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! 🙂

Cold War (2012)

Prior to this past week or two of movie watching, I’d have to say that Resident Evil: Retribution was almost the best one I saw in 2012 (guilty pleasure and fun).  I still have a lot to catch up and right now, I’m saying that 2012 movies kicked some serious ass.  It was the year of amazing animated films and then we had the record-breaking The Avengers, then yesterday I reviewed The Bullet Vanishes and says that its been a while I’ve seen something so awesome in the Hong Kong industry.  Hong Kong entertainment has successfully regained my hope in it.  Cold War was a masterpiece, okay? Wait, wait…I’m getting ahead of myself!

cold war posterDirector: Sunny Luk, Longmond Leung

Cast: Aaron Kwok, Tony Ka Fai Leung, Kar Lok Chin, Charlie Yeung, Ka Tung Lam, Andy On, Terence Yin, Andy Lau, Michael Wong, Eddie Peng

The Commissioner of Hong Kong Police (Michael Wong) is away for conference to talk about Hong Kong raising itself to be called the safest city in the world through their technology and security systems set up and protocols.  Shortly after their departure, one of their emergency unit vehicles have vanished off the grid and no tracking devices on the 5 officers and the car itself could be located, while at the same time, a building  explodes in the middle of the heart of Hong Kong. The police has to now find the balance between not ruining their safest city reputation but not threatening the citizens either.  Normal protocol is that the Deputy Commissioners usually take over the role as Acting Commissioner to lead the assignment.  Right away, Deputy Commissioner Lee (Tony Ka Fai Leung), responsible for the operations takes the reins and summons everyone to an emergency meeting to start reacting with project “Cold War”. However, Deputy Commissioner of management Lau (Aaron Kwok) forces him off due to his connection to one of the missing officers being his son Joe (Eddie Peng) and takes over the operations instead to prevent him from overreacting and treating the situation too subjectively, especially if this was now considered a kidnapping and possibly a terrorist attack.

Deputy Commissioner Lau and Lee fighting for the role of Acting Commissioner

Deputy Commissioner Lau and Lee fighting for the role of Acting Commissioner

The plot thickens as we hit the continuing plot that enters, but if I told you all that, then what would be the fun of you watching it, right?

This crime thriller is intense as hell! My brain is overloaded by  how to even start describing this.  Its smart and fast-paced.  There will be some twists in the story especially seeing it has a 2 level plot line, that happens where you won’t even guess and then some that you probably might see but still be wowed afterwards.  The story is pretty incredible and held up by literally *almost* everyone in the entertainment business.  Most of them are veteran actors and if they aren’t, they will possibly one day get there.  On the contrary, both directors are green and its their first directing effort but their days working in as art director and assistant director really helped them out.  My mind was totally absorbed and my eyes were glued to the screen. There was some action that had me on the edge of my seat and then some parts that had me wondering who was behind all this.  I mean thats the first thing we, as the audience, and the police want to figure out, right?

Aaron Kwok as Deputy Commissioner/Acting Commissioner Sean Lau

Aaron Kwok as Deputy Commissioner/Acting Commissioner Sean Lau

A lot of you may not know Aaron Kwok but he was red-hot at the same time as Andy Lau.  He was the youngest of the four singers to reign in the industry in the 90s.  I loved this guy for a time even more than I loved Andy Lau as a singer.  When Aaron Kwok first started in movies, he didn’t do that many.  He was in Future Cops (which I reviewed HERE) but it was more of a cameo.  In the past 8-10 years (I have a lot of catching up to do on Hong Kong movies), he’s been staring in a lot of action thrillers.  I have a few that I haven’t seen sitting on my shelf but I’m pulling them out and watching them pronto.  This guy was amazing.  Pllus, there’s this whole having brushes of grey hair showing that makes him even more attractive.  There’s this thing that he does with his eyes to emote that is hilarious but also intensifies the whole situation.  Its awesome! He was totally in the role and man, to see him become such an outstanding actor makes me so proud.

cold war andy lauI talked about Andy Lau before! Hey, whats he doing here? He has a cameo as the Security official and comes out in 2-3 scenes.  What more do I have to say about him.  He’s great.  Now, if we look at Tony Ka Fai Leung who plays Deputy Commissioner Lee, there is really nothing to say.  He’s a Hong Kong equivalent Academy Award Best Actor so his skills are top notch.  I’ve always seen him doing gangster roles or slimmy perverted husbands (like in the horror movie Dumpling).  Seeing him as a police officer was a shock but at the same time, he proved to me that he fit the role even with his strong and stubborn character.  As much as there was a clash with the internal police HQ with the management and operations, they both had amazing sparks every time they hit the screen together.

cold war police

“We Serve with Pride and Care”

On the image above, its to point out, this is the 3rd Chinese movie in a row that I’ve watched with Kar Lok Chin. This guy is not particularly on my radar but from 1995 to his two movies in 2012, I can see now that he’s changed his acting style and especially in this one, he has earned my respect.  This guy came out from doing stunts and in this one, he gets to show off some of it again and goes all Bruce Willis (making fun of himself getting old).  On top of that, on the left standing up, we have Ka Tung Lam.  I’m not sure if anyone knows him but this guy has grown also.  I haven’t seen him in movies in a while (maybe its because I stopped watching it) but he always does these jerk roles but he is quite convincing at them.  One other person I’d like to mention made me jump with absolute joy was the cameo of Commissioner played by Michael Wong.  I haven’t seen the guy in ages.  I used to love his movies, so I was super excited about it 🙂 I kept going through the movie hearing his voice and being like, “hmm, that voice is so familiar.  Who is it?” Then BAM, there is he! *sorry, excuse the minor fan girl moment*

cold war icac confrontation

Awesome crime thriller with so many intense moments.  Loved the whole cast, maybe a bit less the young dude up there, but he was still pretty good.  Its officially my favorite movie of 2012 🙂 I don’t really see how anything else could’ve been better! I’m not going to go on with it because I’ll keep have fangirl moments.  I’m pretty sure they will have a sequel so GO SEE IT (if its accessible to you)!

I’ll leave you and go to my corner and continue drooling over this movie 😉