WOLF HIDING (怒潮) (2023)

Genre: Action/Crime
Director: Marc Ma
Cast: Nick Cheung, Ethan Juan, Darren Wang, Danny Chan, Andrew Lien, Lawrence Ng, Jordan Lee, Paul Chun
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence & Some Drug Use)
Released By: Clover Films
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 4 January 2024

Synopsis: Amid the transfer of power at the Hongtai Group, which wields influence in both the lawful and unlawful worlds, a mysterious assassin named Chen An suddenly enters this vortex of confusion and throws the Hongtai Group into chaos. Mai Longwen from the police and Ma Wenkang from the gangs both have their eyes on him... Various forces are waiting for the opportunity to strike. Who is the mastermind behind the scenes? A fierce battle is about to break out.

Movie Review:

If you think you were seeing double, you’re not alone. Barely weeks after reuniting with Dante Lam for the latter’s return to the gritty crime thrillers that Lam is best known for, Nick Cheung is in yet another such thriller with ‘Wolf Hiding’. In fact, we suspect director Marc Ma may have been inspired by some of Lam and Cheung’s earlier genre collaborations, given how ‘Wolf Hiding’ boasts similar themes of justice, brotherhood and vigilantism as well as how it is similarly prone to bursts of brutal, over-the-top violence.

Like several of its recent Mainland counterparts such as ‘Lost in the Stars’ and ‘The Last Suspect’, ‘Wolf Hiding’ is set in a fictional Southeast Asian country plagued by corruption within both its enforcement and legislative ranks. In particular, the crimes here are sexual exploitation and organ trade, which the much feared and revered Hong Tai group is guilty of given the lucrativeness of the black market business. With its titular chairman Hong Tai (Paul Chun) deciding to run for city councillor elections, the group is forced to confront who would take over as chairman as well as whether it would purge its illegal activities.

Amidst a potentially explosive power struggle between the chairman’s biological son Ovalon (Lawrence Ng) and his adopted son Ugo (Marc Ma), a mysterious assailant (Nick Cheung) sparks  suspicions of treachery within the Hong Tai ranks. Not only does he claim to have kidnapped Ovalon, the assailant also attempts but fails to kidnap Hong Tai himself, leading to a citywide manhunt by both the police and Hong Tai’s men. Oh by the way, there is also tension between the former led by Mai (Ethan Juan) and the latter led by Wenkang (Wang Talu), which threatens to boil over even as they race against time to catch the assailant before things spiral out of control.

Ma, who co-wrote the movie with Gu Haoran, keeps the narrative gears spinning at a fast, and even frenetic, pace. Within the span of two hours, Ma packs plenty of twists and turns, as he unveils not just the motivations of the mysterious assailant Chen An, but also the power struggle within the ranks of the Hong Tai group. In the latter regard, Ma stacks the movie with a long list of supporting characters, including Hong Tai’s right hand man (Danny Chan), an Eastern European pair of brothers who do Hong Tai’s dirty work, and the city’s police chief as well as chief procurator.

This is Ma’s first time behind the camera, so it should not come as a surprise that ‘Wolf Hiding’ is pretty raw in some respects. For one, not all of the storytelling turns are quite convincing enough, especially how Chen An manages to evade the manhunt out for him and yet turn up so neatly in front of those after him to purposely taunt them. For another, despite packing the movie wall to wall with action scenes, none of them are particularly memorable, whether is it in terms of choreography or just sheer coherence. And like most first-time filmmakers, Ma is also prone to overdo the sentimentality, which is most apparent in a lengthy series of flashbacks in the third act.

Still, despite the rough edges, ‘Wolf Hiding’ does enough to keep you engaged throughout. Much of that is credit to Cheung, whose chameleon-like ability to slip into roles is unparalleled. While Juan tends to over-act and Wang is too subdued for his own good, Cheung finds just the right balance between subtlety and theatricality, and singlehandedly elevates the material. So even though it is Cheung’s second genre movie in less than two months, ‘Wolf Hiding’ won’t leave you leaving more of the same, simply because Cheung turns what could have been cliché into a class act – and for Cheung alone, ‘Wolf Hiding’ is worth hunting.

Movie Rating:

(Amidst over-the-top storytelling, violence and histrionics, Nick Cheung is the one reason 'Wolf Hiding' is still worth hunting)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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