Z Storm 2014 Review: A Hong Kong Crime Thriller Starring Loius Koo

Michael Wong in a crime thriller? Normally that can’t be a good sign… And in fact the guarantor for B-movies once again proves that he knows how to bring his role onto the screen in such a way that we want to cry and laugh at the same time. And Wong even knows that!

Accordingly Wong is the secret wink in the movie and the least pressing problem in the thriller. The biggest flaw is that “Z Storm” is one single propaganda movie for the Hong Kong government. And its fight against corruption. This easily could have been concealed. But in technical respects the movie struggles with certain shortcomings that come in the shape of odd camera angles which along with the wanna-be epic soundtrack make the whole affair look like being taken right out of a commercial.

Anyway, Z Storm (Doi Chong Tham Nhung: San Bao) can’t even remotely reach the complexity with its story which the subject actually calls for. Political entanglements and conspiracies aren’t brought across in a credible manner and there are quite a few plot holes. Still, in its core the story isn’t that bad at all. Even though at first everything centers around Gordon Lam’s (“Firestorm”) character who later on doesn’t play any important role for the movie. But to make up for it we then get Michael Wong (“Nightfall”, “Beast Cops”). Those who don’t get the cult concerning his character and his mandatory English lines simply haven’t seen enough movies with him or just missed out on Hong Kong’s 90s cinema completely. However, what seems somehow funny here, becomes quite a problem at times, because…

…the 90s have long been gone. Yet, we are presented with a soundtrack that seems to be made of the waste of old action flick pieces. Oftentimes the pieces don’t harmonize one bit and aim at creating epic moments which simply aren’t to be seen on screen. But the tedious soundtrack isn’t the worst part. Even the more problematic is an amateurish camera work that stands in stark contrast to an apparently high budget. Sometimes there is a lot of zooming in, other times the camera unnecessarily remains steady in one place. And then there are also some camera angles that make you wonder if you are watching a commercial. Moreover, it’s easy for Louis Koo (Co Thien Lac) to sell himself as an advertising medium. This even makes you assume product placement where actally none was intended. No need to say more…

Maybe I should mention that you sometimes get the impression to actually have blockbuster entertainment in front of you, but then again too often you feel like sitting in a TV production thanks to David Lam’s directing. Also fitting into that pattern are some predictable revelations towards the end and stupid chance occurences. Also representative for how little convincing the movie is are a few moments that attempt to give the individuals some sort of background story. This particularly involves scenes with Dada Chen (“Vulgaria”), who on an emotional level can’t deliver convincing work. Lead actor Louis Koo (“Aberdeen”, “The White Storm”) who once again seems to appear in every other Hong Kong movie this year, bestows the necessary intensity on his character, but nothing more.

At least the story is told with a fast pacing so that especially in the beginning there is no real boredom creeping in. Towards the end the film is even interspersed with some action scenes. However, they are very bland and uninspired concerning their execution. But the good pacing can’t be kept up until the end either. And despite its tight running time of 90 minutes this makes the thriller feel needlessly long.

The action film (phim hanh dong hinh su) story has potential. But the screenplay would have needed three or four more revisions. You are constantly under the impression that the plot is actually quite complex. But the more the movie progresses the simpler everything turns out to be and elements are often copied from “Cold War”. Furthermore, it is disappointing what constitutes the break-through moments of the investigation. The movie just lacks ideas. Alhthough, “Z Storm” might be moderately entertaining. The film’s biggest problem is its propaganda-like portrayal of the ICAC unit.

Author: Duong VR

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