Saturday, February 17, 2007


Protege (Mandarin)

Starring: Andy Lau, Daniel Wu, Zhang Jingchu, Anita Yuen, Louis Koo

I know I have to watch this movie when I viewed the trailer and saw the casting line-up.

Frankly, as much as it is compared to Infernal Affairs, I'll dare say that watching this is like viewing a documentary. You can imagine some Discovery Channel production crew getting the scoop by having an access into the dark realm of heroin production.

Right from when it's harvested in the poppy fields, to the production of 'U.S dollar' slabs , the delivery, the process where they are converted into 'H.K dollars' and the trafficking in progress. We're then briefly explained as to what measures are taken to minimise infiltration. You can sense just how much director Derek Yee has researched about this trade and how he tried to fully utilise what's been learnt.

What an eye opener.

Most of the drama comes in the form of Jane (Zhang Jingchu), a junkie who came from the lower rungs of society, as she struggled to overcome her addiction and hold on to her daughter; while at the same time, running away from her fellow junkie (and almost deranged) husband (Louis Koo).

The main character, Nick (Daniel Wu), is an undercover from the narcotics bureau, who's 8 years into this job; who was given the chance to view both ends of the drug trafficking spectrum.
Right from his alliance with drug-lord Kwan (Andy Lau), as his protege, down to planning out the trafficking and seeing for himself, the impact of the poison he supposedly deals with, on a person whom he had sub-consciously become close to.

It's interesting to see Andy Lau's role as a drug lord is much unlike the stereotypical potrayal of such characters as we've seen in past HK movies. Here is a guy who totally detest the goods that he painstakingly trade in because he know that they're bad. His stellar acting shows when he becomes delusional when discussing about the evils of his trade. And he hams up his role as a family man with deteriorating health.

Daniel's acting is pretty consistent, seeing that most of his roles all seemed similar; a good guy in a broody, dark-themed movie. You can see the pain in his eyes as he struggles with his guilt towards his mentor, tried to control the sympathy he had for Jane & her daughter and the anger he supressed towards all those involved.

Zhang Jingchu, she's awesome! Her acting is definitely notable. That anguish on her face, her helplessness as she succumbed to her addiction. Then there's the love for her daughter and the fear of her husband. It's all seem real. One wonders if she had even tried being a junkie, seeing that her potrayal had seemed so real.

The plot is direct. Not exactly ambigious although there's a lot of grey areas. It's not surprising if at one point, you end up sympathising with Kwan and almost despised Nick.

It's such a waste that the charismatic Anita Yuen only carry a cameo role here. Same goes for Louis Koo. Anita acts as the Kwan's dutiful wife who held him to the ground while Louis's antics brought on some humour into this otherwise brooding movie.

They could have contributed more. Not that this movie is bland anyway.

And why is it that the girl acting as Jane's daughter; who's supposed to be under-fed and malnourished, so chubby (albeit being really cute)?

The message here is clear: Drugs are bad evil. No matter who you are, never get involved. It's a menace after all.

My take on this? Go watch it. Of all the movies that open this week, my money's on this one. But it's definitely not for those who wants to be entertained. Just like watching Blood Diamond. It's almost depressing.

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