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The Constable

Simon Yam is The Constable in The Constable.

Chinese: 衝鋒戰警  
Year: 2013  
Director: Dennis S.Y. Law  
Producer: Dennis S.Y. Law

Dennis S.Y. Law


Li Chung-Chi

Cast: Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Lam Suet, Maggie Siu Mei-Kei, Zi Yi, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Niu Meng-Meng, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Maggie Li, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Li Jin-Jiang, Celia Wang Si-Ya, Mia Chen Jing-Yi, Lisa Cheng Lai-Sho, Lo Hoi-Pang
The Skinny: Simon Yam is The Constable and you're not. Minor surprises punctuate this mostly droning look at normal cops and their everyday lives. A bizarre fusion of realism and cop action tropes from the misguided mind of Dennis S.Y. Law.
by Kozo:
One evening, Hong Kong Police Force vehicle commander Kuen (Simon Yam) prevents some triads from assaulting a drunken party girl (Mia Chen), using his smarts and toughness to best half a dozen younger men. Afterwards, another policeman asks, “Could a vehicle commander be that brave?” Perhaps not a normal vehicle commander, but this is Simon Yam as The Constable, and he’s just that awesome. Dennis S.Y. Law directs this unusual B movie that plays like a Cop Soap Opera directed by Ann Hui. Poorly. Law’s plotless police film attempts thematic depth through minutiae intended to illuminate the humanity of its law enforcer heroes. The mundane details do make Kuen and company more relatable than your typical cop movie automatons, but Law’s characters remain two-dimensional, and his thematic aims are entirely too one-note. You need better skills to create the cop version of The Way We Are and, well, this is Dennis Law we’re talking about.

Luckily for Law, he does have the same phone book as Johnnie To and enlists Lam Suet, Eddie Cheung, Maggie Siu and even Milkyway newcomer Zi Yi as backup for this Simon Yam-starrer. Yam’s Kuen is a righteous cop and a totally amazing human being. When he’s not randomly fighting bad guys (seriously, he encounters criminals on the street and in the bathroom), Kuen cares for his developmentally disabled son (Li Jin-Jiang), all the while displaying the patience and wisdom of Yoda. His deepest flaw is that he scolds his son, who honestly needs some stern guidance once in a while. While Kuen is fighting crime during the day, his son is cared for by Cheui Yan (Ng Mengmeng), a kind young woman who inexplicably dates Chow Gong-Tong (Sam Lee), a complete douchebag who hangs around with gangster Dah Kim (Ken Lo). Chow Gong-Tong and Dah Kim occasionally chat about “earning big money”, so ooh, foreshadowing.

For a while, The Constable looks like it will merge its various details into something greater, like a character-meets-action climax resolving every one of its plot threads. However, only two subplots – the inept Chow Gong-Tong and Dah Kim partnership, plus a brewing romance between young cops Kiu Mei (Zi Yi) and Fa Fa (Maggie Li) – have any relation to the film’s action ending. Details from other scenes – like a high-kicking office lady (Lisa Cheng) who battles Lam Suet in a cargo lift, or a leftover bag of counterfeit money – serve only to hint at the possibility of Chekov’s gun. Likewise, Kuen is due a stronger character arc than just going to work and coping with his son, and Cheui Yan should be a factor when Chow Gong-Tong eventually partners with Dah Kim. But none of this ever comes to pass. Despite the potential for deeper story connections, much of The Constable is tangential.

A better filmmaker could turn Constable’s tangents into revealing moments, but Dennis Law is not that filmmaker. The drawn-out looks at Kuen’s daily life show his humanity, but Law illustrates his ideas stiffly, simply stating his intentions repeatedly instead of developing them. Also, he loads on the banality to an interminable degree. Scads of screentime is given to Kuen buying and chopping vegetables, cooking soup, going to work, walking home, teaching his son to brush his teeth, eating egg tarts and more everyday stuff. Kuen’s decency and steadfast dedication does inspire others. On off days, he jogs and practices shooting with his handgun, which inspires slacker Kiu Mei to do the same thing. But the development for that is a straight line of cause and effect. Kiu Mei sees Kuen do one thing, and then parrots him in the very next scene. Law’s point is clear, but his storytelling is incredibly dull.

For Law to convince of his cop soap opera he needs to create more complex characters or attempt greater subtlety. Unfortunately, he accomplishes neither. Besides the fact that Kuen is basically the greatest man ever, other characters are little more than types. Many story details are telegraphed, and Law still requires long speeches to explicate matters. Choreography and gunplay is fine for a B cop movie, though it’s incongruous with the plodding character minutiae, and operates like fan service between long sections of people fixing cars and bantering among themselves. There are some minor surprises. In a rarity for Lam Suet, he’s not used as comic relief, and instead portrays a competent cop and ace marksman. Also, not everything that occurs in the film is predictable, with some moments earning poignancy and even the occasional laugh. The laughs may not be intentional, but what the hell – we’ll take what we can get.

The Constable ends with a title card espousing how we should live each day to the fullest, blah, blah, blah. There’s actually nothing wrong with using these Hallmark card sentiments, and as Dennis Law films go, this is certainly the most well-meaning. But Law’s execution never matches his ideas, resulting in films that are laughable, pretentious or both. Another odd move by Law: Kuen comments that he must commute between the Kowloon City police station and his home in Shenzen because he can’t afford a flat in Hong Kong – a very current social problem faced by many Hong Kongers. This is strange because Dennis Law actually made his fortune on property development, meaning that he’s basically one of the guys who prevent good, honest men like Kuen from owning a home. It’s unknown if Law threw in that detail purposely or not, but either way it’s uncool and kind of douchey. Law may need to learn about more than just filmmaking. (Kozo, 12/2013)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co., Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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