Review: OVERHEARD 竊聽風雲 (2009) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: OVERHEARD 竊聽風雲 (2009)

Review: OVERHEARD 竊聽風雲 (2009)

OVERHEARD centres on Johnny (Lau Ching-Wan), Gene (Louis Koo) and Max (Daniel Wu), three cops who are all best friends, working for the CCB (Commercial Crime Bureau). They are part of a special team assigned to spy on business firm E&T, owned by Will Ma (Michael Wong) who is suspected for illegal stock fixing and other crime factors. They conduct their investigation by sneaking into the office building during the night, placing hidden cameras and microphones so they can eavesdrop on E&T execs across the building. Night after night, they observe against a sleazy executive Mr Low (Waise Lee) who spends time flirting with his secretary-cum-mistress (Queenie Chu). When they get bored, Gene and Max find time to amuse themselves by tapping into their fellow cops, Mary (Sharon Luk) and Joe's (William Chan) cell phones to find out about their hidden relationships. Then one night, Gene and Max overheard Mr Low tipping off his secretary on stock-rigging secrets. Realising that this is a golden opportunity to make a quick buck, they don't hesitate to invest their hard-earned savings, even though they know such move is an unlawful conduct to do so. Still, they have their own personal reasons to do so -- Gene's son is suffering from cancer, while he himself has a terminal illness that he will die in a year's time. He also hopes to leave his family with enough money after he's gone. As for Max, he is about to marry his wealthy girlfriend, Jenny (Grace Huang) and he really needs a lot of money to do so, especially his father-in-law David (Henry Fong) often looks down at him for being a mere cop with low salary income. Except for Johnny, who won't lay his hand for the illegal wrongdoings no matter what. However, he is eventually forced to cover the track of his fellow friends as he can't afford to report against them. Johnny still has his own agenda -- he is dating Mandy (Zhang Jingchu), the estranged wife of his cop buddy Kelvin (Alex Fong Chung-Sun).

REVIEW: After receiving less-than-enthusiastic reviews in the much-delayed LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK shown earlier this year, directors Felix Chong and Alan Mak bounce back with this highly-anticipated thriller which is obviously trying to capitalise the phenomenal success of their INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy. The good news is, OVERHEARD delivers the much-needed cinematic vibe that this year's Hong Kong cinema has been noticeably lacklustre these days. It's a solid, entertaining and well-acted thinking man's thriller that brilliantly tackles the subject of eavesdropping to create a thought-provoking look at corporate fraud, stock market frenzy and internal characters' conflict.

The bad news is, this is hardly INFERNAL AFFAIRS vibe, and at times the movie is also overly melodramatic. And given so much hype surrounded this movie, it's also quite disappointing that they fail to push the hot-button issues far enough to turn this into a more engaging cinematic experience. Perhaps because of the SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film and Television) strict rules, this China-funded thriller have to settle with a somewhat superficial level. 

The movie's strongest point is no doubt comes from the tension within the characters' various conflicts. But none of this would have worked if not for the superb cast. After a long hiatus since his tour de force performance in MAD DETECTIVE (2007), Lau Ching-Wan returns with a bang with an emotionally-gripping performance as the righteous but deeply conflicted Johnny. Louis Koo, who put on 30 pounds and shed his usual cool image to play an older person, is similarly engaging as Gene while Daniel Wu is perfectly typecast as the naive younger cop, Max. The supporting actors, especially Zhang Jingchu, Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Lam Ka-Wah display equally solid performances. Only Michael Wong completely hams it up as Will Ma, in a laughable role that almost ruins the intensity of the movie.

Technical credits are top-notch, with Anthony Pun's perfectly discreet cinematography while the movie's sound design is especially well done. Chan Kwong-Wing's score is dramatic enough but tends to go overboard.

OVERHEARD offers a refreshing of pace from the usual HK crime genre that deals with eavesdropping, but the movie fails to capitalise its potential to push the intriguing subject further.

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