Film Review: P Storm (2019) - P for Prison
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
This is the 4th.film of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) action thriller series which starring the best Hong Kong actor Louis Koo as the chief inspector William Luk of ICAC, the protagonist. And this is also a typical coproduction between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Coproduction with Mainland China is 50% of annual Hong Kong filmmaking.
Many opposition critics demonise Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) for stagnation of Hong Kong film industry (visual industry) which legally includes films, TV, videos, commercial films, music videos etc. However the stagnation has started before CEPA (2003) in 1993. It's ten years earlier than CEPA. The number of annually production of Hong Kong film has been maintained below 60 titles per year since then. 2018 was 53 titles for 55 theatres. The half of them were coproduction with Mainland China.
Moreover the biggest box office hit ($4,328,060; ranked #14) of 2018 was made by the coproduction film Project Gutenberg (2018). Thus, we cannot deny this economic advantage of the present Hong Kong filmmaking under the stagnation and CEPA. Chinese money and state subsidies are major resources for both local production and coproduction. You have to know that the situation of Hong Kong film production is still better than Taiwan and Macao in terms of quality and quantity.
READ MORE: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/intl/hongkong/yearly/?yr=2018&p=.htm
Among Z Storm (2014); S Storm (2016); L Storm (2018), P Storm (2019) is the unique one. CEPA's ''James Bond'', William Luk investigates prison inmate Cao Yuenyuen (Raymond Lam Fung) who is a land shark mafia arrested due to murder of new territories' land owner Natalie's grandfather Liao Mu-zhi (Lo Hoi Pang). The antagonist Cao Yuenyuen tries to revenge Natalie for his arrest from prison with helps of corrupt prison officers such as the prison chief Chen Guoqiang (Patrick Tam Yiu Man).
The protagonist William Luk launches the one man spy operation in the prison to collect evidences of the suspected corruption between the prison officers and the land shark mafia Cao Yuenyuen. The action line with Wong Man-bun (Lam Ka-tung) who was a corrupt policeman William Luk arrested back in Z Storm (2014) is something additional to the main conflict. Mainland prosecutors are also additional. The filmmakers spent too many time with Wong Man-bun line which slowed the pacing of the development of the main conflict. It is not obvious that how helpful Wong Man-bun is for the investigation.
What ICAC 007 lacks is that love story line with 'Bond' girl. No ICAC officers develop love tales in this film. It is different from the failed ICAC franchise Integrity (2019). However its film style is full of quick cuts like James Bond film series. William Luk is not a kung fu master like Sammo Hung. His action cannot last longer in stylistic way. Temporary and improvised actions are his appropriate action style as non kung fu master. As the result, it's pretty limited in random violence actions like Kitano Takeshi's howling yakuza films yet this film's violent action sequences are more vividly dealt by Hong Kong action choreographer. There is no major inferiority to any contemporary Asian action films.
Besides these, the screenplay is something problematic in two major plot points. It's ridiculous that the chief officer William Luk does the one man operation in prison as an inmate. This plot is approbate in feudalistic era when a loyal family member pretends to be a drifter to monitor local land lords' ruling of people in his kingdom. Such as Japanese TV drama series Mito Kōmon (1969-2011). The catharsis moment should have been when William Luk discloses his true identity but it does not work in this way. The setting is more exaggerated than feudalistic drama of this kind, thus it doesn't fit this kind of feudalistic plotting.
The other major problematic plotting is that Wong Man-bun does not inform Cao Yuenyuen true identity of his main enemy William Luk for revenge when he arrives at prison. This is impossible for being a vengeful antagonist to William Luk. These major plotting flaws decreased the attractiveness and momentum of this film however it still has the attractive sub character A Luk (Louis Cheung Kai Chung) who is a typical young citizen of the contemporary Hong Kong who thinks the bright future of young generation is to become an inmate. A Luk is a comical character and a cynic person who is a cinematic equivalent of a factory worker (Charles Chaplin) in The Modern Times (1936).
Maybe cinematic comparison with Project A (1983) is effective for explaining seriousness of P Storm (2019). The pirates hunter Sergeant Dragon Ma Yue Lung (Jackie Chan) is William Luk in this film. And Pirate Chief Lor Sam Pau (Dick Wei) is Cao Yuenyuen. Suspense atmosphere is created in the fear of true identity of protagonist being exposed by some accident or antagonist's interrogation. Both of them has this atmosphere however the P Storm (2019) is more realistic and deeper than violence expression of Project A. Such as torture of A Luk by thugs that shown to William Luk via SNS live. On the contrary, this kind of dramatic torture scene does not exist in Project A.
That emotional reaction of William Luk who keeps his smile in front of the thugs during the torturing of A Luk to cover his identity is this film's very cinematic moment. I can say that vomiting after the torturing moment is successfully performed in realistic way and very emotionally engaging audiences. Everything prepared for this emotional response which highly embodies William Luk's ethical values and humanity. It's psychologically and aesthetically cinematic experience.
I recommend this film to all Hong Kong film fans despite of some major plotting flaws mentioned above.
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to www.ryotanakanishi.com is provided.
This film article is for educational purpose only.