Director – Philip Yung – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 144m
The parallel careers of two dishonest Hong Kong cops plays out against the backdrop of corruption in the Hong Kong Police Force between the end of WW2 and the end of the 1960s – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 8th
Out of the ashes of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, two men join the Hong Kong Police Force only to discover that it is riddled with corruption, a fact of life they embrace in different ways throughout the 1950s and 60s even as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) under George Lee (Michael Hui) attempts to investigate them and shut them down. The well-dressed Nam Kong (Tony Leung Chiu-wai from Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton, 2021; Lust, Caution, Ang Lee, 2007; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002) is quietly building a corrupt empire with links to the triads, while Lui Lok (Aaron Kwok from The Storm Riders, Andrew Lau, 1998) attempts to eschew corruption but find its pervasive presence in the force irresistible.
The latter falls for and marries the beautiful Tsai Chan (Du Juan), subsequently taking on Siu Yin (Yixuan Zeng) as his mistress because she reminds him of former girlfriend Xiao Yu (Chun Xia aka Jessie Li) who disguised herself as a male soldier to find her lost brother, was discovered by the Japanese and pressed into service as a comfort woman.
Further plot involves the ascendancy of ruthless drugs dealer Limpy Ho (Tse Kwan-ho).
Things seems clear enough at the start, but as the film proceeds, it increasingly loses focus, with director Yung losing sight of the finer details of the narrative as he concentrates on stylish visuals. The narrative ends in two codas with both Nam and Lui in old age.
There are some superb set pieces, but even in those the ideas aren’t fully worked through. For example, a terrific shoot out leading up to Limpy Ho’s arrest includes a Mexican stand-off between the two leads with both of them on balconies on different sides of the street. In addition, the production design is striking, but you can’t help but feel that the inclusion of Du Juan in some fabulous Chinese dresses is a slavish imitation of the similar element in that far superior Tony Leung-starrer In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000).
If its intentions, to show cop characters grappling with the endemic Hong Kong Police Force corruption of the 1950s and 60s, are admirable, the film is more interested in bravura set pieces and period style than in clearly relating its narrative to the audience, which makes it an infuriating watch. The basic idea has such potential; this could have been something really special. Instead, it’s a seriously wasted opportunity.
Where The Wind Blows is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, September 8th.