P Storm

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 04/06/19 14:05:28

"Basic but enjoyable cop-and-corruption action."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Just as some television shows don't hit their stride until their second season, film series may take a while to properly settle in, and that's what seems to have happened here - the lackluster "Z Storm" had a decent follow-up, but things clicked into place for the third entry in the series last year ago, with "P Storm" roughly on that level. It's a solidly entertaining bit of cops-and-corruption action that may not be terribly ambitious but runs like a well-oiled machine, giving the audience what it wants with a little bit of style.

This time, Independent Commission Against Corruption chief investigator William Luk Chi-Lim (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) is inserting himself into a case directly, drawing a three-month sentence in Chek O Prison for street racing so that he can discover how Cao Yuen Yuen (Raymond Yam Fung), a sleazy "2G" developer whose men killed a retired school principal, is sending threats to the victim's granddaughter Natalie Lin (Chrissie Chau Su-Na) and somehow eligible for early parole. Luk soon finds a potential friend in repeat minor offender "Fluke" Wong Lam-Luk (Louis Cheung Kai-Chung), but also discovers that Wong Man-Bun (Gordon Lam Ka-Tung), the crooked cop he put away three movies ago.

The Z Storm movies are entertaining enough, although they're not exactly the sort of thrillers that make people fall in love with Hong Kong cinema. They're sleek, have a few too many characters, and the action is often the sort where folks like Louis Koo hit their marks marks but aren't whipping out amazing combos in the same take like the great screen fighters the region is known for. They could be made anywhere, but are a bit more entertaining than the ones made most other places, and P Storm is no exception - it opens with a slick bit of automobile work, dresses everybody at ICAC in matching suits, and spends much of its time in a prison that is surprisingly tidy for being both a prison and located in Hong Kong. There's plenty of action, but it's a bit second-tier - Tony Ling Chi-Wah's choreography is fine but director David Lam Tak-Luk and his team seldom use it to tell a story or communicate emotion the way the best martial-arts movies do; while the big action finale involving a helicopter, a hostage, and a flight plan that gets a little too close to the Ngong Ping "Big Buddha" for comfort is paced and executed well but shows a bit of strain on the budget, and involves a secondary hero. It's kind of an odd decision to have the star of an action movie sit out the climax.

The series has nevertheless improved steadily over the past five years, and part of the reason is that Lam and his writers have pared the plot down to almost nothing - there's almost no actual mystery, convoluted conspiracy, or twist on which officials are obviously corrupt here. It's a small but fast-paced crime story where the focus is less on solving a mystery than methodically following a trail. It does keep things focused, with Louis Koo's Luk taking an active role compared to the first couple entries, and the filmmakers just race through the by-the-numbers story without wasting any time. They give the audience what it wants but are excited to do so, and it makes for a comfortably exciting experience. There's not much in the way of surprise, but the execution is confident and solid.

It's also enjoyably bombastic, with crashing music when the action gets going and a knowingly excessive finale. Raymond Yam's villain goes from sneering rich kid to vicious psychopath just when he needs to, while Liu Cai Chi is enjoyably oily as Cao's lawyer and fixer. On the other side, Louis Koo spends a lot of time hitting a specific sort of confidence as Luk, the sort that keeps the more procedural bits from becoming mechanical and can easily walk a line between real and put-on smugness as he goes undercover, as well as the sort of panic that comes out when he fears he's over-extended himself. A lot of folks in the cast could probably do more - Chrissie Chau, for instance, barely has a part as Natalie - but there's not a weak link among them or anyone phoning it in.

"P Storm" is the sort of action movie that doesn't necessarily excel in any particular area, but nevertheless puts a silly smile on my face by doing consistently good and skipping the boring stuff. It took a while for David Lam to shake the cobwebs off when he returned to directing after 15 years with "Z Storm", but with this third sequel just five years later, this series has hit a nice groove.

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