Director: Herman Yau
Cast: Michael Tse, Felix Wong, Francis Ng,
Anthony Wong, Fala Chen, Wayne Lai, Kenny Wang, Eric Tsang,
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: GV & Scorpio East Pictures
Official Website: http://b.tvb.com/laughing/
Opening Day: 20 August 2009
(MICHAEL TSE) is formally a police undercover. However due
to a drug trafficking case, Inspector Pan (FELIX WONG) is
hot on his trails.
Laughing becomes a police undercover, he works under triad
leader Yi (ANTHONY WONG). Yi treats Laughing as his own brother,
however to protect his territory and illegal businesses, Yi
instructed Laughing to join the police force and act as his
is a high-flyer in the police academy. However he never got
a chance to join the force because he is specially picked
by Inspector Xian (YUEN BIAO) to be an undercover in the underworld
syndicate. Hence Laughing becomes a “double-undercover”.
happy that Laughing is allocated to the triad of his rival
(FRANCIS NG). To make his situation worse, Laughing falls
in love with the triad leader’s sister, Karen.
brotherhood and love, what will Laughing decide on? His decision
will be a turning point in his life.
“Laughing Gor” is somewhat of a phenomenon in Hong Kong- just so you know how this movie came to be made. A character on the recently-concluded TVB series “Emergency Unit”, “Laughing Gor” was a senior triad member who was revealed in later episodes to be an undercover for the police. His death in episode 22 caused an uproar among fans- it attracted more than 120,000 users to his Facebook group, even an application where users could lay virtual offerings for him- and not even his comeback at the last episode could appease them.
So it was decided that “Laughing Gor” would get his very own movie, and hence “Turning Point”, a prequel of how he came to be a police officer under deep cover in the triads. The movie itself is somewhat history in the making- since when have you heard of a supporting character on a TVB series so popular it gets its own movie, complete with heavyweights Anthony Wong, Francis Ng and Eric Tsang. Just as notable is how this movie managed to attract Shaw Brothers to produce its first movie after a 7-year dormancy.
So it’s really an understatement to say that “Turning Point” arrives on a wave of anticipation. But to better appreciate prolific HK director Herman Yau’s new film, it’s better to tone down your expectations just a notch. “Turning Point” is no “Infernal Affairs”- the magnum opus of HK undercover cop/triad movies- although the similarities are unmistakeable. Both films feature HK film industry stalwarts Wong, Ng and Tsang; and both films deal with the perils and difficulties of undercover work.
Where “Infernal Affairs” had Andy Lau and Tony Leung on opposite sides of the law, here both sides of the law reside in just one character, Laughing (Michael Tse reprising his very-popular role). Laughing is a double undercover- a triad member sent by his boss Yi (Anthony Wong) to infiltrate the police whom in turn sends him back to spy on Yi. It’s no surprise that Laughing will eventually have to choose which side he’s on- and fans will immediately see how this prequel fits in with the series.
But with or without knowledge of how Laughing’s “Turning Point” will turn out, there is still enough here that fans and neophytes will enjoy. Written by Johnnie To regular Yip Tin Shing, “Turning Point” probably has enough material to develop another TV series focused on Laughing. But its tightly condensed story isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it also makes for a very engaging 90-mins. Indeed, unlike some HK movies which quickly run out of something to say, “Turning Point” actually has a rich tale to tell.
Unfortunately, director Herman Yau is not necessarily the most skilful director around. He uses one too many flashbacks to narrate all that exposition, instead of building it slowly from the beginning into the story. Thankfully, Herman Yau still knows how to keep a movie going, so “Turning Point” doesn’t quite lose its pace as it goes backwards and forwards.
The real standout of the film, and also its greatest asset, is its A-list cast. It’s been a while since Anthony Wong and Francis Ng shared the screen together and “Turning Point” is a reminder of why they are two of the best actors in HK. Both Wong and Ng play their quirky offbeat characters with gleeful abandon- Wong the flamboyant triad boss keeping a dead-serious look while sporting thick eyeshadow, eyeliner and even ruby red lipstick; and Ng playing a borderline psychopath that’s arrogant, brash and impetuous. Together, they almost steal the limelight from Michael Tse’s Laughing, ultimately the point of the entire film.
Yes, this movie was made because of Laughing and fans of Laughing. But director Herman Yau has taken the opportunity to deliver a good old-fashioned HK triad movie reminiscent of those HK used to churn out in the ‘80s- complete with some of the best names in the HK film industry. Whether you’re a “Laughing” fan or not, “Turning Point” is still an engaging and entertaining thriller worth your time.
(An efficiently engaging thriller that should finally please fans looking for “Laughing Gor” to get his due reckoning)
Review by Gabriel Chong