Director: Herman Yau
Cast: Michael Tse, Francis Ng, Chapman To, Liu Kai Chi, Kara Wai, Bosco Wong, Kate Tsui
RunTime: 1 hr 24 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films and Clover Films
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence & Nudity)
Opening Day: 29 December 2011
Synopsis: Laughing (starring Michael Tse) is sentenced to life-imprisonment for killing So (starring Bosco Wong). While serving his time, Laughing got to know Professor (starring Francis Ng), an introvert jailed for drug-dealing. Professor is a trained psychologist who reads mind, enabling him to manipulate and control others. The visit of a mysterious lady from the Security Bureau confirms Laughing’s imprisonment is all part of a new mission… Is the mysterious Professor a friend or foe? Will Laughing complete his duty and survive the ordeal of mistaken identity.
Unless you’re an avid TVB fan who has caught the recent 44th TVB Anniversary Best Drama Award winner ‘Lives of Omission’, you’re likely to find yourself perplexed how ‘Turning Point: Laughing Gor Returns’ is linked to the earlier ‘Turning Point’ movie two years ago. While the first film was a prequel to Laughing’s first appearance in ‘E.U.’, this in-name only sequel- also directed by veteran Herman Yau- follows directly from the cliffhanging conclusion of ‘Lives of Omission’.
For the uninitiated, the titular Laughing Gor was found guilty and sent to jail for murdering his informant and triad leader Michael (Bosco Wong) after the latter murdered his girlfriend- and then Criminal Intelligence Bureau superior- Jodie (Fala Chen). Casting Fala is no coincidence- Laughing falls in love with Jodie also because she bears a striking resemblance to his former girlfriend Karen (also played by Fala in the first ‘Turning Point’). While Fala’s return is a calculated one, the same cannot be said of Francis Ng’s comeback as this movie’s villain, a brilliant psychologist called Professor (Francis Ng).
Rather than crack your head trying to make a connection between Professor and Francis Ng’s earlier as a triad leader in the first movie, you’d be better off enjoying the sizzling chemistry between the two top-notch actors. Yes, we suspect the producers cast Francis yet again in the role simply because he would be an excellent counter-balance for Michael’s character Laughing- and indeed, the casting stroke pays off in several riveting scenes where the pair engage in a battle-of-wits of the difference between breaking the law and committing a crime.
That debate forms the crux of the movie, which surprisingly veers away from the ‘Infernal Affairs’-type milieu into more cerebral territory. Here, Professor is cast as a morally complex character who believes in bending and breaking the law in order to fulfil the objectives of justice. He’s a revolutionist bordering on anarchy, who has sown the seeds of his ideology among some high-level Police officers- including an ex-Narcotics Bureau officer Dai (Chapman To) and the Commissioner-in-waiting Kuen (Liu Kai-Chi). Unfortunately, Laughing is a much simpler person who refuses to be sold on such ambiguities despite the Professor’s best efforts at persuasion.
So Laughing makes it his personal mission to stop Professor- despite being a wanted criminal without any protection as an undercover (his handler is killed by Professor’s henchmen to cover their tracks) and no one to help him but a junior officer first recruited by his handler to make contact with him in prison. Yes, it turns out that Laughing’s imprisonment was no more than an elaborate ploy to get him close to the Professor as well as Dai to unravel their vigilante group’s nefarious plans- and that about-turn is just one of many twists and turns packed into a dense 84-min running time.
To be answerable to the TV show’s fans, there are frequent flashbacks that reference what had happened during the series- such as Laughing’s supposed murder of Michael, Michael’s heretofore-unknown connection to Professor, as well as Michael’s run-in with the female boss Sha (Kara Hui) of a secret black organisation called Ether. Credit goes to the screenwriters for weaving such a intricate plot next to the events of the TV series- though Herman Yau’s brisk pacing means that those who had not caught its predecessor will probably find themselves playing catch-up throughout the movie.
And yet again, the choice of Herman Yau as helmer proves to be an inspired one. Probably one of the most under-appreciated veterans of the HK film industry, Herman once again surprises with an engrossing psychological thriller that compellingly poses the perennial dispute between means and ends and whether the latter justifies the former in the context of the current justice system. Certain scenes do strain credibility- like how Professor manages to brainwash so easily Kuen, Dai and Michael’s wife Paris (Kate Tsui) to his cause- but the first-rate acting by the cast of veterans should more than win you over.
Those who have seen ‘Lives of Omission’ will probably agree with us that it was going to be difficult to top what rightfully won the Best Drama Series on TVB last year, with every episode edge-of-your-seat thrilling and brilliantly well-plotted. Rather than try to replicate it, Herman Yau has taken the inspired move of casting this movie sequel as a dense psychological thriller and creating a sharp intellectual villain in the form of the Professor. Those going in expecting your usual police-undercover triad movie will likely be disappointed, but this remains a gripping affair that more than does justice to its first-class TV predecessor.
(A surprising change of genre away from its triad roots, director Herman Yau mines the ‘Laughing Gor’ mythology for a gripping psychological thriller)
Review by Gabriel Chong