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Chinese language cinema

Film review: S Storm – Julian Cheung, Louis Koo in frivolous graft-buster sequel

A sequel to the laughably unrealistic Z Storm, this largely forgettable film turns the first movie’s premise on its head as police and ICAC team up to crack an illegal gambling gang and a series of murders

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 September, 2016, 6:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 8:49am

2 stars

When Z Storm was released in 2014, the glossy action thriller by David Lam Tak-luk came across as such a laughably unrealistic portrayal of Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigations that it made 2012’s Cold War, another outlandish drama about the friction between the ICAC and the Hong Kong Police Force, look like a docudrama.

While nobody was dying for a reunion with Louis Koo Tin-lok’s monotonously incorruptible graft-buster character, the revelation of a generic big boss at the end of Z StormFirst Shot director Lam’s first feature in 15 years – all but guaranteed an encore. Again scripted by Wong Ho-wah from a story by Lam, S Storm is another awkwardly paced, mildly diverting and largely forgettable film that doesn’t even bother to explain its title (Z Storm, by comparison, was named after a major operation, as was Cold War).

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After ICAC principal investigator William Luk (Koo, bringing continuity to the role with his poker face) witnesses the assassination of a suspect, he crosses paths with notoriously lethargic police detective Lau Po-keung (Julian Cheung Chi-lam). Their teams swiftly join forces, as Luk seeks to bust an illegal bookmaking ring and Lau, a former gambling addict, suddenly decides to solve his first big case in a long time.

In dramatic contrast to the near-juvenile distrust between the ICAC and the police depicted in the first film, the line between them is obscured in S Storm (a development also seen in the recent Cold War 2); the only distinction of note between them is a running joke that sees Luk repeatedly deadpan, “It’s confidential” during police questioning. As Lau casually reasons, the bribery and murder involved in the case may just warrant “a joint operation”.

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Two other principal actors from the first film return in new roles. Lo Hoi-pang plays a sleazy figurehead of Hong Kong’s illegal soccer-betting scene; Dada Chan Ching, ironically, serves again as prime evidence of the series’ ludicrously convenient plotting: she plays Lau’s estranged sister, who happens to fall literally into the arms of Vic Chou Yu-min’s mysterious assassin in an early scene. In an inspired stroke of casting, Shek Sau is brought in to replicate the overacting of Michael Wong in Z Storm.

Like the first film, S Storm manages to throw in a few topical references – from the alleged assault by seven policemen during the 2014 Occupy protests, to a showbiz sex scandal involving a disabled toilet, and the viral news of a Chinese woman’s wealth-flaunting habit – while staying comfortably detached from reality.

At a time when fears of political inference in the ICAC’s role as a guardian of rule of law in Hong Kong are growing, S Storm is not even good propaganda.

S Storm opens on September 15

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