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知法犯法 (2001)
Cop on a Mission

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 02/07/2010
Summary: Cop in a muddle

“Cop on a Mission” is the story of the steady degradation of Mike the Cop has he goes from bored to disgraced to only fit for undercover work while Mike the Gangster rises steadily in the hierarchy of the Triads that control all criminal enterprises of Hong Kong. We first see him in rain, unhappy with his life, patrolling with his much more straight-laced partner and complaining how the crooks can get rich but the cops can’t. To make things worse they are simply checking to make sure the luxury cars parked on the street are secured. When they encounter the King of Pimps making his collections from his under-pimps all they can do is watch while he counts his money and slaps around anyone who hasn’t made his quota. Two foolhardy but purposeful (and well armed) crooks try to rob the King of Pimps in the restaurant where Mike and his partner are having their 3:00 AM break which leads to a shootout in which everyone is killed other than the two policemen and a bystander played with sniveling perfection by Lam Suet.

Mike is in trouble for firing all the rounds in his revolver during the fracas although excessive gun use seems to pale next to his chopping off the head of one of the senior pimps when he couldn’t get his weapon unholstered in time. Following the arc of this type of movie, Mike is told to resign before he is fired; he will then be immediately rehired in secret and sent to infiltrate the operation of Yum King Tin a fearsome triad chieftain who is the second in command and main enforcer for the Hung Hing gang, an organization with its tentacles everywhere. Mike is able to begin his trek upwards in Yum’s operation when, while working as a lowly valet parker, he saves Mrs. Yum when thugs from the Double Eight gang attack her. He dispatches a half dozen chopper wielding opponents while suffering only a few knicks himself. Oh, and the very yummy Mrs. Yum falls in love with Mike during the fight.

Eric Tsang was perfect as Yum King Tin, going from entertaining his fellow gang leaders at dinner to killing one of them by stabbing him with a table knife without missing a beat. He is aware that his power rests on both meting out punishment to those who break the triad code and handing out rewards to those who uphold it. He sees Mike as a possible good addition to his crew and conditionally brings him aboard. At one point Pauline Yum says that no one but Yum could love her—she is a gambling addict and always spends too much money. Suki Kwan looks so fetching and is lit and shot to take complete advantage of her beauty that if she had said that her main faults were drinking human blood and howling at the moon there still would have been a line of men waiting to spread their cloaks over a puddle so she wouldn’t dampen her shoes. She uses the same terms in a scene later in the movie, a very touching Valentine’s Day date with her husband, that she is a spendthrift and gambling addict. It turns out she has a bit of a past as well as an unsavory present. The date is taking place in the restaurant where Yum first saw her and fell in love with that first look. She was a call girl but Yum had Chick, his ever menacing and always available bodyguard/assistant beat up her pimp and that was that.

That scene, although touching and wonderfully acted, shows the main shortcoming of “Cop on a Mission”. While the script tries to keep Mike’s plight with his growing alienation, fear and longing in view it also moves off into domestic drama with hyperbolic paens to the undying power of romantic love. It does wrench itself back to Mike’s story with each digression, occasionally throwing in a bonus of a shot of Daniel Wu’s bare butt or his almost superhuman ability to best his hand to hand combat instructor in a fight and then kill him with a magic garrote.

The supporting cast couldn’t be much better. Anya, whose career has been all over the place, did a great job as Gee, Mike’s loyal girlfriend who ends things when it looks as if he is becoming an outlaw. Veteran tough guys Frankie Ng, Wong Shu Tung (coiffed with a startling two-tone pompadour) and Tony Ho each bring the exactly correct combination of loyalty, barely confined insanity and lurking violence to their characters.

The ending if fitting, both for the movie and for Mike.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/20/2006
Summary: intense crime drama

Long time editor turned director Marco Mak Chi-Sin scores a major hit with this intense crime drama. His third directorial effort stars charismatic Daniel Wu Yin-Cho along with the always classy Eric Tsang Chi-Wai and beautiful Suki Kwan Sau-Mei.

