Friday, December 30, 2011

Turning Point 2 (Laughing Gor之潜罪犯 / Laughing Gor Zi Cim Zeoi Faan)

Who's Laughing Now?

You can't put a good man down, and with the popularity of Michael Tse's Laughing Gor undercover cop character in the TVB television series EU, it spun off its own movie with Turning Point, which gave a lot more background to Laughing, to the point of even veering off its established canon. Then came another television serial Lives of Omission since audiences can't get enough of him, and its ending was unpopular enough with audiences that it now led to Turning Point 2 being made, which answers the question whether Laughing is indeed a cold blooded killer, or not.

And what better way than to answer that question and weave in a complex story in which utilitizes Laughing's strengths as an undercover yet again, now tasked to discover the truth behind fellow inmate and corrupt cop Tai Chit (Chapman To), who had given himself up for money laundering crimes. At the Office of the Undersecretary of Security, Carmen (Janice Man) discovers some discrepancies in Tai Chit's actions, and is made handler for Laughing, feeding and becoming the conduit for information going in and coming out from his investigations. But a professor, Fok Tin Yam (Francis Ng in a separate role from Turning Point) gets incarcerated into the same prison and is seemingly interested in Tai Chit as well, setting the stage for some very curious cat and mouse game that deals with anarchy in society, quite a broad, sprawling topic you would deem coming out from what is essentially television material.

Directed by Herman Yau (who also did the first Turning Point), the key purpose of Turning Point 2 is to reverse what was a cold blooded, uncharacteristic move committed by Laughing at the end of the series resulting in his life imprisonment, so kudos to the screenwriters in adding a lot of meat to a very skeletal ending, padding it up for a feature film that in all honestly, worked for the most parts. It brings back in a crown pleasing move the heroism of the character of Laughing, pitting his skills against Francis Ng's very suave and persuasive phychology professor who has developed very sexy ideas about crime and punishment, and is out to establish a posse of loyal followers in which to establish a new world order of sorts through revolution, a sexy keyword given the many films made to commemorate China's Year 1911.

Boasting the return of characters from the television series like Laughing's rookie protege Lap Ching (MC Jin), Kate Tsui's Paris, Bosco Wong's triad leader Michael, and many more, some in blink-and-you-miss scenes, you don't really need too much of a background with Lives of Omission as you will be brought up to speed with its many flashbacks which is the de facto tool used by Herman Yau to refresh what was already known and unpopular with television audiences, and to provide an expanded take on the series of events with this film. I'm not sure if the ending will placate them since it ended in quite open terms, deliberately I would say to leave doors still open for another film or drama series, or to wrap it all up here.

Michael Tse's star has been shining bright thanks to his Laughing Gor role, but in this film version, Francis Ng, like many of films starring the actor, managed to steal the limelight in part in his second outing in the Turning Point series (though playing different characters) because his villain desires anarchy, but does so in a rather pleasant way that it's hard to say no to the man. The way the rivalry played out between the leads, you'd sort of feel a little unconvinced with Laughing's reaction, in part because of his proclamation that he doesn't understand Tin Yam's intent, with Tin Yam needing to spell it out for him, leading to a very verbal exchange in its climax. In fact, there's little action in this film, and had every tense situation left to its dialogue about value principles instead.

The supporting cast didn't have much to do except to play the caricatures they are, and Kate Tsui was inevitably wasted as the lovelorn Paris needing plenty of psychological help to get over the loss of Michael, to the point that she's there only as a plot device for the final act, which may be a little tad convenient in the allusion to poetic justice. A couple of loopholes present didn't have enough to tank the film, but in truth have both Michael Tse and Francis Ng to thank for keeping up the intensity of their character's cat and mouse game. Recommended especially for fans who have to put the memory of the finale of Lives of Omission to rest.

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