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黑白道 (2006)
On the Edge

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 10/15/2007
Summary: Not Close Enough to the Edge

The plot has been described already, so I won't repeat.

I too felt that the storyline brought a new angle to the undercover cop genre. The movie's other strengths are good action sequences and very good visual appeal. I agree with DanDan when he says, "It verges on being pretty good, but it doesn't quite make it." Here is where it fell short for me.

Francis Ng delivers his usual character, but he's wearing out his welcome. I should probably be blaming the writer, but Don Dark is too nice a guy. We don't see him hurting anyone, which someone in his position and profession must surely do on a regular basis. We see him helping out and being generally paternal to the guys that work for him. Not a trace of a temper or violent streak. Of course Nick Cheung's character, Harry Boy (who thought up these English names?), has fond memories of his triad days; who wouldn't want to work for a Don Dark?

On the other end of the spectrum, and again it's the writer's fault, Anthony Wong's Lung is too nasty. He's the kind of prick cop that everybody hates, and he's here representing the life of the regular policeman that Harry Boy has yearned for. The movie makes it appear that Harry Boy is surprised and dismayed by Lung's behavior, but living as a triad he must have had years of experiencing it first hand. So I think both Anthony Wong and Francis Ng were wasted in this movie. They are both capable of playing complex characters,but their characters in this movie are pretty one-dimensional.

So there's no real reason for Harry Boy to feel conflicted: cops are mean-spirited pricks and triads are mis-understood philantropists. Why wouldn't he just switch back and become a full-time triad, especially since he loses Cat (Rail Li) if he doesn't. In fact, why wouldn't he have just switched sides several years ago? And why is he so upset by Internal Affairs following him around and fellow officers not trusting him yet. He wouldn't trust him either, if he were them. All this is pointing to balance. I thought the movie was too simpistic. Herman Yau takes the easy way out and his film suffers for it.

Finally, Nick Cheung is not ready to carry a leading role. About the only thing he can bring to his role is that glare he's patented. If you want seething anger, Nick's your man. But even an 89-minute outing is more than he can sustain. I hope he keeps after it, but he's not there yet.

But all those negatives aside, it's worth checking out.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 09/03/2007

Director Herman Yau teams with car stunt specialist and action movie icon Bruce Law to wrap an interesting cop/triad thriller with some sparking, state-of the art car chase sequences that will put you "on the edge" of your seat. The screenplay by Yau, Jacky Wong Oi-Sang, and the already immortal Zexin [Papa Loves You, The Wild Ninja] looks at the difficult time that many police officers go through when they have finished with their undercover duties. Nick Cheung does a nice job with his role of an undercover cop trying to transition back to the straight life. Emotionally charged at every turn, Yau and cinematographer Puccini Yu create a visual palette to express a narrative that will seduce your mind as well as your eyes.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/27/2007

Many viewers out there cut their teeth on seminal films from directors like John Woo, Kirk Wong and Ringo Lam that were produced during the "golden age" of Hong Kong movies which focused on undercover police operations. In fact, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of movies produced in Hong Kong over the years that have featured undercover officers trying to do their duty as a cop while living the life of a gangster -- the ultra-popular Infernal Affairs trilogy being the most notable of the more recent crop of pictures.

But there have been surprisingly few Hong Kong crime dramas which have shown what happens to these officers after their mission is over. And that's exactly why On the Edge is one of the more solid films to come out of HK over the last year. Instead of re-hashing the same old plot yet again, it actually tries to break some new ground in the genre. Even though it is not totally successful, it is still very much worth a look if you're a fan of the "old school" hard-boiled HK crime movies.

Nick Cheung plays the undercover cop in question here, a young man named Harry. After Harry busts a crime boss, Dark (Francis Ng), he is handed a measly reward, given a cramped apartment, and sent to work with a hard-nosed detective, Lung (Anthony Wong). Lung's rough tactics cause Harry to question his profession, but he cannot even go back and talk to his best friend (Derek Tsang) or girlfriend (Rain Li), because they -- like the rest of his former gang -- now regard Harry as a traitor. Stuck between two worlds, things take a even worse turn for Harry when he is framed for murder.

What really makes On the Edge stand out are the performances of the actors. Herman Yau started out as a director of gore-fests like The Untold Story, but has since emerged as one of the more solid dramatic directors working in Hong Kong. As could be expected, both Anthony Wong and Francis Ng provide great "bookends" of sorts for the movie, being counterpoints to the emotions Harry is dealing with. Both of them deliver multi-layered takes on what are often cookie-cutter characters, which makes the film so much more enjoyable to watch.

The movie's big surprise is Nick Cheung. Best known for his comedic roles, he has been going in a more dramatic direction over the past few years, and this is his best work to date. I still wouldn't rank him up at the top eschelon of HK actors, but Cheung's performance here is very much far removed from his earlier work (which seemed to consist of imitating Stephen Chow) and has established him -- at least in this reviewer's humble opinion -- as a "serious" actor.

Sadly, things aren't all a bed of roses here. Even though On the Edge only runs at eighty-nine minutes, it still felt like it could have been tightened up a bit. Herman Yau goes a bit overboard with flashbacks, and the movie's pacing suffers as a result.

Also, the ending came off as a bit flat. There's a nice car chase (directed by the under-rated Bruce Law) and a tense stand-off, which is followed by a semi-cheesy slow-motion musical montage that kills one hell of a lot of momentum the film had going. And, if the viewer doesn't get the point of the movie, it's drilled home by a totally unnecessary title card which spouts statistics about undercover cops.

Even with these problems, On the Edge still comes recommended, especially in this day and age when it seems like every crime movie Hong Kong is producing is trying to be Infernal Affairs 4. At a time when most HK directors seem to be taking the safe route, it was truly refreshing to see a bit of originality and daring.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: steve_cole1
Date: 01/14/2007
Summary: Different Twist on the Genre

Different Twist to the cops and robbers drama . We all know that being undercover sucks so why do they do it Nick Cheung should of known that !!!!! but they showed afterwards and before in flashbacks . If they had done IA3 like this it could have been so much better and would have been a great companion to the other films. Still it is a good film with Anthony Wong and Francis Ng doing good jobs.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 11/10/2006
Summary: teetering...

harry-boy (nick cheung) is a cop who's been working undercover, as a triad, for the last eight years. the film begins with him busting his boss, don dark (francis ng) and his subsequent re-introduction into the police force and his new partner, lung (anthony wong). harry now finds himself trailed by internal affairs officers and uneasy with lung's strongarm tactics, which he'd experienced first hand when he was operating on the other side of the law. needless to say lung isn't overly comfortable with harry's company...

on the other side of the coin, cat (rain li), harry's karaoke hostess, former lover and mini b (derek tsang), his former partner in crime, turn their backs on a man who has betrayed their trust. as harry and lung try to deal with the aftermath of don's removal, their paths cross and harry has to cope with the identity crisis he's now experiencing.

well, on the plus side; it looks pretty good, its got a pretty tight pace, nick cheung and derek tsang put in good performances and there's a few very nicely executed scenes. still, it's pretty short, some of the narrative developments don't quite work for me, it has the tendency to slip into the realms of melodrama and over-eggs its pudding when it runs out of steam.

it verges on being pretty good, but it doesn't quite make it.

Reviewed by: Tonic
Date: 10/25/2006

If you've seen Hard Boiled, this could be seen as a what-if-sequel - with Tony Leung finding that you simply can't be a cop after going undercover for so long.

I really liked it, Herman Yau is definately rising up my list of favourite directors - along with his films such as Taxi Hunter and Shark Busters.

Either Nick Cheung is getting more suited roles or his acting is vastly improving with each new film I see him in, though I reckon it's the former.

If you liked films such as Election, Infernal Affairs, On The Run, Beast Cops, etc - check this out, it's on DVD already after opening at the cinemas barely two months ago!