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Original Title:
Shuang Xiong

Hong Kong 2003

Action, Crime, Thriller

Benny Chan

Ekin Cheng
Leon Lai
Karena Lam
Francis Ng
Xu Jinglei
Raymond Wong
Anson Leung
Samuel Pang
Courtney Wu

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Heroic Duo

Story: Officer Ken (Ekin Cheng), a tough and strict cop feared by his subordinates, is confronted with a case that doesn't seem to make any sense. A cop has committed a crime that he doesn't remember of and soon after, he kills himself. Ken assumes that someone hypnotized the cop. Therefore, he visits the prisoner Lai (Leon Lai), who some time ago worked for the police force, supporting them with his exceptual hypnosis skills until one day, under mysterious circumstances, he shot a man at his house. Lai is willing to help Ken under the condition, that he is allowed to work together with the police at the crime scenes.
When Ken, aided by Lai, is at the supposedly next crime scene of the "hypnosis gangster", at an auction that is held mainly to sell two valueable diamonds, suddenly everything goes wrong. Ken is hypnotized, steals the diamonds and Lai gets away with them. Now, Ken is on the run, being hunted by his own collegues, while at the same time trying to unravel the mystery of Lai's actions. Lai, for some unknown reason, left Ken an encrypted message before the theft. Is the real culprit Hoi (Francis Ng) and does he use Lai's family to exert pressure on him?

Review: "Heroic Duo" is a well-arranged, action-packed, entertaining film featuring some nice twists and good actors. However, "Heroic Duo" fails to play in the same absolute top-league as "Infernal Affairs", which is mainly because the movie every now and then suddenly doesn't hit the right notes anymore, shows some logical missteps or plot holes, and worst becomes even somewhat ridiculous at the end.

What's really jumping in your face is the unusually sharp and saturated picture, at least unusual for a Hong Kong movie. At first it seems a bit atypical, but with time it will be the very good cinematography that can actually make an impression on you. There are lots of panorama shots and pictures that look somewhat distortet as if looking through a spyhole. This is all implemented in a very unobtrusive way and done so with a very keen eye for details. The camera movement and the fast cuts bestow upon the movie a very dynamic style, so that it never gets boring. This is rounded out by nice action scenes and a fitting soundtrack which all add to the atmosphere pretty well.

The story of the film is a two-edged sword, however. Actually, the plot is pretty good, there is enough room for a whole bunch of twists and aha-moments, which always keeps the viewer interested. If only there weren't that many plot holes. Often enough certain things remain in the dark and are left for the audience's power of deduction to uncover. It always remains a mystery how exactly Ken draws the conclusion he does for the movie to move forward. It's also at least surprising that Brenda only gets scolded for helping the wanted criminal Ken, instead of being suspended right away.
Nonetheless, the plot isn't that bad at all and always has a surprise up its sleeve. Since there is almost no time to take a breath, mainly because one event hits the screen after the next without any real break, the mentioned plot holes aren't really that disturbing while watching. Only when the ending credits roll over the screen you get aware that there were many things that just didn't fit.

"Heroic Duo" has some big names on its cast list and therefore is pretty convincing acting-wise. Ekin Cheng only does a solid job as we are used to. He still lacks that certain something. Sharp tongues might say that his acting is just too somnambulistic or emotionless. Yet, his character of tough policeman Ken remains somewhat compelling. The real star of the film, however, is Leon Lai, who as the inconspicuous, yet indefinable charm-radiating partner of Ken gives a passionate portrayel as the actually good guy who is forced to do certain crimes. His mind games are always a pleasure to watch unfold, and he also can't deny to have a certain coolness factor to him, e.g. when he oftentimes flees police custody just for fun, only to be already at the next crime scene where he can be of help.

Also a little hightlight is Francis Ng's portrayel of the villian Hoi. Ok, his character is actually a little bit of a stereotype one, but seldomly you learn to hate a villian more than here. Karena Lam, too, has some special moments on screen with her background love story with Ken, but sadly she gets only a raw deal. Apart from that, Raymond Wong has a little supporting role as the superior-bootlicking policeman and Xu Jinglei does a fine job as Lai's wife.

It's really a shame, that after two thirds of the movie the story gets lost in unbelievable overdone dramatic moments. The best scenes are those in which Lai is together with his wife. Here, there are real emotions that almost can make the sensitve ones among the viewers shed a tear or two. At the end, however, you'll only be groaning in sadness at best. The emotional cinema is layed on just too thick. Especially the showdown between Lai and Hoi, which are of course battling it out in a hypnosis duel, is way to predictable. Not to mention the unintended humour that makes its way on screen when the protagonists are shot by several bullets and still joyfully jump around to fight each other.

Despite all the criticism, "Heroic Duo" is a very entertaining action thriller with a clever story and a good cast. If one would have avoided some of the mistakes and the ending in general then this film would have had what it takes to make it to the top of the genre.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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