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Line Walker: The Movie

Louis Koo and Nick Cheung tackle infernal affairs in Line Walker: The Movie.



Year: 2016
Director: Jazz Boon  
Producer: Wong Jing, Virginia Lok
Writer: Cat Kwan
Action: Chin Kar-Lok

Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Charmaine Sheh Si-Man, Hui Siu-Hung, Cheng Taishen, Li Guangjie, Zhang Huiwen, Xing Yu, Moses Chan Ho, Clara Lee, Louis Cheung Kai-Chung, Lo Hoi-Pang, Bob Lam, Cheng Tse-Sing, Jay Leung Jing, Rebecca Zhu, Brian Siswojo, Phat Chan, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah

The Skinny:

Film sequel to the hit TVB drama adds big-time movie stars and explosive big-screen action – and both factors are enough to lift this uneven commercial product to a solidly entertaining level. The Nick Cheung and Louis Koo parts are better than the Francis Ng and Charmaine Sheh ones. Spoiler: Everyone’s an undercover!

by Kozo:

TVB adapts another of its hit television dramas to the cinema with Line Walker: The Movie, and like many of its previous TV-to-movie attempts (e.g., Triumph in the Skies), they've screwed over fans of the original. The Powers That Be dropped most of Line Walker's storylines and actors (including male leads Raymond Lam and Michael Miu) and marginalized returning female lead Charmaine Sheh by pushing her into a supporting role behind three big-time movie stars. Getting proven stars for a big screen adaptation is an understandable business decision, and yet somewhere the devout Line Walker fan is probably cursing TVB or whoever else they can, from director Jazz Boon, who also created the TV drama, to producer Wong Jing, who at this point could be considered a generic Hong Kong Cinema scapegoat. No matter who you wish to rail at, you have our sympathies, Line Walker faithful.

However, the big-time movie stars that they've cast in the Line Walker film are Nick Cheung, Louis Koo and Francis Ng – so our sympathy towards Line Walker fans should rapidly dissolve in favor of genre fan glee. Plot: Obnoxiously whiny cop Ding Siu-Ka (Charmaine Sheh) continues her undercover exploits from the Line Walker drama, but now she's under the watchful eye of handler Q Sir (Francis Ng), who's also her boyfriend. While involved in her usual shenanigans, Ding gets a text message from a mysterious individual named Blackjack that utilizes the code of her previous handler Hung Sir. This "Hung's Code" indicates that it’s a lost undercover agent – no records remain of their official police status thanks to an untimely computer data deletion – so naturally Ding and Q Sir want to bring this wayward mole back in from the cold.

Soon the mole is narrowed down to either Lam (Nick Cheung) or Shiu (Louis Koo), underworld figures in the employ of the super-shady Tak Mou Group. The story basically consists of two threads, one following Ding and Q Sir as they work to ferret out the mole, and the other following Lam and Shiu as one of the two men confirms himself to be Blackjack while the other arches his eyebrows suspiciously. Plot twists pop up routinely, many of which don't hold water, but the bigger problem is the varying tones. When Nick Cheung and Louis Koo are onscreen, we get bro-tastic homoerotic gangland tropes that play like deleted footage from The White Storm. However, when Francis Ng and Charmaine Sheh are onscreen, we get the enlarged sitcom antics of Ding Siu-Ka, and her mouthy tomfoolery comes complete with a self-amused score. Separately, each could be its own film but together they clash.

Ding Siu-Ka also offered silly antics in the Line Walker TV drama, but in a twenty-plus episode series there's room to smoothly transition from comedy to suspense and drama. Here, the shifting tones hurt narrative tension, especially since Sheh is sometimes forcefully over-the-top. However, Francis Ng shows integrity and a mature sense of humor, and does a lot to shore up their scenes together. The role of Q Sir is a bit of a phone-in for Ng, but he stays focused and gratefully avoids overacting. Also, at one key moment, Ng seems to echo one of his previous award-winning performances, which should delight his fans. Devotees of the TV drama may be nonplussed; while Q Sir is clearly a support role to Ding Siu-Ka, Francis Ng largely overshadows Charmaine Sheh. As compensation, fans get the return of Hui Siu-Hung as overly smug gang leader Foon-Hei. Hui isn't Raymond Lam, but it's nice that they managed to bring someone back besides Sheh.

Mostly, Line Walker is the Nick Cheung and Louis Koo show. The pair gets to pal around and glower at one another, and while the screenplay is a bit flabby and generic, the two actors never wear out their welcome. Nick Cheung is a better actor than Louis Koo, which creates an imbalance during some of their intense face-offs, but the two are on equal footing during the well-mounted action scenes, which reach their peak during a short and rather needless trip to Rio (2016 Olympics tie-in!) midway through. The production has some Frankenstein-like qualities; the Rio portions don't totally mesh with the Hong Kong scenes in terms of art direction and cinematography, while the cast is strangely put-together outside of the leads. China actors Li Guangjie and Cheng Taishen are odd fits as two heavily-dubbed bad guys, while Coming Home sweetheart Zhang Huiwen gets an unexpected action role as Lam's small but deadly aide.

Line Walker is too inconsistent and incomplete to be called a total success. The script has numerous issues; the ending is truncated and doesn't provide proper resolution, and the story basically alternates between action sequences and verbal confrontations where someone accuses someone else of being an undercover. However, it provides solid entertainment and is a decent representation of a popular Hong Kong Cinema genre, i.e., the cop-criminal film with big time actors holding guns and droning on about brotherhood. Also, it gives director Jazz Boon a shot at the big screen. Given the unimpressive script and shifting tones, it's hard to tell if Boon is really that skilled, but he manages the tension and drama (if not the humor) decently. All things considered, a Line Walker film sequel would be a perfectly welcome prospect. I'd also suggest following up on characters and storylines from the TV drama but that's probably asking for too much. (Kozo, 10/2016)

  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen