Sunday, September 02, 2018

L Storm

You know what's fun - when you go to a movie kind of out of a sense of obligation because you've seen the previous two and didn't really hate them, and find that it's kind of fun. L Storm is not the best thing to come out of Hong Kong lately, but it's impressively capable, and starts off with the kind of quick, athletic chase that triggers the "oooh, I love Hong Kong" part of my movie-watching brain.

(It also kind of triggered the "I should take my next winter-months vacation there" brain, but I'm not going to lie - I probably won't for the stupid reason that I never developed a taste for veggies or noodles, don't like ordering food when I don't know exactly what's in it, but don't want to be the westerner searching HK for burgers and pizza. On the other hand, there's a London Eye-looking Ferris Wheel there and that's sort of become a thing.)

Hopefully that happens a lot the weekend of December 21st, when all three western movies for which there were previews (Aquaman, Alita: Battle Angel, and Bumblebee) open. They all look kind of pretty, and they've got people involved that catch my interest, but… meh. Meh all around. I kind of wonder how they might have scattered like rats if Disney had done the smart thing and moved Solo there. Alita probably stays in July, but the others…?

Those will look good in 3D, and I wonder how L Storm would have looked that way. I think it was actually shot with a 3D rig - maybe the credits for stereo conversion were all in Chinese, but you can usually see some English in the tech credits, and there was nothing stereo-related there - and there's some old-school "weirdly foregrounded objects" and other things that look like it was shot that way. We didn't get it that way here - I verified that it's 3D by doing a search and being directed to 3D showtimes in Hong Kong - although you wouldn't necessarily know if you weren't enough of a fan to notice the framing. It's interesting to me how, in a week showing the extent to which the U.S. has turned its back on the format (sub-par video releases for Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Found Footage 3D, some odd choices in which movies got which format in the Marvel-Imax series), even mid-tier films seem to get shot and released that way in the Chinas.

L Feng Bao (L Storm)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 August 2018 in AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run, DCP)

I don't know that L Storm is quite the improvement on its immediate predecessor that S Storm was to Z Storm, but the extent to which this series has figured out its strengths and managed to make a decent series out of corruption, inter-agency squabbling, and white-collar crime is impressive. These won't become classics, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of solid, unbloated crime at the movies.

As things start, two different law enforcement agencies are staking out the same border crossing. Chief "William" Luk Chi Lim (Louis Koo Tin-lok) of the Independent Commision Against Corruption is watching Dik Wai-kit (Michael Tse Tin-wah), a border guard suspected of taking bribes to allow smugglers through; Lau Po-kyeung (Julian Cheung Chi-lam), newly promoted to a job within the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, is tracking Zhao Mei-xin (Sienna Li Xin-yue), who has brought a large amount of cash to be laundered by Tsui Yau-choi (Liu Kai-chi). They don't quite get in each other's way, but both get away, in part due to the intervention of Ho Tai-wo (Patrick Tam Yiu-man). Though Luk and Lau clashed on a previous case, they resolve to stay out of each other's way, but the ICAC's case is sabotaged when an accusation of corruption is leveled against Luk himself, with "L Squad" investigator Ching Tak-ming (Kevin Cheng Ka-wing) leading it and Luk's only lead to clear his name a seemingly unconnected model, Eva Ng (Sephy Tang Lai-yan).

The cop-on-the-run story is not exactly a new angle, but to watch this series is to see its utility. Louis Koo has been first-billed on all three of these movies, William Luk supposedly the central character, but neither of the previous two particularly seemed like star vehicles for him; S Storm, in particular, had him seeming almost like a guest star. From the start, Luk is leading teams, running after suspects, figuring out mysteries. It's not just his movie, but it feels a bit more focused - Luk, Ching, and Lau all have teams, some of them familiar from the previous movies for those who have seen them, but director David Lam and writers Wong Ho-wa and Ho Man-lung keep the complex story from being spread out over too many people. It's sometimes predictable, but it works.

Full review at EFC.

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