Director: Herman Yau
Cast: Francis Ng, Julian Cheung, Charmaine Sheh, Louis Cheung
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: 2K Studios Pte Ltd and Cathay Cineplexes
Opening Day: 21 June 2018
Synopsis: A lethal infectious disease breaks out in Malaysia forcing authorities to administer a new experimental drug manufactured by international pharmaceutical company – Amanah. When the son of Amanah’s chairman is murdered, Malaysian police officer Lee Weng Kan (Julian Cheung) teams up with his Hong Kong counterpart David Wong (Francis Ng) to investigate the case. As more murders follow, Lee and Wong are contacted by a secret organisation – The Leakers. They claim to know the dark truth about the murders and Amanah…
Continuing their director-screenwriter partnership that started some seven films ago, Herman Yau and Erica Lee concoct a cops-versus-robbers thriller with a vigilante twist. As the title suggests, somewhere between the good guys and the bad guys lies an organisation who claims to be on a mission of social justice. They want the public to know the truth behind the corrupt practices of a pharmaceutical company named Amanah and its founder Teo Jit Sun (Kent Cheng), who are at the centre of a viral epidemic sweeping through Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand. And to prove their point, they have kidnapped Jit Sun’s younger son Jun Yan (Wilfred Lau), demanding that his father not only make public the formula behind the antidote to the virus, but also release RM$1million worth of the antidote to the health authorities around the world.
It’s an ambitious and intriguing concept all right – ambitious because few Hong Kong filmmakers have tried to portray a real-life pandemic in their territory, let alone Southeast Asia; and intriguing because there is within potential for a compelling moral drama about the circumstances under which we need to choose whether to break the law in order to uphold it. On both counts though, ‘The Leakers’ comes out somewhat short. Despite a promising setup that portends a conspiracy stretching across Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia, Lee’s script opts for a predictable and easy finish which makes you wonder why it was even necessary to go through so much trouble just to get the truth out. That also means the dilemma at the heart of the organisation’s criminal practices is barely sufficiently fleshed out, though we’d be frank to admit that its target audience may not be bothered.
Indeed, Yau’s film has been billed as a true-blue Hong Kong action thriller, and on that account, it does satisfy. As he demonstrated with last year’s big-budget blockbuster ‘Shock Wave’, Yau is a perfectly competent director of taut and tense thrillers, and this one is no different. The pacing is tight and gripping from start to finish, and even when the script starts showing more and more of its loopholes in the second hour, Yau keeps the wheels turning on the picture so quickly that you won’t have time on your mind to dwell on them. The action too, while not particularly memorable, is cleanly and nicely staged, especially an extended car chase that takes place along the streets and highways around Penang. It’s been a while since we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying such Hong Kong-styled police action, and that nostalgia certainly makes what ‘The Leakers’ has to offer a lot more attractive.
Ditto for the ensemble that Yau has assembled for this film. As thinly drawn as the characters in Lee’s script are, it is the sheer charisma of these actors that make their roles so watchable. Chief among them is Francis Ng, who brings his usual brand of rumpled coolness to the role of the about-to-be-divorced Hong Kong detective David Wong. On the other hand, Julian Cheung is his typical dapper and serious self as the Malaysian police officer Lee Weng Kan, and Ng and Cheung complement each other beautifully as ‘buddy cops’. Charmaine Sheh’s lauded news reporter Carly Yuan plays second fiddle to both men, but she, Cheng, Chrissie Chau, Louis Cheung and Sam Lee add some authentically Hong Kong star power to the film.
Lest we forget, the Hong Kong film industry was built not just on standouts like ‘Infernal Affairs’ but also on hundreds of effortlessly entertaining films like this one. We won’t deny that there could be a much better film within had Lee and her co-writer Li Sheng bothered to develop a less straightforward story and given more flesh to the characters, but with Yau’s steady direction, ‘The Leakers’ is a completely agreeable way to spend one-and-a-half hours of your time. It’s a production full of genuine ‘Hong Kong’ feel for better and for worse, from its relentless pacing, to its action, and of course to its actors. As long as you have your expectations right, ‘The Leakers’ will keep you hooked like a good disposable Hong Kong movie should.
(As genuinely entertaining and flawed as the typical Hong Kong action thriller, Herman Yau's cops-versus-robbers tale with a vigilante twist is perfectly disposable entertainment)
Review by Gabriel Chong