Netflix A-Z: Z Storm (2014)

After some thought, I decided that the best way to end the first round of Netflix A-Z is with some Hong Kong crime thrillers.  Hong Kong movies are the key to what made me fall in love with movies in the first place.  While a ton of you were watching all those popular classics, a good part of my youth was watching Chinese films.  This one holds a pretty outstanding cast (although I didn’t know anything about it before I started it up).  There’s been so many thrillers in Hong Kong movies lately and a few of them in the past few years have “storm” in their title that I’m honestly a little confused. Still, lets check out this one!

Z Storm (2014)

Z Storm

Director: David Lam

Cast: Louis Koo, Ka Tung Lam, Dada Chan, Michael Wong, Janelle Sing, Hoi-Pang Lo, Stephen Au, Siu-Fai Cheung, Ying Kwan Lok, Kai Chi Liu, Alfred Cheung

Hong Kong Police force govern the law.  Their gatekeepers are an outsider group that oversees and stops any corruption called ICAC.  When the CCB (Commerical Crime Bureau) go on an investigation in a leading accounting firm, they come up empty-handed even though it came from a reliable source.  Their team leader is Officer Wong Man Bin (Ka Tung Lam).  Catching wind of this from the former source, the ICAC lead by William (Louis Koo) launch an investigation despite their unwelcome presence with the CCB.  Their investigation proves to be hard to follow as their leads start coming to dead ends continuously.  When an unknown turn of events happen, they learn that there is a deeper story here.  Wong and a famous lawyer Malcolm Wu (Michael Wong) are part of a bigger circle run by a mysterious Z and their Z hedge fund, who is going to take millions and millions of the civilians money for investments when it launches in six days may actually be a financial fraud.  However, the Hong Kong officials have set a time limit. In the six days, they must find concrete evidence to support their theory in order to stop Z hedge funds launch, if not, there is nothing they can do anymore.  Its a race against time? Can they do it?

Z Storm

 I love Hong Kong films and honestly, I’m pretty forgiving for it.  The reason being that Hong Kong sometimes will have their surprises that they whip out once in a while that turn out to be total gems.  They always have that potential but the industry always forgets that they can do that and fall into their normal tropes.  It makes the story predictable and for a thriller, offers less thrills and more plot holes.  Z Storm definitely is a generic thriller.  I guessed the dialogue before it was said and mostly figured out how it was going to end.  Story-wise, Z Storm could be much better.  Z stands for Zoro (no, that isn’t a spelling mistake) but its what Z stands for in the Z hedge fund whose mystery man is also nicknamed Zoro.  Cheesy enough for you? I’m just going to come out and say it right away what I thought made this movie even worse than having a flawed plot hole that tried to put in some typical girl drama (which I thought wasn’t particularly necessary) but the fact that they ended it deliberately trying to milk a sequel.  I never particularly like movies like that and on top of that, they ended with some really creepy normal day lives shots.

Z Storm

BUT, despite all its storytelling flaws, Z Storm’s strength is in its cast.  Many of you might not know unless you are familiar with the TVB (Hong Kong TV Broadcasting Channel) drama series but in 1997, Louis Koo did a series called I Can’t Accept Corruption (Get it? ICAC?).  You got it.  That year, he came back strong (physically) and tanned his skin, buffed up and changed him image from the weak pale Hong Kong boy that he was before and got cast into this series.  He played an agent working for ICAC and I loved that show for many reasons.  One of them, being him and his acting.  Watching Z Storm was like he was taking that role again but with a more mature take on it. Nostalgia might be a culprit here.  And the fact that if I had a Hong Kong citizenship, my dream has always been to be in ICAC. It surprises a lot of people when I say it but hey, its a dream.  It can be as huge (and stupid) as I’d like it to be 😉

Z Storm

He’s not the only one that deserves applause.  Michael Wong is fantastic as Malcolm Wu.  He’s always been a good guy.  The top boss in the Hong Kong Police and always the all around good guy but this time, he turns it around and becomes a greedy and deceiving hot shot lawyer and he even swears on screen and says “b*tch”.  Its always great to see actors embrace other roles and switch it up.  But sometimes, you find their roles and excel at them.  That person is our CCB dirty cop Wong played by Ka Tung Lam.  I believe it was in Gen-X Cop back in 1999 that Ka Tung Lam took on his first bad guy role and man, did I want to punch him in the face while being completely dazzled that he could do that after playing lame, weak romance drama series characters.  From then on, he went from small roles to Infernal Affairs and then look at him now, one of the strongest bad guy roles I’ve seen him in.  One that made me love how bad he was but want to really hurt his character for all the horrible things he did. Its not only that. Z Storm carries a strong supporting cast with some actors that have been out of the business for a long time.  Alfred Cheung is the man I have in mind. While you have some more popular secondary character roles like Hoi Pang Lo, Stephan Au, Siu-Fai Cheung and Kai Chi Liu.  They are typical in many Hong Kong thrillers and action (even comedy).

z storm

Overall, Z Storm lacks in a concrete story line.  It does have its thrills but not enough to make you be blown away with its plot.  However, what it does lose in plot, it makes up for with an outstanding cast that breathes the needed energy and dynamic needed for each of their roles.  That includes a perfectly cast leads from Louis Koo, Ka Tung Lam and Malcolm Wu all the way down to their supporting and secondary characters.  Nostalgia definitely played a part in my love for this premise and while I dislike them using this film to build up a sequel, I do appreciate the motivation of the story itself even if it was executed poorly.

