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Line Walker - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Shi tu xing zhe

Hong Kong/China 2016

Genre:
Crime, Thriller

Director:
Jazz Boon

Cast:
Nick Cheung
Louis Koo
Francis Ng
Charmaine Sheh
Benz Hui
Li Guangjie
Zhang Huiwen
Stefan Wong
Cheng Tai Shen
Clara Lee
Jade Leung
Fung So Bo
Cheng Tai Shen


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Line Walker

Line Walker - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Inspector Q (Francis Ng) and agent Ding (Charmaine Sheh) work for the CIB. When they are one day contacted by someone who explains that he is Blackjack, they believe to have finally found a long-lost undercover agent. After Blackjack's only police contact died and not all of his erased computer files could be recovered, the police puzzled over the identity of Blackjack. Blackjack is in fact Shiu Yeh (Louis Koo), who works for boss Ah Lam (Nick Cheung). The two have lived through quite a lot and saved each other's lives on several occasions, but for Lam there is no doubt these days that there has to be a mole in his organisation and he doesn't exclude Shiu from the list of suspects. Under these circumstances it gets very difficult for Shiu to pass information to Ding about an upcoming drug trade in Brazil where triad boss Tung Pak Ho is pulling the strings. Tung is extremely paranoid and Lam is very eager to climb the ladder in the organisation, leading to different interests clashing. Especially for the detectives the cat-and-mouse-game gets more and more dangerous...

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Review: "Line Walker" is an extremely entertaining and fast-paced adaption of the very successful TVB-show of the same name. The movie is actually so fast-paced that this almost can be counted among its weaknesses. This is because there are too many twists, characters and story threads crammed into merely 110 minutes. It shouldn't come as a surprise for such problems or similar ones to arise since the original had the luxury of a tv show scale to make its story unfold soundly. Accordingly, you also have to lower your sights concerning the characters in "Line Walker", who all may possess personality, but certainly don't display the kind of depth you would expect from this sort of drama revolving around friendship among police and gangsters and the inevitable betrayal constantly lying in the air.

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On a positive note it needs to be stressed that depiste the many facts and names dropped there are never difficulties to follow the story. Sometimes, there are also a few flashbacks thrown in to explain the relationships, which at times makes the crime thriller feel overloaded, though. Its main plot alone leaves the movie with a lot to work with. It seems as if director Jazz Boon, who was also responsible for the original series, was desperately trying to hurry through the story. There is never room for a breather. This actually should be reason for some words of praise and for most part they are in order, but this also gives the movie something rushed. You simply don't get the time to reflect about the events or the characters and not later than at the end this leads to some frustration.

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Very soon you certainly get the impression that "Line Walker" could be a new "Infernal Affairs". This is obvious with a story around a mole and the drama around the mental pressure this provokes. But soon it turns out that the movie walks its own path. The characters have potential and it's more than anything else thanks to Nick Cheung ("Unbeatable", "Keeper of Darkness") and Francis Ng ("Two Thumbs Up") as well as to some minor degree Louis Koo ("Three") that the different individuals turn out to be more fleshed out than you would expect looking at the short running time in relation to the story told. The inner struggle between police and gangsters is quite noticable.

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Twists and revelations can be seen in rapid succession and for most part the story is thought through well. Concerning its multitude of surprises you can't fight the feeling that director Jazz Boon would have fared better to expand his movie to three hours in order to give "Line Walker" the kind of epic scale it would have deserved. Yet, the flick naturally had to be streamlined for a wide audience and so the film feels too overloaded. The necessity to make the movie as successful at the box office as possible is also apparent in the implementation of action scenes. While the shootout in Brazil is impressive and bestows the sort of epic scale to "Line Walker" which it should have displayed at all times, the showdown feels extremely forced and even annoying. Some of the assassination attempts feel quite haphazard, too, and seem to be inserted just to add some more action.

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This wouldn't have been necessary, though, since the flick delivers enough suspense anyway. The dialogues between the characters offer the kind of suspense that makes you constantly ask yourself whether a certain individual is talking serious or actually knows about the other one's identity and thus is just playing his conniving game with him. Or maybe the other one even knows that his opponent knows about his identity and plays with him, in order to make use of this fact himself. In the beginning, the film may also deliver a bit of humor. Charmaine Sheh as Ding, who next to Benz Hui is the only one reprising her role from the tv show, is even quite annoying in this department, but as is the case with her acting "Line Walker" in general turns to a darker tone and thus carries our beloved tone of a gritty Hong Kong crime thriller quite well. As already said, "Line Walker" may cram too much into its story, but it without a doubt still turns out to be a well done genre entry!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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