Director: Felix Chong
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Charlene Choi, Simon Yam, Alex Fong, Taibo, Carlos Chan, Philip Keung
Runtime: 2 hrs 6 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 30 December 2023
Synopsis: Set in the 1980s, the film is based on the story of Carrian Group, a Hong Kong corporation which rose rapidly before collapsing shortly afterwards due to a corruption scandal.
This Hong Kong blockbuster very much wants us to remind us of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s critically and commercially successful Infernal Affairs (2002). The poster unabashedly features Tony Leung and Andy Lau (in very stylish poses, no less), and it creates a sense of anticipation that will send fans of Hong Kong cinema into the cinemas.
If we were the investors, we would also cash in on the opportunity to market Leung and Lau, who were also the leading men of Infernal Affairs 20 years ago. After all, the first instalment in the trilogy in took home HK$55.1 million at the box office, and gained international attention when it was remade by Martin Scorsese into The Departed (2006). Two decades later, Leung and Lau are reunited on the big screen by Infernal Affairs’ co writer writer Felix Chong in this crime thriller that has a reported budget of HK$350 million.
It is evident why the movie cost so much to make. The story takes us back to the 1970s and 1980s, where things looked very different and one can only imagine the effort put into recreating that era. When the movie begins, we are introduced to Henry Ching (Leung), a humble man who arrives in Hong Kong looking for a job as an engineer. But luck does not treat our protagonist well, and he is forced to take another less than honest route that lands him in a situation that will make him very, very, very rich.
Without saying too much, the dealings includes fraud and corruption. And things go according to Henry’s way, and he is extremely happy to be bathed in riches. Elsewhere, Lau shows up as an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigator who is determined to uncover Henry’s dirty deeds. What follows is a long drawn cat and mouse chase that involves many supporting characters (part of the movie’s huge budget goes to the star studded cast) and non linear stories told in multiple flashback sequences.
While the blockbuster’s publicity efforts want you to think that this is a movie about Leung and Lau, the two men don’t really share much screen time together. But when they do, the chemistry is spot on and the dynamics of the two legends of Hong Kong showbiz are evident on screen. They first starred alongside each other in the 1984 TV series The Duke of Mount Deer, and it is a treat for audiences to see sparks fly between the two mega stars.
This is really Leung’s show as the movie focuses on how a simple man became the founder of a multi billion company. He gets the best scenes in the 126 minute film – you see how an introverted man become a businessman flaunting his fortune, complete with a boastful swagger. It is interesting to note that the character is based on George Tan, a man who worked in Singapore and Malaysia during the 1960s. He then made it big by founding the Carrian Group in Hong Kong, before he was involved in several financial scandals. Leung effortlessly pulls off the varied performances, and you have to give it to the multiple award winning actor for his craft.
The lavish production is a visual treat and it is clear that the filmmakers want us to be in awe with the extravagantly decorated scenes. There is so much style throughout the movie, you may forgive the sometimes confusing story, especially if you are not familiar with the subject matter. Also, the supporting cast of Charlene Choi, Simon Yam, Alex Fong, Carlos Chan and Philip Keung is enough to make you wonder – how did the filmmakers put this ambitious project together?
(You'll be in awe of this lavish Hong Kong blockbuster's sheer star power, and be captivated by Tony Leung and Andy Lau's on-screen chemistry)
Review by John Li