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Leakers, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Doesn't get the whole story."
2 stars

"The Leakers" is the sort of movie that it can sometimes be difficult to actually call out as bad. It manages to tell its story, after all - the cast does their jobs; you know who did what by the end, and why; and the machinations aren't that much more ridiculous than the standard conspiracy thriller. Maybe that's part of the problem; the skeleton is so familiar that even the twists are expected, and how great can a thriller that never does anything unexpected be?

It starts promisingly, with a scene of truckloads of mosquitoes being released in the Malaysian countryside by men in biohazard suits, followed by people falling over sick in the middle of the city. It's the VR-23 strain of the ZIKV virus, and two reporters who became friends in university - Danny Song (Sam Lee Chan-sam) of the local New China News bureau and Carly Yeun (Charmaine Sheh See-man) on the Hong Kong Daily - are investigating. A new antiviral drug - "MD5" from Amanah Pharmaceuticals - shows promise, but that company's founder Teo Jit-sin (Kent Cheng Jak-si) is in the middle of a nightmare - the board puts a stop to his plans to donate the drugs needed, his first son and heir apparent is one of two suicides being investigated by detective Lee Wang Ken (Julian Cheung Chi-lam), and second son Chun Yan (Wilfred Yau Ho-lung) has disappeared in Hong Kong, possibly in collection with outlaw group "The Leakers". Wang Ken follows his trail - and that of Chun Yann's sister-in-law Phang Zhen Mei (Chrissie Chau Sau-na) to Hong Kong, where he teams with local detective Wong Dai Wai (Francis Ng Chun-yu).

That sounds potentially exciting, but it's not - it feels like writers Erica Li & Eric Lee and director Herman Yau often seem to have made key scenes from a decent thriller but can't put it together. Take that opening scene - it's genuinely sinister, a fine lead-in to some enjoyably hammy seizing up and flopping around, but kind of wasted, because this being a nefarious plot is never on the characters' radar until the end, so this stuff in shadows with faceless operatives who are separate from the people with lines. On top of that, a lot of the story is delivered via TV screens and news programs, and none of it seems necessary - it's either repeating what we already know, explaining something obvious, or material that would be much more interesting coming from the people involved - making the movie feel padded and the characters feel passive, like the most important activity happened off-screen.

Mostly, though, it's boring, giving a talented cast little to do. Characters fill the exact amount of space the plot needs, even if it means they're introduced late or sidelined for half the movie, and it makes their actions also feel like just what's necessary, not something they must do for themselves. Charmaine Sheh, for example, makes a good first impression as Carly even as she's given little to do early on, and is convincingly passionate later on, but barely gets the moment where her characters' skills and passion really gets play. First-billed Francis Ng doesn't show up until relatively late and though he's nicely frazzled, he and Julian Cheung never find quite the right buddy-movie chemistry. Chrissie Chau is in and out much too quickly, and only Kent Cheng really gets a meaty character - Teo Jit-sin's purpose in this movie is clear, but Cheng is good enough to make a viewer doubt things will go the obvious route.

There is some action, and it's not bad - prolific director Herman Yau calls on a pretty good car-chase guy in Thomson Ng Hoi-tong, so that when the action goes in that direction, it's exciting and often creative - a bit toward the end where one of three cars involved stalls and must be pushed or stopped by another could pay a little more attention to the terrain, but it's far enough from the standard that one wishes it were part of a movie with a little more budget and which was good enough to show it off. The fights remind one that even a bad Hong Kong movie probably does this better than anyone else, and Yau is able to call on Jack Wong Wai-leung, who handled some of the action on Wu Jing's Wolf Warrior 2. Things are fast but clear, with long takes and impacts that look like they hurt, enough to raise an eyebrow when things don't cut

It's raw competence that you can't help but wish was in the service of a much better thriller. There's no part of this one that's actually bad, but also not nearly enough that's genuinely good. A few good scenes help disguise that this movie seems to have been shot from a script that never got past the outline stage, but there is just too much missing.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32314&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/01/18 15:06:56
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USA
  29-Jun-2018

UK
  N/A

Australia
  21-Jun-2018 (MA)


Directed by
  Herman Yau

Written by
  Erica Li
  Eric Lee

Cast
  Francis Ng
  Julian Cheung
  Charmaine Sheh
  Chrissie Chau
  Kent Cheng
  Wilfred Lau



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