Wo Hu
Hong Kong 2006
Directed by Marco Mak.

Wong Jing movies are like a wild dog biting at the crotch of a millionaire: he clamps down on the key bits of hit films and doesn't let go. So after KUNG FU HUSTLE, he spins Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu off into their own series of films (KUNG FU MAHJONG, MY KUNG FU SWEETHEART). And after INFERNAL AFFAIRS, he lines up Eric Tsang and any other actor from the series to appear in a series of Triad/Cop films (COLOUR OF THE TRUTH, COLOUR OF THE LOYALTY, and now, WO HU). And hey, you know something? His strategy works pretty darn well.

Unfortunately, its hard to shake the feeling that we haven't already seen all of this before, dozens upon dozens of times. This time the cops have the plan to send 100s of cops to infiltrate the triads as undercovers. They label their mission "Croutching Tiger", but since there has already been a very popular movie with nearly that name, the title of this film goes untranslated, so "Wo Hu."

The triad bosses, played by Eric Tsang, Jordan Chan, Francis Ng, and Julian Cheung, are under pressure and start feeling paranoid. Officer Wai (Miu Kiu Wai), in charge of the operation, used to be an undercover, too, and has a secret he'd rather not let out, that naturally Eric Tsang knows about. Naturally, people start ending up dead, which makes people get even more paranoid, crazed, and lethal, to the extent that they need to call up "Killer" (Shawn Yue), to do some slashing.

But there isn't much action in WO HU. Instead, there is a lot of back room negotiation. But it doesn't really build a lot of momentum, and the cast is too large to let us get enough time with any one character to sympathize with them very much. So Eric Tsang meets a store window designer (the stunning and talented TVB actress Sonija Kwok) and falls in love, but the romance doesn't lift out of cliche. Only Francis Ng gets enough time to reveal something of his character, and it is one of his better performances of late. Director Marco Mak reminds us he is not a hack by supporting the story through his direction -- numerous scenes play out behind bars -- some actual prison bars, but mostly through screens and windows -- to emphasize how everyone, cops and triads alike, are trapped by their past actions, and their eventual consequences. "Just because no one knows you did something," Eric Tsang says, tickling a cop's guilty conscience, "Doesn't mean it didn't happen."

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on September 15, 2007.

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