Review: LINE WALKER: THE MOVIE 使徒行者 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Review: LINE WALKER: THE MOVIE 使徒行者 (2016)

Review: LINE WALKER: THE MOVIE 使徒行者 (2016)

In this big screen version of TVB's Line Walker, undercover cop Ding Jie (Charmaine Sheh) is now working for Inspector Q (Francis Ng). When she receives an encrypted message from Blackjack, Inspector Q assigns Ding to locate the mysterious sender, who claims to be an undercover cop as well. Things get complicated when triad leader Foon Hei Gor (Hui Shiu-Hung) is surprisingly back from the dead and has something to do with a drug deal involving Lam (Nick Cheung) and Shiu (Louis Koo).

REVIEW: Adapting a popular TVB series into a big screen feature is actually nothing new. Last year alone, TVB has turned Triumph In The Skies and Return Of The Cuckoo into big screen versions filled with a combination of A-list feature actors and TV superstars. But no matter how popular a TVB series is, it's not going to make any difference if the movie version fails to capitalise or understand what made the series such a hit in the first place. This is especially true for TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES, a big screen fiasco that undermined the premise and wasted most of the onscreen talents such as Francis Ng and Julian Cheung.

Fast forward to 2016, TVB continues the same tradition again and this time, the studio picked their 2014's most popular series which is none other than Line Walker. Having seen the 31-episode series two years ago, it's easy to see why Line Walker was such a hit among TVB fans and casual TV viewers. The premise itself, which follows the search of missing undercovers, is both buzzworthy and fascinating enough. Then there's the wonderful chemistry between Charmaine Sheh's Ting Siu-Ka a.k.a. Ding Jie and Raymond Lam's Bao Seed, as well as (Benz) Hui Shiu-Hung's solid supporting turn as Foon Hei Gor. Finally, the success of the series also lies on the labyrinthine plot filled with interesting twists and turns throughout the 31 episodes.

So, here comes an all-important question: does the big screen version lives up to the reputation of the popular TVB series? Well, it's already obvious that cramming a series with such complex storyline into a 108-minute feature-length version is bound to inflict a few flaws.

But before we get to the numerous shortcomings about this movie, here's what works instead. Chin Ka-Lok's action choreography is intense, notably on the heavy gunfight and car chase in Brazil. Another set-piece worth praising for is the surprisingly violent encounter during the climactic finale involving Lam and Shiu against the knife-wielding villain played by Xing Yu.

As for the story, Cat Kwan's script successfully retains the series' iconic "guess-who-is-the-mole" narrative approach, while adding an effective theme of brotherhood and friendship (two of among HK movie's most favourite subjects) along the way. Jazz Boon, who is the producer of the Line Walker series, made his feature-length directorial debut and he shows plenty of potentials reminiscent of a seasoned HK action filmmaker. The pace is reasonably taut, with a satisfying amount of action, suspense and drama.

Boon also made good use of his all-star cast, starting with Louis Koo and Nick Cheung's strong chemistry playing two best buddies-in-crime. Individually speaking, Nick Cheung stands out the most with his charismatic yet sneaky character as Lam. While Francis Ng's role of Inspector Q is mostly restricted to giving orders and trying to uncover the identity of the mysterious Blackjack within the confine of an operations centre, he still manages to commit a worthwhile performance. Charmaine Sheh and Hui Shiu-Hung, who both reprised their iconic roles from the series, deliver the same acting prowess that fans have come to love them in the first place.

Review: LINE WALKER: THE MOVIE 使徒行者 (2016)

Now for the flaws. As much as it's enjoyable to see Charmaine Sheh displaying the same likeable persona to her Ding Jie character, it's quite a pity that her so-called "lead actress" status in this movie version is largely relegated to a supporting role. Although it is understandable that promoting established A-list actors (Louis Koo, Nick Cheung and Francis Ng) are vital to entice more box office prospects from a business perspective, this shouldn't be served as an excuse to undervalue Charmaine's portrayal in the movie version. After all, whether you are a fan or just a casual viewer of the series, Charmaine is one of the major reasons that contributed the success to an award-winning pedigree. Besides, she also happened to win Best Actress and My Favourite Female Character in the TVB Anniversary Awards 2014.

Another glaring omission is the abrupt transition between the series and the movie version. With the use of flashbacks that recalled some of the series' pivotal moments, LINE WALKER: THE MOVIE is clearly more than a stand-alone version. Particularly with the re-appearance of Hui Shiu-Hung's Foon Hei Gor, this movie version is also happened to be a sequel that tries to tie some of the loose ends left hanging towards the end of the 31st episode in the series. Not to mention there is nary a mention of Ding Jie's relationship with Raymond Lam's Bao Seed from the series. Yes, it's true that Raymond himself declined to return since he claimed the series would work better than a movie version. Even so, Jazz Boon and Cat Kwan could have at least offer a decent explanation of Bao Seed's non-appearance in this movie version. On top of that, the movie version also neglects to mention Michael Miu's main character of Cheuk Sir, who played the Chief Inspector of Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB) from the series.

Boon's direction may have been efficient, but there are times he could be very melodramatic. This can be seen during some of the action scenes.

Die-hard fans might cry some outrage over the big screen version's lack of proper continuity from the series but viewing this as a movie in general, LINE WALKER: THE MOVIE still delivers as a tense yet entertaining HK action thriller.

This big screen version of TVB's Line Walker may lack the solid continuity and transition from the series to a movie, but the addition of an A-list cast and Jazz Boon's efficient direction still manage to overcome some of its shortcomings.

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