I Corrupt All Cops (2009)
|Written & directed
by: Wong Jing
Producers: Wong Jing, Cheung Hong-Tat & Zhang Hao
Starring: Anthony Wong, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Eason Chan, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Bowie Lam, Kate Tsui, Liu Yang, Natalie Meng & Wong Jing
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No longer the king of formula, there's occasional flashes of a Wong Jing in the new millennium I personally like. It's not necessarily the shameless, low Wong Jing that ruled commercial Hong Kong cinema of the 80s and 90s but a filmmaking one that have tackled tired genres (anything featuring triads or cops usually) with skill occasionally nowadays. You've got your Colour of The Truth mixed in with producing duties on The Way We Are (uncredited) Bullet & Brain and Hong Kong Bronx. Problem is that this is no way a high level of competence in either filmmaking capacity (aside from mentioned The Way We Are). In fact overall it's barely a decent level despite Wong sporadically trying to explore more depths rather than churning out the calculated products a la the ol' days. It seems though he's going for a little bit more importance with I Corrupt All Cops though. Just like David Lam's Powerful Four and First Shot, the movie centers around and covers police corruption and the formation of the ICAC (The Independent Commission Against Corruption) in 1974. Lam in the end chose in both cases to make action entertainment rather than being the history professor. What's Wong Jing's stance? His train of thoughts aren't fully easy to predict in 2009. Remember that.
Centering around a group of cops (and the middle man paying protection money, the character of Gold played by Wong Jing himself) heavily to mildly involved in corruption and co-operation with the criminal underworld, Unicorn (Anthony Wong) wants in on more luxurious action like his superior Lak (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) has been able to over the years. Following Lak is good hearted but weak cop Gale (Eason Chan) who is loyal to the point of having married 10 of Lak's mistresses after Lak's passed them on as a way of deflecting being caught by his wife. The odd one out of that large crowd and the one Gale seems to connect to more is wife number 4 (Kate Tsui) who Gale has a daughter with. Meeting deadly and beautiful drug dealer Rose (Liu Yang) ultimately captures Gale's interest more. Student Bong (Alex Fong) is unjustly beaten up by Unicorn and wows to take down corrupted cops and he gets his chance when Inspector Yin (Bowie Lam) gathers up a troupe that will be known as the ICAC to take down every bad cop one by one...
With whoosy noises and a variety of camera speeds in his setup of the 60s (that will eventually lead into the 70s), Wong Jing isn't signaling a mature confidence in his product. In fact as suspected, he takes the route of portraying this era with violence, darkness, emotions and depth and even being a veteran filmmaker we can safely say he's not able to head a large scale story such as this. The material is rife with opportunities obviously, every time you chose to venture into it. You've got a turbulent time where the bribery, corruption and synch with the criminal world was such a matter of fact. This was the way of life, the gear most were in, were forced into, and WANTED to be into (especially true of Anthony Wong's Unicorn as mentioned) and it's fascinating on paper. Even the most dark train of thought being mentioned via Tony Leung's Lak that the world is controlled, maintained thanks to this very (often violent) system is poignant. Not in the hands of Wong Jing though who manages to come out of the gate with a very competent production (the period detail is suitably hands off and not shoved in your face) at his disposal but the one at the head of it, himself, manages to sink it into a flat division that is downright embarrassing.
You could let go of obvious narrative beats such as Alex Fong's line after being beaten up that he'll put them all behind bars because all the good filmmakers don't know the utmost genius way of dishing out exposition. But after setting up the story strands of Unicorn wanting more than being a lower ranked corrupt cop, Eason Chan's conflicted, bootlicking Gale, the whole repertoire of expected beats and emotions emerge out of the script but there's barely anything happening on screen. The veterans you hope would add colour but Tony Leung Ka-Fai acting truly as the Big Tony is relegated to the mould of colourless overacting and Eason Chan acts without guidance through his busy character development. Anthony Wong gets to shine in a few quirky moments of excellence (in particular a scene where he chooses which coffee to offer to anyone he interrogates. A careful decision) but even when Wong Jing is on the verge of getting somewhere with a familiar template and veteran presence, he plants cheesy symbolism in scenes such as the fishing one (catching bad fishes... get it?) and an out of the blue Oscar speech from an anonymous actress out of the ICAC group of characters will have viewers utter "and, so, fast forward button here we go".
I guess what it takes to make the ICAC-genre if you will explode is mentioned action-tactics or simply competence behind the lens. Wong Jing clearly is after Infernal Affairs glory and on the surface it looks polished enough to compete. But the king of formula must by now realize his ticket in life has been about following through on that stance. It may not amount to much box office like the old days but we don't want to see him embarrass himself by acting more important than he is or ever will be.
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. The original Cantonese option also features a mixture of English and Mandarin.
Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese. Every use of the word "fuck" is censored in the English subtitles (fxxk, f..k etc).
* Making Of (12 minutes, 16 seconds, no subtitles) follows the usual format of interviews and behind the scenes footage
* Deleted scenes (6 in total, running 10 minutes, 28 seconds, English subtitles) contains little of added value.
* TV spot and the theatrical trailer (with Cantonese, Mandarin audio, English subtitles.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson