The Wall (2002)

Directed by: Marco Mak
Written by: Marco Mak, Simon Loui & Kelvin Lee
Producer: Daneil Lam
Starring: Jordan Chan, Patrick Tam, Cherrie Ying, Simon Loui, Chapman To, Amanda Lee, Sek Sau & David Lee

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Cho (Jordan Chan - Twenty Something, Big Bullet) comes out of jail after serving 12 years for murder. An act in fact committed by his blood brother Dik (Patrick Tam - Best Supporting Actor winner for Beast Cops) who was kept from responsibility by Cho. Cho is now an educated man, wishing to start over and while he reluctantly gets help from Dik setting up his own restaurant, he's given a promise that the triad world won't interfere with his business. As he have no control over that particular world however, Cho is soon drawn into the vicious circle again, none more so when he begins a relationship with San (Cherrie Ying - Throw Down), the concubine of gangster boss Fong (Sek Sau - TVB series Triumph In The Skies)...

With acclaim now fueling editor turned director Marco Mak after A Gambler's Story and Cop On A Mission, he seemingly gained inspiration from the immortal Al Pacino quote from The Godfather Part III:

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"

That means many things for The Wall but to first be the most positive about the film, it surely has all the makings of a great movie or rather the story template (turned into a screenplay by Mak, Simon Loui and Kelvin Lee) has. By now the story of the once criminal trying to be good only to realize that once a choice is made, the circle never breaks, becomes a cliché filled one even you think about it and knowing Mak up to this point never really stood out from the pack with fresh takes on previously seen ideas, The Wall expectedly never goes anywhere special.

With a low budget turned into a more slick looking film than it probably deserves and some almost always captivating visual detours in Mak's story beats, The Wall definitely comes with better actor direction rather than storytelling. With Jordan Chan and Patrick Tam as the subjects for Mak, their brotherly bond is set in stone via flashbacks and turned on its head when one's eventually striving to reform himself while the other has built a name for himself as a ruthless triad. So far none should be impressed and Mak even underscores critical and opportunistic story beats with Canto-pop, quickly killing off what could've been a more compelling, low key ride. But as we mostly follow Chan's Cho, making up for lost time and trying to stay clear of the triad world, the film remains fast paced and even a little compelling as again we're shown hints of the downbeat sentiment about not being able to escape from the jiang hu. Further interest is actually sustained as Cho and Dik's final fates draws closer and that it's very true that when eye to eye, Dik is loyal and that there exist a desire to break free when they during some rare moments are far away from the violence and bloodshed. Actors Chan and Tam bring a certain believable weight to all this as they're allowed the freedom to simply handle dialogue without Mak even disrupting with his sights and sounds to an image. Mak gets credit for a mature frame of mind as he ventures into this story and there's even subtle hints at depth coming from the inclusion of Chapman To's character! Part of the always welcome portrayal about how low life triad thugs are some of the most absurd you'll see, To is actually taking into the theme of redemption, albeit in the background but it's an element that unexpectedly works. Especially since it's Chapman To being who he usually is in movie, but with a genuinely well-served purpose for once.

The Wall therefore mostly is bearable but no one can deny the problems inherited within as the triad movie clichés start to become a real distraction and the limitations of the filmmakers does show that for this story to succeed, better crew needs to be involved. As the multiple sections of poorly post synched dialogue tells us, Mak and company didn't have much of a story outside of Cho and Dik and the inclusion of Cherrie Ying as the concubine of the big boss is really a desperate one where Mak and crew shuts their eyes and hope they can catch the audiences off guard. Increasingly ridiculous between the better moments of Cho and Dik, when the final confrontation takes place and the very expected bad guy reveals his plot, it's hard to actually side with Marco Mak's direction.

But I still side with Marco Mak's career on the whole, despite not gaining any momentum creatively ever since A Gambler's Story. It's easy to use words like "decent" and "nothing special" for reviews of his films. Hell, it's some of the easiest reviews to write but I'll be damned if I was not drawn into another flawed work from Tsui Hark's old editor. One just hopes that somewhere in his NEXT 13 films, he can produce something other than within the scale of decent. The Wall has glimpses of what a talented filmmaker he is given the right circumstances. It's not hard to get through the film, waiting for just that. Believe me.

The DVD:

Universe presents the film in a 1.81:1 framed aspect ratio approximately. Very clean and mostly sharp, overall it doesn't sparkle as it probably should but gets the job done.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 option has clear dialogue and some decent front channel separation for music. Not a tester for your system however. Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also included.

The English subtitles has grammar and spelling issues but for the relatively simple story for the film, the translation is easily followed. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Decent Star's Files for actors Jordan Chan and Patrick Tam as well as the trailer are what's offered up in the extras department.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson