Colour Of The Truth (2003)
by: Wong Jing & Marco Mak
at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2004:
at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2003:
When Colour Of The Truth first was announced and Wong Jing turned out to be involved, you couldn't blame the Hong Kong film fans that were now awaiting a shameless Infernal Affairs rip off. When the movie actually was seen by people the discussion was instead about the fact that Wong Jing, together with Marco Mak (A Gambler's Story), had made a good, serious film. That Wong Jing somewhere in there has talent, there's no doubt about. Amongst all the silly, commercially driven comedies of his, a few classy works like God Of Gamblers have been allowed to surface but nowadays, at least to me, it seemed highly unlikely that Wong Jing would have it in him to put in effort again. It's good to be wrong sometimes though. If you were to review Colour Of The Truth, using the Wong Jing scale of quality, it would be hailed by me as a classic way above God Of Gamblers for instance. That of course would be the wrong approach but already you've gotten a sense that this film has more positive aspects in it than many other productions bearing Wong Jing's name.
7-Up'S (Lau Ching Wan), gangster Blind Chiu's (Francis Ng) and Inspector Huang Jiang's (Anthony Wong) meeting on a rooftop results in only Huang coming out alive and being blamed by the family of 7-Up for the death of their beloved one. 7-Up was an fellow officer and his youngest son, Cola (Raymond Wong) follows the same career path. Eventually, years later, he crosses paths with Huang again on an assignment. A meeting that stirs up emotions of revenge and at the same time he's approached by the son of Blind Chiu, business man and triad Ray (Jordan Chan). He wants Cola to join him on a mission to destroy Huang's life, like he has destroyed theirs. As Cola and Huang get to know each other, the good hearted side of the older officer leads to Cola having to make his decision of where his loyalty lie...
Adequate. Colour Of The Truth is adequate, decent, well worth a watch. Review isn't over but I wanted to establish that from the getgo. Starting with Wong Jing's script, in all honesty, there isn't much of true interest here. It's Citizen Kane compared to what he's supposedly written in the past but on the whole, it's not remarkable work. Wong gets plus points for maintaining audiences interest to a good degree when it comes to the main conflict where Cola is torn between different loyalties. Two loyalties that tell him to take revenge without question and one towards his choosen profession in life. He's been brought up to hate Huang but he's also grown into someone who can make his own decisions. The tension of which path he will follow is done fairly well but way before the end, I think even the smartest viewers will have figured one or two things out regarding Cola's mindset. In between this heart of the film there exists some rather dull subplots. The mystery surrounding the missing cocaine and the attempted assassination of Wang's family serves as a way of diverting our attention plot wise but by the time we get to the end, at least I didn't really care for the twists that had occurred. If it hadn't been for the fact that the directors does tie it all together, albeit rather shallow, the turns in the story would be uninteresting. Other elements such as the conflicting drug gangs, the love interest for Raymond Wong's character in the form of Gillian Chung shows that Wong can plot out decent structure but is so far from a polished screenwriter for this genre.
From a directing standpoint, the script is realized well but I've opted to focus more on the work of veteran editor (also for this movie), turned director Marco Mak. It's not hard to notice his choosen style as a director. Director of photography Edmund Fung, first of all, wisely chooses a subdued colour template, not falling victim to using excessive colours for this genre and is called upon to jazz up the visuals under the guidance of Marco Mak. I'm not a fan myself of employing unnecessary camera language where not suited and when looking back at Colour Of The Truth, few camera tricks like the ones we see are actually needed. However, despite being biased since I'm already a fan of Mak's work, he's one of the few directors who think through aspects such as sped up shots. There's a few instances where the on screen tricks are actually really cool and others that genuinely are a creative way of taking us further in the story or a scene. It's subtle use of it compared to A Gambler's Story but when used, the movie did become elevated slightly. Tension is in the movie but rarely successfully done. The directors try their best at amping moments of confrontation but since the plot isn't that involving, we sometimes have very little emotions invested in what's going on. It all comes off as forced and flat. However where they do succeed are in the shoot-outs at Wang's and Huang's house respectively. Combining the documentary style camera language with a few interesting visual tricks, these non-stylized action scenes become memorable in our slightly confusing trip towards the end of the film.
Acting wise, early on we're lead into a confrontation between key characters and between Hong Kong's finest male actors. Lau Ching Wan & Francis Ng logs cameo roles that will set in motion the main events in the plot and while not short, terrific performances per say, they're not wasted either. Anthony Wong then continues to lead the pack and he brings the professionalism, the ability of naturally melt into character and veteran screen presence to deliver another fine performance. Not on par with his 2002 output though which included Just One Look and Infernal Affairs. He does nail the part of being the world's smartest cop and Wong Jing's script gives him a nice human side when we see him taking care of his disabled father. We're not talking award winning or reference book acting but Tony can do very little and still come out on top. There's not much competition in the film though.
Raymond Wong have mostly been seen in supporting turns in Milkyway productions and even there, he wasn't more than a pretty face to garnish the film with. Upgraded to a leading man, he does try but his acting is bland. The inner conflict his character has does reach the audience but this young kid has a long way to go. The teenage crowd fell and probably will fall for this 'macho' performance though. Jordan Chan appears as the son of Francis Ng's triad character, very suave and reciting the bible. The bible aspect is a script aspect I could've done without and it's more silly than an original trait to the character. Jordan has proven he can be more versatile than this. Also starring Patrick Tse, Terence Yin and our favourite HK cinema expert Bey Logan stops by for a short cameo. Finally, Chapman To represents the true Wong Jing element of this film, the so called comic relief. Tastes may differ and certainly his comedic routine is ultra subtle compared to previous Wong Jing outings. It's so intrusive though and unfunny that I wanted to shoot the man myself. It's not too detached from the tone of the film but ultimately holds no quality. Anthony Wong's short comedic scenes though ultimately proves that you have to be a good actor to truly be funny. The grenade scene at his house being a great example.
Colour Of The Truth possesses more than a few watchable traits and the dual directors deliver a fairly tense and exciting action-thriller that wouldn't even come close to the quality it has if Anthony Wong wasn't involved. No need to rush out and get this but looking at the output in Hong Kong cinema throughout the genres, Colour Of The Truth stands out currently.
Mei Ah's 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation is excellent, doing justice to the choosen subdued colourscheme. Detail level is very good and only a few select specks are on the print.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds excellent as well, mostly thanks to the pounding score. Sound effects are very good when they arrive and dialogue is crystal clear. A Mandarin 5.1 as well as Cantonese DTS 5.1 is also selectable from the main menu.
Being a new movie, the English subtitles are well written with only few spelling errors. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.
Light extras package but slightly more than usually offered on Hong Kong import discs. The Making Of (7 minutes, 47 seconds) comes with Chinese subtitles only and offers interviews with main cast & crew in addition to a select few very uninteresting behind the scenes clips. In the Data Bank we find a screen with the plot synopsis and a cast & crew listing. Clicking on any of the cast names will give you a movie character bio. Nice that Mei Ah actually put something in this section for a change even though it's fictional information.
Two trailers for Colour Of The Truth (contains deleted footage of a boxing scene between Anthony Wong and Jordan Chan) appear as well as one for Love Undercover 2.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson