Rating: 8/10
Year: 2004
Genre: Drama
Director: Gordon Chan, Rico Chung
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Angelica Lee, Edison Chan, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Lam Ka-tung, Eric Kot

Among all the Hong Kong movies I have seen lately, A-1 is the only one that kept me engaged from the first minute to the end when the credit slowly rolled out. There is no exciting action scenes or glamorous special effects, the reason why it succeeded in capturing my attention is simple - its superior dramatic quality.

Gordon Chan is known for his action thrillers. From his SDU series to the award winning Beast Cop, his movies are always filled with tons of actions and strong visual elements. Before A-1 came out, most people might expect it to be another sequel to his action film library, but it's wrong! His first co-directing effort with renowned screenwriter Rico Chung is not an action movie, it is instead a story that attempts to explore the moral issue of Hong Kong media. Newspaper reporter Ling (Angelica Lee)'s colleague Peter, which also happens to be her boyfriend, is found dead in a car accident mysteriously. In the beginning, Ling believes that her boyfriend has committed suicide, but the debt collector Fei (Anthony Wong) suggests to her that the accident is unusal, and that her boyfriend might be murdered. Ling begins to investigate. However, she is told by her superior Si (Tony Leung) to stop her private investigation. On the other hand, someone seems to be dissatisfied with Ling and Fei's behaviors, and try to prevent them from digging deeper by all means...

As many people know, a lot of Hong Kong movies do not have a complete movie script. But I beleive it is certainly not the case for A-1. Without an intact and well written script, I couldn't believe how Gordan Chan and Rico Chung were able to produce such a coherent and engaging drama. The plot begins to build up the tension slowly right in the beginning when the accident happens. The suspense becomes stronger and stronger as the story proceeds, successfully keeping the audience engaged. The climactic ending, which is quite different from many typical HK movies, offers a nice surprise. Unlike the usual emotional outburst of its counterparts, it rather offers an unusually calm yet thought provoking twist for the audience to contemplate.

The story of the movie shows that the filmmakers do really care about the society we live in. The observations are delicate and the social critiques accurately hit the nail on the head. While the media in HK generally possesses a negative image, Chan and Chung try to offer an alternative perspective and portray the media people as conscientious. Perhaps their views are too optimistic, as there are almost no bad guys in this movie (regardless of the mysterious force that never shows up), those who have done wrong are given the opportunity to rectify their mistakes, those supposedly negative characters like the debt collectors are displayed as virtually nice and understanding. On the one hand, these seemingly simplified presentations of reality are quite idealistic, but on the positive side, it also reflects the filmmaker's faith in the beautiful and good nature of human being.

Apart from an intact script and efficient direction, a good movie always comes with an extraordinary cast. Luckily, Chan and Chung did not pick the wrong actors. Anthony Wong and Tony Leung are outstanding as usual. Wong's love sub-plot with Angelica Lee is especially interesting. Their relationship actually never really starts, but you can still feel the attachment between the two. Angelica Lee and Edison Chan do their parts well, despite the little flawed delivery of dialogues due to the fact that they are not native speakers.

A-1 is far from being perfect, but still, it is one of the most underrated HK movies of the year. Not only did it do less than satisfactory at the box office, the discourse generated was also surprisingly tiny and scarce. I seriously believe that Gordan Chan and Rico Chung's achievement should receive more respect, and so I highly recommend A-1 to anyone who still hasn't seen, or even heard about it!

Cool guy(s) - Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Angelica Lee, Tony Leung Ka-fai

Reviewed by: Kantorates