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Original Title:
A-1 tou tiao

Hong Kong 2004


Gordon Chan
Chung Kai-Cheong

Anthony Wong
Angelica Lee
Tony Leung Ka-Fai
Eric Kot
Edison Chen
Gordon Lam
Sophie Wong
Lo Wai-Luk
Joel Chan
Miao Chung-Jun
Dante Lam
Cara Chan

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A-1 Headline

Story: Ling (Angelica Lee) works for the fashion column of a renowned newspaper. She has broken up with her boyfriend, a colleague at work, and shortly after that is informed that he died in a car accident. The same day she gets this news a few debt collectors turn up at her door. Fei (Anthony Wong) and Ma (Eric Kot) approach her at an unlucky day and so their clash ends with the police being called to the scene. Fei was a policeman himself until he was fired because of some debts he had and so the misunderstanding is soon resolved. When Fei hears of the background of the car accident that cost the boyfriend of Ling his life he speculates that this could also have been a murder. After that Ling starts some investigation and finds out that before his death her boyfriend has looked into the suicide case of a model which strangely enough the police very soon declared a solved case in front of the media. However, apparently there is more to the case than first meets the eye, even Ling's boss Tsang (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) seems to be hiding something and so Ling, along with her photographer Kevin (Edison Chen), goes on a search for more clues. When she isn't getting anywhere she also consults Fei and Ma who can bring some dangerous truths to light.

Review: "A-1 Headline" is a thriller about newspaper media, corruption, the police and love. Despite a script that at first glance looks pretty smart this mix sadly soon becomes a socially critical work that barely works out and that has too many half-baked elements in it. Especially the love story in the movie doesn't work out at all which also leads to the drama percentage of the movie going somewhere towards zero. What remains is simply an unexciting hunt for the truth which resolution at the end is even quite disappointing, even though had the twist been wrapped up nicely it could have made for a good ending. The film becomes a problematic matter because of a female protagonist who has as much life in her as a piece of wood. She may not be completely lifeless, but we still don't really get to see anything from her. "A-1 Headline" thus messes up the chance to be an interesting thriller which is something even Anthony Wong and Tong Leung Ka-Fai in their convincing roles can't change anything about.

Director Gordon Chan ("Fist of Legend", "Painted Skin") and Chung Kai-Cheong surely don't deliver top quality cinema here although the soundtrack might imply otherwise. There are a few scenes in which it is obvious that some sort of tension was supposed to be created but especially during those it isn't apparent at all and that makes it even the more frustrating for the viewer to continue following the film as after the third moment of this kind - at the latest - we are aware of the fact that tension is something that the two directors simply can't build up in "A-1 Headline". That is even made worse by an anticlimax that actually could have worked out well if it had been handled by more talented hands. The lacking drama also adds to the factor that we aren't interested in the different individuals' fates. The implemented love stories were most likely supposed to change that, but they don't succeed doing so because of lacking elaborateness.

Angelica Lee ("The Eye", "Re-cycle") has already been far more convincing as an actress in other roles. Her character remains empty and colorless which is why the other characters' love interest in her seems even the more implausible. Fei seems to be developing a certain interest in her and somehow veteran actor Anthony Wong also manages that we believe in his feelings for her but his rival, played by Edison Chen ("The Twins Effect", "Dog Bite Dog"), is even hopelessly in love with her, yet prefers to keep their friendship platonic. You can only guess that his character was supposed to bring some drama into the movie because otherwise his role would have been completely useless. He gets too much time on screen anyway, but even the function he is apparently supposed to fulfill in the movie seems forced. But that's just one of many problems. The character drawing surely fell on the wayside and that even though the movie at least should have delivered something in this respect as - as already stated - there is no thrill to be found either.

Later on the case gets more complicated for the reporter and Fei. The screenplay also deserves some words of praise for the at times good ideas and the fact that we are constantly asking ourselves whether the police itself has its finger in the pie as well and who is supposed to convict them if not the media. The resolution shows some serious weaknesses, however, leading to some of the not really thrillingly executed murder attempt scenes around Ling and her friends becoming quite questionable and all in all the ending feels way too conciliatory as if there suddenly weren't any bad guys in the world anymore. And this in a Hong Kong thriller?! Yes, this also could have worked out in a way, but it doesn't. That's unfortunate, especially since the only person in the movie who manages to bring some excitement to the table is Tony Leung Ka-Fai ("Double Vision", "Eye in the Sky"). He always has something inscrutable about him and brings a certain something into the movie. Sadly, he can't make up for the flaws of the screenplay all by himself.

For most time it's Anthony Wong again who carries the movie, naturally. Gordon Lam can also deliver a passable performance in his small supporting role. It's also the scenes between Fei and the police during which there are at least some hints at what kind of character the debt collector really was back in the day. It would have been nice if we had seen more of that but in the end everything makes a turn for a quite unspectacular direction as already said, which makes us wonder what the scriptwriters' intention was after all. The qualitywise ambigious screenplay and the lacking raise of tension therefore stand as the biggest problems which also make it impossible to recommend this movie. "A-1 Headline" is a mediocre thriller treat that just lacks the "thrill". Therefore, an otherwise decent story is butchered. Unnecessary and unfortunate.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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