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Original Title:
Qie ting feng yun

Hong Kong 2009

Crime, Thriller

Alan Mak
Felix Chong

Lau Ching-Wan
Louis Koo
Daniel Wu
Alex Fong
Zhang Jingchu
Michael Wong
Lam Ka-Wah
Waise Lee
Sharon Luk
William Chan
Stephen Au

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Story: Johnny (Lau Ching-Wan), Gene (Louis Koo) and Max (Daniel Wu) work for the CCB-unit (Commercial Crime Bureau) of the police. They suspect E&T enterprise to be involved in stock fixing and general fraud. Therefore, the unit is sitting day and night in front of their monitors with their headphones on in order to finally get some proof against the company with the help of hidden cameras and listening devices. One day, one of the clerks actually gives them something to work with, even enough to drag the company to court. However, with the new information Gene could also make some fast money as he needs to leave some money behind for his family and most of all his sick son since he himself is going to die of kidney cancer within the next year. He asks Max for help, the two erase the recording of the conversation and they buy some stocks of E&T company. Yet, Johnny gets behind it and confronts the two. Still, as the share has already been bought and because of Gene's dramatic situation, he lets himself get talked into collaborating. But the matter becomes increasingly serious and Johnny can't even ask his friend Kelvin (Alex Fong Chung-Sun) for help as Johnny is having an affair with his wife Mandy (Zhang Jingchu). The three get into more and more trouble as not only their superiors are at their heels, but the boss of E&T Mr. Ma (Michael Wong) is also sending his men after the police officers since they ruined a profitable deal for him.

Review: It's sometimes interesting to read what some critics write. Oftentimes you can get a completely wrong impression of a movie. That's why "Overheard" wasn't on the top of my list of must-sees this year, even though it was made by the guys who delivered "Infernal Affairs", Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Granted, the two have destroyed any goodwill that you might have had waiting for their movies, to be exactly since their films "Initial D" or most importantly their disappointing "Confession of Pain". "Overheard" seems to be just one more disappointment and this although the cast reads like Hong Kong's who-is-who. But... think again! Finally, Mak and Chong prove that they haven't lost their mojo and that they can still deliver qualitatively great and also captivating cinema. The movie doesn't bear comparison with the "Infernal Affairs"-trilogy, but nobody really expected it to manage that anyway. "Overheard" has without a doubt some flaws, yet delivers a nice story and more than anything else cinema that doesn't only look like quality entertainment, but for most part is exactly that.

Still, at first it didn't really look well for the movie as the two directors had to shot a movie that would pass Chinese censors as well. As the censors' new parole is "crime doesn't pay" Mak and Chong were quite constrained concerning their artistic freedom. Yet, they managed to instill enough twists and thrilling moments into their film so that we don't only wait for a seemingly unavoidable resolving of the story. Yes, maybe they even to put one over on the censors here, in any case they have adopted very well to their new situation.
Furthermore, "Overheard" finally succeeds again to tell a coherent story that is conclusive and offers characters that make it easy for us to root for them. Also thumbs up for the cast that Mak and Chong managed to assemble.

Louis Koo ("Rob-B-Hood", "Flash Point", "Accident") can be seen in any other Hong Kong movie nowadays and you can see that he is constantly making progress. This doesn't mean that he delivers a brilliant performance here, but his nervous, hectic behavior fits well to his character. Daniel Wu's ("New Police Story", "Protégé") acting as the quiet, young policeman who has married the daughter of a rich family is more reserved and loses color when compared to the others. Lau Ching-Wan is no man that needs an introduction anymore. He embodies uprightness and honesty which the viewer needs in order to be able to sympathize with the trio. As always Lau manages to bestow the most depth among the characters in the film, yet you also have to thank the two directors resp. script-writers for this as the film uses a good amount of its time to deal with the human relationships. Every one of the three guys has a family and his own personal share of problems which makes the drama level of the movie rise up even more also making it easy for us to develop sympathy for the three.

The supporting cast is also good which gives the main characters' background stories more plasticity. However, there is one exception and that is Michael Wong as the villian. Granted, Wong didn't have a good start to begin with as the actual villian is thrown into the story a little bit too late and also seems to be standing somewhere aside the actual storyline. Still, Wong's acting isn't even near the level of Koo's or Wu's. And I certainly don't want to compare it with Lau Ching-Wan's. The numerous english lines he has during the movie only strengthen the impression of a villian out of a B-movie. That simply doesn't work with the rest and stands as the film's biggest flaw.
Anyway, Mak and Chong manage to give certain scenes that special tension again. The subject of the movie, wiretapping and observing, is always focus of the story and with the topic of stock fraud the directors certainly have their finger on the pulse of time, considering times of economic crisis and corrupt bankers.

Unfortunately, the movie lacks that final touch to be really remarkable or memorable. Oftentimes we get bombarded with too many names and information at the same time and maybe it wouldn't have been wrong if the directors had reserved a little bit more time for the ending. Still, the tension rises constantly especially during the second half, only the showdown feels like an epilogue whereas the pacing drops rapidly.
Nice camera movements, most of all in the obligative rooftop scenes by Mak/Chong, a good action-loaden soundtrack by Kwong Wing Chan and the cinematography by Anthony Pun ("Connected", "New Police Story") leave the audience, especially thanks to the polished look, with a fantastic cinema experience. Sadly, there are once again some camera angles and movements that are too obviously aiming at putting style and coolness to the foreground. That sometimes spoils the overall film, yet by no means ruins the positive overall impression.
Because of the named flaws the movie misses a better rating only by inches. "Overheard" is still an exceptionally captivating thriller that proves that we can hopefully still expect one or two gems by directing duo Mak and Chong.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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