Crisis Negotiators 談判專家 (2024) Review: Lau Ching-Wan and Francis Ng Reunite in This Reasonably Entertaining Remake of 1998’s The Negotiator

Just like Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Andy Lau in The Goldfinger last year, Crisis Negotiators‘ primary selling point lies in the long-awaited reunion of (Sean) Lau Ching-Wan and Francis Ng. It marks their first in 19 years since they last collaborated in Himalaya Singh back in 2005. The movie also turns out to be a Hong Kong remake of the 1998 underrated gem of The Negotiator starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey.

Yau, who also adapted the screenplay, follows closely to the original but with a few tweaks while upping the ante by adding more police negotiation and action-packed moments. The movie doesn’t waste time delving straight into not one but two high-stakes hostage situations on separate occasions.

The first one takes place in 1993, introducing Francis Ng’s Inspector Tse Ka Chun, who plays Spacey’s role. He’s a senior police negotiator in charge of handling a mentally ill couple’s (producer Andy Lau along with Kearen Pang in their cameo appearances) demands to see their son. The couple has held two employees in the Social Welfare Department office at knifepoints and even threatened to blow up the place with an LPG tank if their demands are not met. It was a tense moment, with Francis Ng and Andy Lau playing off each other well with their respective engaging performances.

The next part, set three years later, looks as if Yau gets too episodic for his own good. But it remains a necessary move to both introduce and showcase Cheuk Man Wai’s (Lau Ching-Wan) expertise as a police negotiator trying to resolve a hostage situation during a bank robbery.

If you have seen The Negotiator, the rest of the plot ticks most of the checklist: Cheuk finds himself framed for murdering his colleague, Ka (Kenny Wong) while the II (Internal Investigations) inspector, Lee Chun Kit (Michael Chow) suspects him of embezzling the police welfare fund. With no concrete evidence to prove his innocence, Cheuk ends up holding Lee hostage along with Lee’s assistant, Maggie (Cherry Ngan), police informant Lo Dik (Yeung Wai-Lun) and superintendent Law On Bong (Michael Miu) in the II office. He is determined to find out the truth and believes Lee has something to do with the embezzlement.

Francis Ng plays Kevin Spacey's role in "Crisis Negotiators" (2024)

Deputy Commissioner Lam (Kent Cheng) assigns Fat (Chu Pak-Him), a police negotiator to deal with Cheuk’s demands but the latter would only talk to Tse. Except that Tse already quit the police force years ago and has since become a social worker. The police call for his help but it’s questionable that Tse doesn’t hesitate to drive over to the crime scene — an oversight from Yau’s direction, where he should have retained Ng’s character as a police negotiator just like Spacey’s part in the original.

Although there’s a reason why Tse became a social worker, Yau’s screenplay makes his character too convenient to take over Fat as an acting police negotiator without coming across the red tape. Sure, there are a few recurring moments of Crime Unit Inspector Lee Chi Bun (Philip Keung) keeps reminding him he’s no longer a police officer and doesn’t want him to take part in the negotiation. But Yau shouldn’t have simplified the overall police procedure, unlike the original’s conflicting moments of dealing with a chain of commands.

Thankfully, Ng’s performance is good enough to distract me from questioning his involvement in handling the police negotiation. It also helps that Yau maintains the pace reasonably taut throughout its two-hour runtime and some of the co-stars such as Michael Miu, Philip Keung and Yeung Wai-Lun deliver adequate support in their respective roles.

Lau Ching-Wan, who is no stranger to playing a police negotiator (remember Running Out of Time back in 1999?), does a decent but unspectacular job as Cheuk Man Wai. His somewhat wooden expression tends to put me off and his acting seems to be lacking his usual dramatic prowess. But still, it’s nice to see him and Francis Ng trying to outsmart each other throughout the negotiation.

Yau’s decision to elevate the otherwise verbal-heavy police thriller with a few action set pieces does help but only to a certain extent. The daylight car chase earlier in the movie showcases his impressive flair in the action department but the one that takes place during the nighttime stretches believability that feels awkwardly misplaced.

Crisis Negotiators may paled in comparison with the superior 1998 original but Yau’s Hong Kong remake contains sufficient thrills and mostly better-than-average acting to justify its existence.