A troubled undercover cop [Wu] falls victim to the trappings of the good life of a triad kingpin [Tsang] as he infiltrates his gang. Money and lust lead to madness, betrayal, and death. The screenplay by the mysterious Not A Woman is close to perfect. Action direction by Ma Yuk-Sing gives everything a tough, gritty look. Cinematography by Tony Miu King-Fai is crisp and evocative.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/15/2006
Summary: better than the crappy title suggests...

marco mak presents a grim story of mike (daniel wu), a disillusioned policeman who goes undercover, only to be seduced by both the lifestyle and his boss's wife. mike's sense of morality and loyalty soon become distorted by his dual-roles within the police and the triads.

an intense and fine film, with a great performance from wu and eric tsang, who steals the show as tin; wu's boss. tin is a suprisingly complex character, struggling with his marriage and his role within the triads; he's humanity evokes sympathy, whilst his ruthlessness marks him out as someone not to trifle with.

a real solid triad thriller; plenty of action, intensity and genuine drama. good stuff.

having just read that the translation of the title is actually 'knowing the law, breaking the law', i'm at odds to understand why they didn't use that as it's english title.

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 10/13/2005
Summary: The corruptive nature of Absolute Power


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Mono

An undercover cop (Daniel Wu) rises through the ranks of a powerful Triad gang and is corrupted by delusions of grandeur.

Taking the director's chair for only the third time in his career, former editor Marco Mak (ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, THE STORM RIDERS, etc.) overcomes the drawbacks of limited funding to make a powerful statement about the corruptive nature of Absolute Power and the consequences of poverty on a divided heart. Though the budget allows for only a handful of major set-pieces (choreographed by action director Ma Yuk-sing), the plot is buoyed by skilful editing and a busy narrative, and is further energized by three standout performances: Wu is superb as the undercover cop whose worldview is transformed by the gangster lifestyle (leading to a number of surprising plot twists), while veteran entertainer Eric Tsang makes a virtue of restraint as the murderous Triad leader - rendered impotent following a bloody gang battle - who takes Wu under his wing. Suki Kwan plays Tsang's beautiful wife, torn between loyalty to her beloved husband and the earthier charms of Wu's carnal embrace.

There's a deliberate emphasis on Wu's physical beauty during the film's early stages, though the loving attention paid to his naked torso (alongside a couple of nude shower scenes) serves a dual purpose: To promote Wu as a rising star in the HK movie firmament, and to reinforce the audience's rapport with a sympathetic character, which makes his slow descent into immorality and murder all the more disturbing. Mak references other films with relish (SUNSET BLVD. and THE UNTOUCHABLES are two of the most obvious), and he manages to combine a character-driven storyline with stylish visuals (excellent work by cinematographer Tony Miu), despite the limitations imposed by a lack of financial resources. Also starring David Lee (DEVIL FACE, ANGEL HEART) as a fellow cop and one of Wu's closest friends, Karel Wong (THE JAIL OF NO RETURN) as a psychopathic gang leader whose violent behavior prompts Wu's slide into debasement, and Lam Suet as a wannabe Triad member who bears the brunt of Wu's dishonorable conduct. Tense, dramatic, and emotionally satisfying, COP ON A MISSION is a fine addition to the HK crime genre.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 03/30/2005
Summary: Definitely Worth Seeing

Disregard the references to the Y&D films in the earlier reviews; these stemmed from the time period this movie was released. COAM is nothing like Y&D (I liked them both).

This is basically a story of a guy who yearns for money, first and foremost, and the wife of a triad boss after that. Along the way, he comes to enjoy power and prestige almost as much. Sounds like most men so far, but what separates him is that he is ruthlessly cunning and will stop at nothing to satisfy his desires. If you're his girl friend, his best friend, his mentor, his associate, or anyone else who deal with him, best watch your back.

Daniel Wu does a very good job portraying this soul-less over-achiever. Suki Kwan is flawless and Eric Tsang, as always, is great; though his triad boss character is too much of a nice guy to be totally credible.

The movie's most obvious flaw was the leering of the camera at Wu's naked backside several times at the early part of the film. It was as creepy as it was unnecessary.

This isn't an action film. It's an amorality play in a cops and triads setting. It's well done and recommended; and you can pick it up very inexpensively now.