First round of Netflix A-Z is successfully completely!
If you do have any obscure movies, you’d like me to draft up in the second round, please suggest them!
Remember that I use Netflix Canada so I may not have the extensive selection you have in US. 
Thanks so much for the great response to this series! It’ll be returning in January 2016! 🙂

The Bullet Vanishes (2012)

All I have to say is: Nicholas Tse! I’ve loved this actor before he was an actor but a stupid rebellious 18 year old when he first entered the show business.  There was no denying he made some awesome music and especially when he tapped into his rocker side.  Nowadays, he rules as an action star and he’s totally still one of my long-time faves! When I saw The Bullet Vanishes in Toronto, I snatched it up right away! Finally, I got a chance to watch it on Saturday morning…I know, weird time for an action crime thriller but still..

the bullet vanishes posterDirector: Chi-Leung Lo

Cast: Nicholas Tse, Ching Wan Lau, Yumiko Cheng, Kar Lok Chin, Kai Chi Liu, Yiyan Jiang, Boran Jing

We start the story in the city of Tian-Sheng where a young girl who works at the bullet manufacturing factory is shot because she is accused of stealing bullets under orders by their Boss Ding (Kai Chi Liu).  This starts off the story as we move to the prison in another city where a prison official Song Donglu (Ching Wan Lau) who enjoys analyzing and researching cases from prisoners to prove whether they are actually innocent in the most absurd ways is transferred to Tian Sheng to help them prevent innocent cases from happening as a detective because of exactly those skills.  There he meets the city’s sharpest and quickest shooter Detective Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse) and his assistant Xiao Wu (Boran Jing). They pair up to look into a murder that occur after the young girl’s death which is rumored to be due to a curse of the vanishing bullet.  A wall will have these words “When the vanishing bullet appears, everyone will die.” Following, the murder will happen and in the body, they will not be able to find any traces of the bullet.  As the plot thickens, they work together with the doctor responsible of the autopsy Li Jia (Yumiko Hei-Ye Cheng) to conquer the barriers and figure out what actually happened and who is responsible.

Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse) and Song Donglu (Ching Wan Lau)

Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse) and Song Donglu (Ching Wan Lau)

The first thing you will notice when you start this movie is the similarities of the atmosphere and the background music to Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. As much I do like Sherlock Holmes Hollywood style, this one gives a little bit more.  The style and the dialogue is witty and fun.  At the same time, the chemistry between these top stars are fantastic.  The story itself is very clever and the investigation of the whole vanishing bullet is full of questions which keep the audience intrigued and guessing.  There are many twists and each of the characters are unique and acted out very well. The concept behind the plot is in the little side story between Song Donglu and a case he followed on the perfect crime by a woman (played by Yiyan Jiang) who killed her husband (by Kar Lok Chin) that asks the question of whether someone is a bad person if they kill, but Song Donglu says a quote that is really thought provoking (and because I know about the source material): “I believe that humans are naturally good, I keep listening to prisoners tell their stories is because I really want to know why a good person would do bad things. So, you are just a good person that has turned bad.”

the bullet vanishes nic lau yumi

The two detectives with Li Jia (Yumiko Hei-Yi Cheng)

Nicholas Tse has been growing as an action star and he’s been doing both gangster and cop roles.  The latter being more frequent.  In this thriller, he is given a decent amount of action, shooting and some stunts.  Guo Zhui is a detective that doesn’t really like the law system and how the society in that era was full of corruption and favored the rich.  The difference usually put poor people in bad situations and would cause them to be taken advantage of.  The addition of Ching Wan Lau as his partner is nice because in what action doesn’t have, his character of Song Donglu gives the analysis and looks at the details.  He inspects the area around him quietly and only shares what he feels is necessary which leaves some parts for the audience to wonder what is going on in his mind and what he’s seeing as we do get hints from little reactions that he has.

the bullet vanishes liu

Boss Ding (Kai Chi Liu)

Kai Chi Liu plays the Boss Ding.  This actor has been in the business a long time.  Ever since I’ve been watching Hong Kong movies and TV dramas, he’s been around business which gives him a great job.  Usually he plays someone that always gets dealt the bad side of the deal but righteous.  However, in this role, he plays the “bad guy”. Why the quotation marks? Because back then, he was the role of the rich in the society who could make up his own rules that even the law couldn’t interfere with.  His money could buy him out of many tight situations.  Especially with the investigation at his factory, he comes into play quite a bit.  He will make you want to punch him in his face, thats how good he is at being bad.

the bullet vanishes nic

I’ve been watching a lot of 2012 Hong Kong movies recently and some reviews are to be posted soon.  To me, the Hong Kong movies has dropped in quality but the this one and a future one I’m going to review really kicks some serious ass.   Its a movie that has style and nice atmosphere, great background music to help out, an outstanding cast to play out the roles, and especially a clever storyline and on top of that, it has a really good ending, how many movies these days have that?  There is an awesome mystery action flick!  It had me intrigued the whole way.  If you get a chance to see this, I’d say its worth your time.

I’ll leave with my favorite quote of the movie:

You ask me if there is such a thing as a perfect crime? [spoilers cut out] Wu concluded that: the perfect crime wasn’t about making the case unsolvable but finding the perfect scapegoat

I can’t help but to leak a bit of my Hong Kong love and say that I’m extremely proud of the Hong Kong film industry for making this 🙂