Expect the Unexpected (1998)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-08-18
This movie depicts the Hong Kong police force as completely incompetent. The O Department which is headed by Ken is trying to find three incredibly vicious gangsters who kill, rape and torture with impunity. At one point Macy, very well played by Ruby Wong, does a quick tabulation of the carnage and realizes that the bad guys have already shot over a dozen police officers and killed four of them. Earlier the three of them had shot their way out of a police ambush set specifically to catch them and later on the bodies Hong Kong’s finest are stacked like cordwood. The body count among the forces of law and order is just too high for one (at least this one) to suspend belief. That they have confused two sets of mainland criminals—one is professional, hardcore and extremely violent, the other is made up of bumbling amateurs who do everything wrong but are still able to escape from the cops—increases the anxiety level.

Oddly enough, more screen time is spent on a possibly growing romance between Ken and Mandy, a key witness to the beginning of the crime spree than on stopping the criminals. Sam, played to laconic perfection by Lau Ching-Wan, is either helping them along or trying to sabotage the budding relationship. Sam is a bit of a schemer and takes chances—selling contraband cigarettes in the police station shows he is willing to flaunt authority. Doing so while the command officer who supplies them is under investigation by the ICAC (Internal Security) shows he is too dumb to know when to stop. According to the star notes on the DVD, this was the first major role for former model and commercial actress Yoyo Mung. She is very attractive and was not out of place in this tailor made role. Old pros Hui Siu Hung, a cop, and Lam Suet, a robber, were excellent.

Shifting camera planes during the investigation of the crime scenes added to the sense of things being out of kilter as does some of the atmospheric lighting for interiors. Other than the police conflating the two sets of robbers, the audience sees the action unfold as the protagonists do—we don’t know any more than the cops do about the situation and find out important points when they do.

“Expect the Unexpected” is a nihilistic take on the hard edged cop drama. There is brutal violence always just below the not very placid surface of the SAR. No one—neither elderly women nor young children nor anyone else—can escape the constant eruptions of gunfire. And one’s home is less safe than the streets—the most mind boggling and disgusting assaults happen in the apartments of innocent people.

There is a lot to be said for violating the conventions of mainstream genres—it can help to open up what had become a closed system and breathe new life into moribund forms. Shocking the audience and thwarting its expectations is one way to not only call attention to oneself but also show that there are new ways of looking at an art form. But simply introducing characters in order to kill them off is cheating. It is too easy, the lazy way to show how transgressive one can be, and proves nothing.
Reviewer Score: 5