Reviewed by: AkiraRus
Date: 07/19/2004
Summary: Nice for a change

Uneven movie, oddly paced and shot but with some interesting psychological characterisation and not-too-cliched screenplay. Eric Tsang and Suki Kwan are great and have undisputed if a little strange chemistry, camerawork and music are fantastic. Nice for a change. 7/10.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/19/2003

A beat cop named Mike (Daniel Wu) uses excessive force and makes his senior partner look bad during a shootout. Mike's boss suggests that he resign before he is fired, so that he can transfer to be an undercover cop. As an undercover, Mike's mission is to infiltrate high-level Triad Yum King-Tin's (Eric Tsang) gang, which he does so successfully -- almost too successfully, as within a short time his love of both the Triad lifestyle and Yum's wife Pauline (Suki Kwan) puts his life and mission in jeopardy.

This type of plot, of course, been done many times before. However, Cop on a Mission takes a fresh approach through the characterization of Mike. Most films of this type have the lead undercover character face a crisis of conscience as they must decide which side of the law they are on. Mike makes a different kind of decision than most lead characters in this kind of movie, and that makes this film stand out.

Cop on a Mission also has solid performances from its' cast to help it along. San Francisco native Daniel Wu is still not fluent in Cantonese (something which some of the gangsters make fun of), but he is progressing along fine as an actor, especially when put up against many of Hong Kong's other young thespians. Eric Tsang (known primarily for his comedic roles) is often under-rated when it comes to his dramatic acting, but he puts in a fine performance as the tired Triad boss who just wants to retire. Suki Kwan also does a good job, though her looks don't quite fit in with someone who would send a young guy like Mike all a-flutter. Director Marco Mak (who has done a great deal of editing work before stepping into the director's chair) brings a nice visual style to the film, making it interesting without becoming self-indulgent. I also liked the atmospheric, jazzy score.

So why doesn't Cop on a Mission warrant a higher rating? Ultimately, despite all the good things it has going for it, the film lacks that bit of punch that seperates good films from great ones. The movie's script (written by someone called "Not A Woman") plods in parts and slows the film down. Overall, though, Cop on a Mission is a solid movie that shows that Hong Kong can still produce good crime dramas.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 03/02/2003


Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: honloo
Date: 12/24/2002
Summary: Suki Kwan is Very Pretty

The star in this movie is Suki Kwan Sau Mei (Pauline), the wife of triad head Eric Tsang. Daniel Wu lost his life because of his obsession towards the gourgeous and classy suki.

Reviewed by: lemoncola
Date: 05/24/2002
Summary: Good vs. Evil in Cop on a Mission

I did not know whether I should try this movie Cop On A Mission or not, but after looking at it a few times in the video store and the Chinese title (translates to: Knowing the Law, Breaking the Law), really somehow tempted me to buy it.

Cop On A Mission stars Daniel Wu and Eric Tsang.

There are several themes in this movie: good vs. evil, letting evil influence and take over one's mind, greed, power, poor vs. rich, conflicts with job duties, choosing money over friendship, etc.

Daniel plays the character named Mike who is a good cop, turned undercover, turned bad guy/triad member.
In the beginning Mike is a good policeman but is finding it hard to earn a good living and is always tired of seeing if he has enough money to take out his girlfriend.
Later, Mike goes on an undercover assignment. He meets Eric Tsang's character, Tin, a mob boss, who has everything, tons of money and a pretty girlfriend. This is where all Mike's troubles begins and this is when the evil enters into Mike's mind, heart and soul.

Daniel's performance was breathtaking, he had me hanging on the edge of my seat. Even though some of the things that occur in the film are predictable, like it is very obvious that Daniel's character Mike has the desire to take over everything that belongs to Tin -- still his performance left me speechless. I never knew Daniel could play a bad guy, because most certainly in my opinion he does not look like one.
But he is very convincing as a bad guy. Mike has this huge idea to destroy Tin and take over and be boss. But his idea was too big for him to handle, due to his egotistic attitude and greed for money and power, he underestimated his ability to take over Tin's empire.

Eric Tsang is not too convincing as a triad boss, I guess it's because he is more fit for comedy than drama/action movies. Eric Tsang is better in comedy movies like Merry Go Round, And I Hate You So.

