: genre mixing in HK cinema has its own pleasures. PC is part psychological/political/erotic thriller, part police-action dazzler. The first half hour is incredible: plot twists pile up so fast that they barely have time to register: there's a manic restlessness to the pacing that's kind of disturbing, and kind of exhilarating. Unfortunately, the accumulated tension of a go-for-broke thriller is dispelled by a late turn to courtroom drama (legislative hearing, in this case, but structurally the same sort of thing). I don't know why HK filmmakers are so fond of this sort of scene: it's almost always static, cliche-ridden, an anti-kinetic let-down after so much built up energy. And PC has some other problems: it can swing into scenes of cheesey melodrama whose necessity escapes me. PC's narrative style may owe something to recent Wong Kar-Wai: the story loops back on itself, and Officer Lui's (Simon Yam) self-conscious narration tries to bind it all together. But PC's politics are pure Kirk Wong. And this troubles me. Both _Rock and Roll Cop_ and _Organized Crime and Triad Bureau_ seem to be about letting police be (freely, violently) police. His movies have an utterly cynical view of political institutions: the HK Legislative Council here seems hopelessly corrupted, seeking power instead of justice. The HK police themselves are divided. The ICAC, lead by a crooked Alex Chiang (Zhang Fengyi), is deeply implicated in the very illegality it is supposed to be fighting. Simon Yam's Officer Lui is a clean cop, but his own unrestrained sexual life seems to have caused the break up of his family. In the face of this kind of (inner and outer) world out of control, Kirk Wong's films conceal a virtually libidinal investment in total surveillance (PC celebrates the entire range, from Lui's productive peeping-Tom-ism to the most massive high-tech police surveillance operation I've yet seen on film) and total control (the necessity of violently reconstructing order in a corrupted and anarchic world). PC doesn't go nearly as far as _Rock and Roll Cop_ (which seems actually to yearn for the mainland's takeover in 1997). And PC's complexity complicates its politics, for the better. Yam's character is fighting *for* something, here: ostensibly the old standards of honesty and loyalty. But what might really be at stake for Lui is something much more interesting: the possibility of sustaining an integrated idea of who he is in an incoherent, dis-integrating world.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/09/1999

I highly recommend this movie, and can't believe it didn't register at all on the top ten. This is a Wong Kar Wai movie with a plot, and Quentin's doing the music (a good thing in this case - really sets the mood well). The cinematography isn't quite up to Christopher Doyle's standards, but it sure comes close. I know my description makes it sound like a ripoff movie, and it is to a degree (especially if Kirk Wong is allowed to rip himself off). But everything is handled well. It replaces LOVING YOU as my pick for 1995's most underrated movie.