Director: Jack Ng
Cast: Dayo Wong, Adam Pak, Louise Wong, Fish Liew, Tse Kwan Ho, Renci Yeung, Ho Kai-Wa, Michael Wong, Vincent Kok, Bowie Lam
Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 21 January 2023
Synopsis: n a moment of irresponsible negligence, sharp-tongued barrister Adrian Lam (Dayo Wong) mishandles a child abuse case and indirectly sentences the innocent Jolene Tsang (Louise Wong) to prison for 17 years. Falling from disgrace, Adrian decides to serve the public and defend the commoners, until an unlikely opportunity for appeal surfaces. Determined to right his wrong, Adrian gathers former partners Evelyn Fong (Renci Yeung) and Prince (Ho Kai Wa) to free Jolene, but that would mean fighting against the tycoons, Victoria (Fish Liew) and Desmond Chung (Adam Pak), who also have barrister James Tung (Michael Wong) as their private consultant. With pressure from media and police, and facing tough cross- examination from prosecutor Kam Yuen Shan (Tse Kwan Ho) in court, how will Adrian uphold justice and punish the true culprit?
Stand-up comedian and actor Dayo Wong has in recent times found box-office success with hits liked Agent Mr Chan, The Grand Grandmaster and Table for Six. Though to put it bluntly, the first two were too overrated to warrant much fuss. But when it comes to his latest A Guilty Conscience, it’s a near-perfect, mesmerising legal drama tailored to Dayo’s acid-tongue and wittiness.
Dayo plays Adrian Lam, a lowly idling Magistrate who switched to private practice after being demoted by his supervisor. His first case involves the murder of a young child and his task is to defend the child’s mother, Jolene Tsang (Louise Wang) who is being accused of child abuse. Apparently, Tsang is a kept mistress of a doctor (Adam Pak) who happens to be married to one of Hong Kong’s richest socialites, Victoria Chung (Fish Liew).
However, the ever confident Lam assumed it will be a sure win case but alas when a witness changes his statement at the last minute, Tsang is sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for manslaughtering. Feeling guilty at his mishandling of the case, Lam works hard to have the case retrial with the help of his legal teammates, Evelyn (Renci Yeung) and Prince (Ho Kai-Wa).
A race against time ensued when Lam has to gather enough evidence to face against a powerful prosecutor, Kam (Tse Kwan-Ho), the evil forces behind the real culprit and the possibility of Tsang facing a life time imprisonment if the appeal fails.
Screenwriter Jack Ng who frequently collaborates with Dante Lam on movies liked The Stool Pigeon, That Demon Within and Unbeatable serves as both director and writer on A Guilty Conscience. Despite running at more than two hours, Ng kept the entire ordeal gripping and the audiences in bated breath with the seemingly never ending “unforeseen” circumstances happening to Lam and his team even with a revelation of a critical video clip being shown at midpoint.
Yet Ng manages to cleverly juggle the tension between the courtroom drama and antics outside the courthouse with ease. There’s no excess usage of melodramatics or unrealistic plot twists though plotwise, the familiar idea of “Jack the Giant Killer” comes to mind with the character of Lam taking on not just the judicial system but the collusion of the rich and elites of a corroded society.
The role of Adrian Lam is perfect for Dayo and credit again goes to Ng and his team of writers for blessing him with sharp, laugh-out-loud dialogue to work his magic on. Remember his hilarious portrayal of a paralegal in War of the Genders TVB sitcom opposite Carol Cheng? His turn as Lam reminds one of Yu Lok Tin, often witty, sarcastic and always unpredictable. In an added bonus, the character of Lam also grants Dayo a chance to showcase his talent as a serious actor in a few dramatic scenes.
Louise Wang and Fish Liew reunites after their Anita biopic (also a script by Jack Ng) though Liew is given lesser screentime to shine while Wang proves she is an upcoming actress to watch out for. Veteran Tse Kwan-Ho is impressive as the tough as nails, Kam and even Michael Wong shines as the shady legal advisor to the wealthy Chung family.
Unlike the typical forgettable Chinese New Year offering, A Guilty Conscience is a crowd-pleasing drama that offers solid entertainment, solid acting chops and an obvious stab at the Hong Kong legal system. Whether it’s greed, power or money pulling the strings behind remains debatable after the movie ends. For fans of Dayo Wong, exhilarating courtroom exchanges and debates, Jack Ng’s directorial debut shouldn’t be missed.
(The ultimate legal drama of the year and we are hoping Dayo Wong and Jack Ng returns for a sequel)
Review by Linus Tee