Director: Benny Chan
Cast: Leon Lai, Ekin Cheng, Francis Ng, Karena Lam, Xu Jing-lei, Raymond Wong
Benny Chan is a veteran director specialized in the action genre. His acclaimed works include the box office hit Big Bullet (1996) and Who Am I (1998). After that, he directed Gen X Cops and its sequel Gen Y Cops, which were generally not welcome by the critics, but still these films managed to secure a profitable overseas market. After a short break, Chan finally made a strong come back with his latest action-packed blockbuster - Heroic Duo.
Starring Leon Lai and Ekin Cheng as the heroic duo, this is a fast paced cops movie that combines elements of detective thriller and hardcore actions. Detective Li (Ekin Cheng) is investigating a case that is possible associated with hypnosis. He looks for help from Lai Seung-ching (Leon Lai), a former professional hypnotist and psychiatrist who has been jailed for a murder case. Li relies on Lai to solve the case, but he doesn't know that there is an evil plot behind Lai, or to be a bit more specific, the mastermind behind everything is placing Li and Lai in a dangerous situation... Detective thriller is always not an easy genre to handle, as the story needs to be entertaining yet logical at the same time, which is sometimes an arduous task. Just as expected, the script of this film is not flawless, there are quite a number of plotholes that can be spot easily. For instance, if Lai's hynoptizing power is really that omnipotent, why would he afraid of the threat of the cops and the bandits? If detective Li wants to prevent Lai's hypnotism, why doesn't he order more than one person to guard him? or simply tape his mouth? In the scene when Lai is creeping into the building to steal the jewels, how come he can get through the sophisticated security network easily?
Although the irrational plot is sometimes quite distracting, the high production standard does compensate the shortcomings and save the film from being another mediocre Hong Kong cops movie. For those who have seen Big Bullet or Gen X Cops, you should remember the exciting chasing scenes or the gun fight raves. None of these are missing in this film. However, as an aftermath of Infernal Affairs, the number of the action scenes are reasonably minimized. a greater emphasis is rather placed on an intellectual level of duel among the three "heroes". It is all about love and hypnosis! Nevertheless, Chan doesn't seem to be able to depict the theme of this duel as brilliant as his execution of the action scenes. The ending is especially weak compared to his previous works.
There are three heroes in this film, the cop Ekin Cheng, the hypnotist Leon Lai and the bandit Francis Ng. Among the three, Lai is absolutely the primary focus of this film. Compared to the other two guys, his character is much richer and more captivating. At first, he seems to be a shifty person, but when the story proceeds, a more in-depth depiction of his life is revealed to the audience. It creates a strong emotional power that makes you fall in love with this character gradually. Lai's acting, which I think is less impressive than his role in Three: Going Home, is qualified, but it is rated in comparison to Ekin Cheng. Cheng's role is typical and flat, there isn't any surprising element that makes you love his character. Moreover, his performance doesn't show any improvement at all. You still get the same Cheng as you see in his previous works. Talking about Francis Ng, at first glance, his character just looks like a common bad guy, but what is interesting about this role is his relationship with Lai. If your eyes are sharp, you should have noticed that in some of the scenes, especially the moment when Lai is shot by Cheng, Ng's reaction is quite strange, it seems that Lai isn't only a tool for him to steal the jewels, to me, it is more like Ng is treating Lai as a friend, or even a lover (with homosexual implication) in some senses... But since this part is not further developed in the film, there is no way for the audience to analyze it in details.
Story-wise, Heroic Duo is full of flaws. But the entertainment value is so high that you'll almost forget all the plotholes and fully engage yourself in the film. Not the best effort of Benny Chan, Heroic Duo is still a perfect demonstration of quality filmmaking that shows the extent of Hong Kong filmmakers convincingly.
Cool guy(s) - Leon Lai
Reviewed by: Kantorates