Protégé 门徒

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Director: Derek Yee

Cast: Andy Lau, Daniel Wu, Louis Koo, Anita Yuen, Zhang Jingchu
RunTime: 115 mins
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Rating: NC16 (Drug-related content)

Boosting some of Hong Kong’s film industry biggest with producer Peter Chan (Perhaps Love) and director Derek Yee (C’est La Vie and One Night in Mongkok), Protégé looks set to become this Hong Kong biggest film this Chinese New Year.

The Protégé here is Nick (Daniel Wu), trained to take over Jong’s (Andy Lau) heroin trafficking business, but is in fact a police officer. His inner conflict is between the loyalty towards his 'teacher', and duty towards his job and justice. Things get more complicated when he falls in love with a heroin-addict (Zhang Jingchu), forced to detriment by her husband (Louis Koo).

The story of an undercover police would remind many of Infernal Affairs, especially when both stars Andy Lau. The difference lies in its subtlety. While there are still police chase scenes and fights, the focus of the film is on the character development more than its actions.

Daniel has proven his acting abilities in One Night In Mongkok. Though he is playing the lead role in Protégé, his character lacks of a very distinct quality to showcase his acting skills. This is so for Andy Lau’s 'baddie' role as well, and you can’t put across strongly how you should feel for him. Anita Yuen has very little screen time, perhaps due to the fact she was six months pregnant, and there could be more chemistry between her and Andy Lau.

The scene stealer is the refreshing China actress Zhang Jingchu who breathes an air of vulnerability and frenzy as a woman forced by circumstances. We should expect more from her as she moves on to a Hollywood in Rush Hour 3. Louis Kook, in stained teeth and tattered clothes, changes his image successfully playing her abusive husband.

Starting off slowly, the movie picks up after moving to the Golden Triangle, where audience are treated to the eye-opening sight of heroin plantations and produce.

Protégé may not be adrenalin pumping or mass audience entertainment, as director Derek Yee probably wanted to weave in a social message in a subtle and restrained manner. The last scene was enough for me to understand the story, though you wished he had pushed the movie forward a little more.

Protégé – Big ambition, big names, but can be bigger on characterisation

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