There are quite a number of fighting scenes, sometimes I felt they went by too fast, not that I like to watch bloody and gory scenes and sometimes I wish for them to end faster than they should last. But some of the fighting scenes seemed unrealistic, and they are not shocking at all. I have seen much worse and cruel bloody, fight-to-the-death scenes in other movies like God of Gamblers, Casino Raiders, etc. The stuff in Cop On A Mission is nothing.

There are some scenes which just reminds me of the show NYPD Blue, and there's the shot of Daniel's back side in the shower scene which is very NYPD Blue. But his back side looks way better than the guy's on NYPD Blue.

This movie is really good to watch, the story line is pretty coherent and it unravels in a good and moderate pace.

The DVD image is very clear and crisp, the sound quality is excellent, and also there are subtitles to choose from, you can choose Traditional Chinese, English. Also, there is a movie trailer for this movie you can watch.

All in all, it's pretty decent and was worth the extra few bucks for the DVD. I liked it so much that I am going to watch it again this weekend.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 04/28/2002

Marko Mak has been highly touted for his first two directorial efforts. Having been not that impressed with his latest, Replacement Suspect, I finally decided to check out COAM to see what all the fuss was about and I have to say I felt a bit underwhelmed. The movie is solidly lensed, and does try to offer a fresh perspective on this rather tired genre, but it can't hide the fact that it's working with an average script dolled up through fancy camera work that sometimes borders on being pretentious.

Daniel Wu is a good-looking guy, but not an actor with a lot of charisma. He tries hard to inject some sinister menace into the slow transformation of his character from being a naive cop to an undercover agent a little too enamored by the lifestyle of a triad gangster, but in the end his performance remains rather bland. Same goes for Suki Kwan, who I think is over-rated. Only Eric Tsang as the seemingly warm-hearted triad boss with a certain physical disfunction manages to create a modicum of viewer interest for his performance.

The script surprises by revealing the main character's fate right at the beginning, and then slowly unveiling the events leading up to the final scene, but never manages to sustain the interest spiked by the opening scene.

Perhaps I'm being a little too harsh - the movie does try hard, and it certainly stands above most of the B-movie fodder coming out of HK these days, but still, I was hoping for something a little more engaging but was left wanting. Check out Beast Cops instead...

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/22/2001
Summary: Smart and fresh take on a favourite genre

Another directorial offering from magic editor Marco Mak, this one takes the "undercover cop discovers that the Triad boss he is meant to betray isn't such a bad chap" genre and boldly forges it into new directions. A very intelligent script is presented superbly, producing an intriguing and very enjoyable movie. Eric Tsang is fantastic as the good natured Triad boss, and Suki Kwan is possibly even better as his unhappy wife. Daniel Wu's performance as the undercover cop on a mission is rather lacking in expression, but not enough to hurt the film badly... I'd say he doesn't excel, but he manages to carry the part. Visually, the movie is very well lensed and edited, without being flashy, but it's the depth given to the characters and the intelligent way the situation is explored that make the movie stand out. Marco Mak is definitely in the ranks of directors such as Johnny To, Dante Lam, Wilson Yip and Patrick Leung in his very clever and assured handling of characters and genres in an original way. Here's hoping that he manages to keep his filmography up to the high standards that those others have sometimes failed to meet.

BTW, warning to those that might care - some of the other reviews for this movie here are a little spoiler-heavy!

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 12/20/2001
Summary: Pretty good

A fresh movie at last!!
A movie that takes a few different twists than the average hk cop/robber movie.
A much better movie than i expected, and the depth of the characters was good. You get to know each character, even if the characters play small roles in the grand scheme.
Look for Lam suet in a part which i thought was hilarious!!


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: auto
Date: 07/31/2001
Summary: A New Breed of HK Triad Movie

The story line is closer to dark Hollywood ganster movie like Goodfellas, Casino than other Triad HK movies. It revolves around an undercover cop who turned bad. In this movie, Daniel Wu (who always plays good guy) is the villian. Unfortunately, he is potrayed more as a viscious crook while lacking the style and panache of say, (Hou Nam of the Y & D series). You actually feel good when he finally had it in the end. Nevertheless, a well made triad movie.

