Police Confidential (1995)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-02-24
“Don’t do anything stupid” says Carrie Ng, a Hong Kong official, to Zhang Fengyi, playing the corrupt and recently fired second in command of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in “Police Confidential.” Since the movie is by then more than half over it is already too late. Just about everything that every character does is both stupid and improbable with the added fillip of being incomprehensible to the audience.

“Police Confidential” is an unintentionally funny movie that deals with the end of the world, or at least the end of the world as the characters know it. The British are leaving and won’t be back. The Union Jack will be lowered for the last time and the Queen’s pictures will not long adorn office walls. The colonial administrators will be packing their souvenirs and the only way of life that anyone then alive in the Crown Colony has known is about to change completely. It is time to betray friends, make peace with enemies and create alliances with rivals. While the handover is neither Paris in 1789 nor Saigon in April of 1975 it will be much more meaningful than, for example, a change of parties in the White House in the United States which simply means a new set of consigliere to advice the chief capo. This makes all the jockeying for position by councilors, administrators and senior police officials an existential exercise—whatever the outcome is now it can be changed by the representatives of the PRC when they take over. One short scene early on underlines the futility of all this activity. A corrupt councilor has made a ridiculous speech about how the autonomy of their village depended on continuing male dominance of politics and everything else. He was answered by a female councilor (Carrie Ng as Carrie Ng) who pointed to a picture on the wall of the community center in which the meeting was held, a picture that showed the male councilor with British Colonial Office officials. She says that she has never taken money from the British, has never worked with them and never will. In a furious aside the impossibly sexist councilor berates an aide for not getting rid of the picture.

This illustrates the impossibility of the situation that all of them are in. Getting rid of the evidence of past collaboration won’t help with the new rulers. However neither will having an anti-colonialist background be of much use. And to assume that the independence of a village will continue after the handover is political naiveté at best and plain stupidity at worst. There is a lot freighted on this scene and it comes across well.

The other ninety minutes of “Police Confidential” are pretty bad, though.

Simon Yam plays a repugnant character, a police officer who has a sick enthusiasm extremely depraved and sadistic sex play. He likes to watch couples and is intensely attracted to prostitutes. Would call him a rouge cop but that gives him too much credit. Actually to call Officer Lui an idiot would be putting him too high on the food chain. He isn’t an anti-hero, just a sex obsessed jerk—even his mother in Canada turns against him. This is one of the characters the audience is supposed to root for.

The other character is Daisy of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, a lovely and effective crime fighter who falls for Lui one night when he randomly dials her phone number and tries to engage her in phone sex. Not the most promising introduction one would think, but since Daisy doesn’t seem to think it works fine with her.

The bad guy is Assistant Commissioner Cheung—just to make sure we don’t miss it he is often shot in close-up, lighted from below and with a sickly green or red filter so he looks like someone who wandered onto the set from a schlocky horror movie. Compared with Cheung Inspector Clouseau of “The Pink Panther” is a model investigator. Under his command the ICAC tries to set up Officer Lui and fails a number of times. When he is finally arrested he escapes from a large group of armed ICAC officers, kidnapping one of them and assaulting a few more. After this confrontation he continues to have the freedom of the city, even reporting to work at the Vice Squad without being noticed by those who are trying to arrest him.

I tried to follow the plot of the movie but since the writer and director weren’t concerned with coherence I gave up. It is looks like they lost control of things early on and just shot footage to be patched together in the editing room. None of the ICAC operations makes sense in any context—for example they mount a huge effort to bug a public meeting that is being filmed and taped by the press and they constantly switch their target from Officer Lui to Councilor Lam accomplishing nothing while doing so. The plot collapses on itself quite early and becomes nothing more than a bunch of poorly written and badly shot scenes. It could have been a decent absurdist comedy if the filmmakers realized just how inane all of their characters were acting.

In what may be the lowest of many low points Officer Lui, after saving Judy the prostitute from chopper wielding killers tries to convince her to testify at a hearing involving Cheung. The scene is full of pathos and bathos with Judy sobbing that she is worthless and that no one would believe her while Lui tells her that he is no better than she is but he is willing to do the right thing and she should also. Time is fleeting—the hearing is in the last hour of its last day and if Judy doesn’t get there in time (they have to travel from Macao to Hong Kong with the entire HK police force and most of the ICAC trying to stop them) Cheung will be the de facto ruler of Hong Kong until the handover. So before they start out take a few minutes to have sex. Which isn’t the worst of it. The entire scene takes place in an alley—a handy oil drum serves as a place for their coupling—under a broken pipe that drenches them, dumping hundreds of gallons of water on them. For reasons that might have made sense at the time (but probably didn’t) they don’t move—they get drenched by the broken pipe and stay under it while water continues to cascade onto them. Some people aren’t smart enough to get in out of the rain—these two aren’t smart enough to move to a dry spot when it isn’t raining.

It is a very dark movie—not bleak, just dark. Faces peer out of surrounding blackness even when they are people working in an office. This could have been the cinematographer’s choice or just another display of technical ineptitude. If it was a choice it was a bad one. The editor may have done the best he could with the footage supplied—there is no indication at all that anything good was left on the cutting room floor. Simon Yam does a voice over trying to explain the unexplainable and title cards with the date and time are dropped in occasionally in an attempt to keep the audience from being completely confused. The first half of the movie is a flashback—there is no reason it should be and only adds to the irrational complexity of things.

Linda Wong Hing-Ping is very attractive and a decent actress and Zhang Fengyi could carry an air of menace if his character wasn’t so incompetent.

I dropped this one into my DVD player because it starred Carrie Ng which is not reason enough for anyone else to endure it.

Not recommended
Reviewer Score: 1