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Colour of the Game - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hei bai mi gong

Hong Kong 2017

Thriller, Drama

Kam Ka-Wai

Simon Yam
Philip Ng
Jordan Chan
Cheung Siu Fai
Sabrina Qiu
Lam Suet
Wong Tak Bun
Lau Siu Ming
Waise Lee
Oscar Leung
Hazel Tong

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Colour of the Game

Colour of the Game - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Wallace (Simon Yam), the head of a group of mobsters, works for the triads and is assigned to kill a crime boss's son because he on the other hand killed the wife of the highest-ranking boss of the triads. Wallace gets the contract killing from Slaughter (Lam Suet), who also points out to him that there is a mole in the organization. Nevertheless, Wallace trusts his people, especially Sky (Philip Ng), who has wanted to move up the ladder for years now, but always had obstacles put in his way. For this job, Wallace seeks help from his guys. Amongst them are his long-standing friends Tyson (Jordan Chan), BBQ (Cheung Siu Fai) and his own daughter Lily (Sabrina Qiu). However, the murder attempt turns out to be a trap set for them and there is a gunfight during which a few of Wallace's people get hurt. Who betrayed them? After something goes wrong during the next assassination, too, Wallace is sure that no one of his own group is responsible for the fact that the opposing side is always one step ahead of them. They confront Slaughter and it turns out things are different from what they seemed. Within the triads things turn into a power struggle, in which the police is involved, as well, because they still have a spy within the group of gangsters...

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Colour of the Game - Film Screenshot 4

Review: "Colour of the Game" promises to be an entertaining and gritty Hong Kong flick like we know them from the 90s. In fact, Wong Jing is responsible for the script and works as a producer - he is the director of "milestones" like "My Kung Fu Sweetheart" - but this shouldn't worry you, since Wong could always prove to us with movies like "The Last Tycoon" that next to his B-movies he can also pull off proper ones. This time he leaves the direction to somebody else and this is a good decision, because the imagery imitates the heroic bloodshed genre quite nicely and implements both modern and unusual camera angles. The direction is really well done and always delivers exciting scenes. But soon the movie's biggest weakness shows. The characters are not nearly as fleshed out as it would have been necessary to make a drama like "Colour of the Game" work. Because a movie about the triads inevitably needs to be about topics like brotherhood and betrayal and for that, you need some kind of depth.

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At first, the plot seems fitting for an exciting thriller. However, you have to ask yourself whether searching for the mole is really the focus of the story. As it is completely obvious who the traitor in the group is, it seems really strange that there really is a revelation about that at the end! You can't take this serious. In addition, the relationships between the characters are always put into focus. We can see that especially in some scenes, in which the camera pans over the set in a single shot and shows us an atmospheric picture of the team spirit and how the people interact with one another. But here some questions arise. Why does Wallace drag his daughter into the gang business? At some point he even sends some of his friends home, but his daughter stays a member of the team even though she is hurt and her father doesn't seem to worry about it.

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Even if Wallace doesn't need to get a father-of-the-year trophy, it still remains rather questionable how he is portrayed. The single pieces do not really fit together and so the sloppy work with the character design becomes evident quite quickly. Simon Yam ("Mrs. K") cannot hide the script's failures either. Between Wallace and Sky, played by Philipp Ng (as Bruce Lee in the American movie "Birth of a Dragon"), there is some kind of student-mentor-relationship unfolding, as well, but this comes to nothing. The other characters have some rough edges, too, but by the end of the movie at the latest, we realize that we are not emotionally bound to them, which renders the showdown and the drama ineffective. This is a huge letdown, because director Kam Ka-Wai (assistant director of "Helios") and Wong Jing want to follow in the footsteps of famous Hong Kong movies and profound characters would have been an absolute necessity for that.

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By the time you see Lam Suet, you realize that the cast also wants to be reminiscent of Milky Way classics like "Expect the Unexpected". In one scene, Lam sits at a table with some people who want answers from him. Slaughter, Lam's character, keeps shoving food into his mouth to stall for time and the tension rises and rises. But the scene is celebrated for far too long to be successful. This is representative for the rest of the movie. The action sequences are also well done, the gunfights are old school but don't manage to be anything special. Instead, the filmmakers want to create some kind of nostalgia. All in all, solid work but you kind of miss some sort of originality. This also becomes obvious when it comes to a fistfight between Sky and one of the villains. The choreography is hard-hitting, the punching and kicking is merciless but in the end, the movie doesn't manage to present itself as a coherent whole.

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Close to the end, there are also some flashbacks, but they come far too late to emotionally captivate us. The fact that Wallace and his friends got lost in a maze-like street of their neighborhood when they were young is a far too obvious metaphor for the right path they left at some point of their lives. Surely "Colour of the Game" can entertain as a thriller, but Wong's first work of the trilogy "Colour of the Truth (the movies can be watched independently from one another and only share similar motives) was more mature. With the dark imagery, the hard action and the relentless heroes, the movie is reminiscent of 90's Hong Kong cinema, including well-implemented Canto ballads, which emphasize tragic events. But in the end, there is just disappointment. The movie is a faint image of an era of great HK cinema long gone.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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