Reviewed by: reelcool
Date: 06/21/2001
Summary: Fun Movie

Not bad at all taking into consideration all the "gangster crap" movies out there now. It was entertaining without going "over the top", and had an easy story to follow. The director did a good job, making the old theme, good cop goes bad, feel new and exciting to watch. The actor, "Daniel Wu", also did a good job as the corrupt cop. Very fun movie.

Reviewed by: TKC
Date: 05/23/2001
Summary: Daniel Wu is on top form

This is a very good gangster film and moves away from the young and dangerous type. I think that the script is well worked and really like the idea of a good cop turn bad after going undercover. The film is clever and has a distinct style. Although rather lacking in the action department, what action there is link well with the story telling of Daniel Wu's demise. I am increasingly becoming an admirer of Daniel Wu's work (Hit Team, Purple storm, Genxcops) and cop on a mission is perhaps his best performance yet. The other members of the cast put in good performances too, notably Eric Tsang.
Cop on a mission is not as good as the Daniel Wu films mentioned above but is nevertheless well recommended.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: GenXcops_Jack
Date: 05/21/2001
Summary: movie is ok, good rental

i'm kind of tired of watching wu play cops, too many damn cop movies for him in too short a time span. i lilked hit team much more then this movie. i found tsang quite refreshing playing the role of mob leader. besides the work of wu and tsang, i really didnt' like the movie.

Reviewed by: xiaoka
Date: 05/10/2001
Summary: Good gangster flick...

Although the plot devices are a lot like some of Daniel Wu's earlier work: gangsters (Young and Dangerous: The Prequel), cops (Bishonen, Undercover Blues), undercover cops specifically (Undercover Blues) and divided loyalties between good and bad(Purple Storm), this movie is pretty fresh.

The direction and acting are good, particularly from Wu and Shooky Kwan. Personally I found Tsang hard to believe as a bad-ass mob lord (especially if you watch this movie in Cantonese... that voice!) but the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, at least not all the time, there's a bit of 'pulp' to it that keeps it interesting.

If you like the gangster genre, stories of forbidden romance, or the opportunity to see Daniel Wu's butt, check out this one. Worth seeing in the theater if you can.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 03/07/2001

It's a busy month for Daniel Wu, starring as a police officer in the recently released Hit Team and now as an undercover cop in Cop on a Mission. The latter displays Wu's progress both histrionically and linguistically. The American-born model-turned-actor, who spoke almost no Chinese on his arrival in Hong Kong a few years ago, manages long stretches of Cantonese dialogue credibly (albeit heavily accented), and acquits himself well in the relatively complex role of a good cop gone bad.

If nothing else, the movie displays the actor's total confidence in those calling the shots. Director Marco Mak, one of the best editors on the local scene, creates a very slick product that is astonishingly uneven, veering from the highly polished to the outrageously crude. He is aided the script, composed by a scribe with the intriguing pseudonym "Not a Woman".

At times the proceedings are downright gripping, as we witness the descent of Mike (Daniel Wu) from Mr. Nice Guy into the incarnation of evil as he doublecrosses and schemes to reach the top and scrape the bottom. Just when the viewer gets involved in Mike and his milieu, the audience is jerked out of its collective mood. It is but the first of many scenes in which Mike, his backside totally naked, showers and masturbates as he fantasizes about the buxom wife (Suki Kwan) of the kingpin (Eric Tsang) whose gang he has infiltrated. The sleazy jazz score adds to the impression of cheap soft core porn. Granted, Daniel Wu has become something of a gay icon since his 1998 debut as the sexually conflicted patrolman in Bishonen, but the numerous displays of beefcake seem amusingly out of place in Cop on a Mission.

The movie begins in an offbeat manner reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard, with Mike narrating from the grave as he is being buried alive. One thus immediately knows where the film is headed and focuses on how it gets there. Though the lusty detours give Cop on a Mission a laughably campy dimension, the journey is at times downright touching. Eric Tsang, as the impotent mobster who deeply loves his spouse, delivers another poignant performance and shows that it doesn't take six-pack abs to steal the spotlight.

2 1/2 Stars

This review is copyright (c) 2001 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No part of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reviewer Score: 5