Cop tale with a heart
Despite the dreary evidence of the past few months to the contrary, there are still some creative sparks left in mainstream Cantonese cinema.
The Log is one of the better police movies to emerge in the 1990s. Like Final Option, the 1994 gem that revitalised the genre, The Log is an action film with the emphasis on the human drama rather than super-human feats or sub-human behaviour.
The screenplay by Lo Bing and John Chan Kin-chung, based on a story by Teddy Chan Tak-sum, is far more nuanced than the typical cops-and-robbers tale.
Director Derek Chiu Sung-kee has transferred it to the screen with a sensitive balance between the characters' turmoiled inner world and the violent action scenes the genre demands.
In keeping, with the film's Chinese title, which translates as 'Three Injured Policemen' the story focuses on a trio of cops. Inspector Dixon (Michael Wong Mun-tak) is an obnoxious Eurasian who didn't get to his position by being Mr Nice Guy; Ah Kam (Kent Cheng Chuk-see) is an experienced war-horse who finally cracks under pressure; while Longwaist (Jerry Lamb Hiu-fung) is a former street kid who learns that a badge doesn't make you infallible.
Through the course of one 24-hour period, New Year's Eve 1996, the three come to turning points in both their careers and lives.
Ever since Final Option, Michael Wong has become typecast as the English-speaking smart-ass cop. The Log is a variation on the theme. Despite the efforts of the screen-writers, it is still hard to believe that someone with such limited Cantonese would be given the task of 'negotiator' in hostage situations. Still, he plays his role with sincerity.
While showing the heroic aspect of police life, the movie does not hesitate to reveal such unsavoury sides as petty corruption.
But more significantly, the movie makes a strong case for personal responsibility. Unlike most Hong Kong action pictures, these cops do not possess an arsenal larger than the Pentagon. Every bullet must be accounted for.
And the director, with the help of martial arts co-ordinator Wu Chi-lung, has managed to infuse the action scenes with plausibility.
The Log (UA, Pearl, Chinachem)