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Original Title:
Kei tung bou deui: Yan sing

Hong Kong 2008

Crime, Drama

Andy Ng

Lam Suet
Gordon Lam
Simon Yam
Maggie Siu
Berg Ng
Philip Ng
Kam Loi Kwan
Chin Ka Shing
Frank Liu
Au Hin Wai

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Tactical Unit: Human Nature

Story: Tong (Lam Suet) is deep in debt and has borrowed a big amount of money from loan shark Hong (Gordon Lam). Hong turns up on every occasion and tries to collect at least his interest from Tong, and even though Tong is actually a policeman he has to bear with being bullied by the loan shark as there is the rule in Hong Kong that you are put on a black list and might lose your job when you are in debt as a policeman.
At the same time the police is occupied by a case which involves a group of thieves that surprised two other gangs during a drug transfer and took them out. At the crime scene there is still lying around some money of the hand over, which Tong steals out of desperation. Of course, this leads to an internal investigation of the police force. PTU-members May (Maggie Siu) and Sam (Simon Yam) suspect Tong to be the culprit, but Sam tries to help his friend privately and get him on the right track again. In the meantime Tong, by accident, runs into the very group of thieves the police is looking for. They don't know of Tong's profession and even offer him a job as a driver during their next lucrative coup. Tong has to make one of the most difficult decisions of his life...

Review: The third part of the Johnnie To-produced film-series revolving around Hong Kong's Police Tactical Unit (short: PTU) works more on a character level again. This time, luckily, more with the actual police members and not with third party members as it was the case in "Tactical Unit: No Way Out". It's even more nice to see Milkyway-face Lam Suet, eternal supporting actor in Hong Kong movies, finally getting the chance to stand in the spotlight as he almost depicts someone like the main character of the movie. To a certain degree he already was allowed to play a major role in the original "PTU", which this spin-off series is based on, but this time he gets even more into the focus and that's actually to the film's benefit. The reason for that is, that there aren't many actors who can portray a morally ambivalent, yet charismatic character, who seems to be taken out of real life, like Lam Suet does.

However, at first "Tactical Unit: Human Nature" doesn't look all too promising. This is because of the TV-like and introduction-lacking presentation and the initial scene between Gordon Lam and Lam Suet, which presents us with the more or less annoying loan shark Hong, accompanied by fitting and therefore unnerving music. Soon after that the movie dives deeper into the characters or into Tong for that matter, a man with a gambling problem which leads him to more and more debt. Because of that even his wife abandons and leaves him. Thus, he is heading for a serious crisis, which is why we aren't surprised to see him consider that it might be a good idea to get some of the money from the crime scene for himself, because this way he might get rid of Hong at least for a while as he proves to be a real pain in the neck. Tong knows that he is doing the wrong thing, but somehow he isn't able to free himself from this predicament otherwise, which actually makes the viewer sympathize with him.

Tong's struggle for retaking his self-respect is a tiresome and hard one, but luckily he has some friends like Sam who want to help him. The policemen in "Tactical Unit: Human Nature" walk a thin red line between fulfillment of duty and being human, whereas latter sometimes stands in contrast to the first. However, Tong eventually realizes, thanks to his friend, that he always wanted to be a police officer in his life and that this isn't something he is willing to give up. If he finds his way back on the right path or not is a question which answer the viewer is looking forward to in eager anticipation, because Lam Suet just has this special kind of charisma, which will win us over in no time, especially since he isn't a police officer with a clean slate, sometimes proves to be pretty naive, yet has his heart in the right place. There is also a certain cowardliness about Tong and therefore his struggle is something that will demand of him to surpass himself. If he has the power to do so remains questionable at any time, though.

Technically you can see that the producers hadn't much money at hand. Nonetheless, the third installment of the "Tactical Unit"-series is more actionloaden than the previous ones. There are still no great action sequences to be found, but there are at least some nice shoot-outs, during which, interestingly enough, the blood is spraying around in clouds of dust (or blood for that matter) as we have seen it in Johnnie To's "Exiled", already, and some good-looking car chasing scenes.
Director Andy Ng doesn't create anything outstanding, but still something solid that possesses undeniable entertainment value, which make the 90 minutes pass by in no time. This becomes even more apparent after the dragging introduction. As already stated Lam Suet delivers an authentic portrayal, the rest of the cast doesn't get a lot to do, however. Gordon Lam ("Election", "Triangle", "Exiled") is a little bit too comic-book-like in his role and therefore is responsible for a few eye-rollers.

Story-wise "Tactical Unit: Human Nature" is solid, the focus lies on the pitiable loser Tong, as already said, and that's a good thing, because Lam elevates the film above average stuff. You shouldn't let yourself get bothered by the plot and the numerous chance encounters, e.g. the fact that Tong takes a room right next to the gang of thieves from the mainland or the fact that Tong runs into the loan shark at every corner, which is something Hong himself makes fun of. That's called karma and it's as obligatory in a Hong Kong movie - let alone a Johnnie To production - as megalomaniacal explosions in a Michael Bay flick are. Therefore, if you don't have a problem with that, then this movie can be recommended as some nice and at times thrilling evening filler, especially when seen in the light of being solely produced for television. Considering that you will get your money's worth.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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