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Original Title:
Laughing gor chi bin chit

Hong Kong 2009

Crime, Drama, Action

Herman Yau

Anthony Wong
Francis Ng
Michael Tse
Felix Wong
Chen Fala
Yuen Biao
Eric Tsang
Lai Yiu-Cheung
Chang Kin Fung

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Turning Point

Story: Laughing Gor (Michael Tse) is an undercover cop who works for the triads under Boss One (Anthony Wong). One day he gives Inspector Xian (Yuen Biao) a tip, the only man who knows about his true identity, but Xian becomes victim of a car accident during the police operation and falls into a coma. Thus, the police doesn't know about Laughing Gor's undercover investigation and arrests him along with the other triad members. However, Gor manages to escape and is on the run, now. He doesn't only have to run from the police, but also from Zatoi (Francis Ng), a boss of a triad organisation and One's rival. That is because the triads are afraid that Gor might talk to the police. Apart from One nobody knows that Gor is actually one of them, who was sent to the police in order to be a mole for them. One knows a thing or two about life as an undercover agent as he himself was one of them before he changed profession and became boss of a triad organisation. That is why he is doing all in his power to protect Gor. Still, Zatoi is determined to get his hands on Gor, among other reasons because he has a relationship with his sister Karen (Chen Fala). The rivalry between One and Zatoi is about to explode.

Review: Only true Hong Kong-fans will know that "Turning Point" is actually dealing with the background story of the enormously popular character Laughing Gor from the TVB-series "E.U." (Emergency Unit). Apart from the fact that it's already a rarity to give a TV-show character its own movie the Shaw-Brothers-Studios have finally co-produced a film here after a 7-year break. Moreover, if you look at the impressive cast of the film - Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Eric Tsang and even Yuen Biao in a cameo! - it's not unjustified to have high expectations. To make it quick and easy: "Turning Point" by no means meets these expectations and also should only be worthwhile for Laughing Gor fans to a limited extent as the actual hero of the story takes a backseat one time too many which results in him playing merely the part of a supporting role.

The story of "Turning Point" is your standard one that shouldn't surprise anyone who has already seen an undercover film. However, the filmmakers seemed to be eager to give the rivalry between One and Zatoi some sort of epic scale and to some minimum extent they are even successful when it comes to the showdown. In Laughing Gor's world we are introduced to people who could be moles in a twofold or maybe even threefold respect, which is why no one can trust anyone. One is an interesting character as he once was an undercover cop himself until he wasn't respected by his colleagues anymore since he had to adopt too much to a triad member's lifestyle in order to survive. He quit his job and became a triad boss himself. Therefore he portrays a tragical character in certain respects, who is sick of lying to everyone around him, having no real friends and not being able to trust anyone. Still, it remains questionable why One thinks that this might have changed with his new profession.

Anthony Wong convinces as the glam rock-like triad boss who walks across the screen, along with eyeliner, lip stick and a hair style which you would only expect of a rock idol, with dreamlike self-confidence. Francis Ng also bestows the required charisma on his character, which is why the two of them once again prove to have an incredible screen presence, overshadowing every other portrayal in the film. Unfortunately, it also makes Laughing Gor look rather thin, which is not a wise choice by the script writers, considering that he is supposed to be the actual hero of the story. Gor often becomes nothing more than a side note, a fact which doesn't really catch our eye, though, because of the movie's overall lack of focus. His role remains shallow all the time and Michael Tse never manages to create a fleshed out individual with the material he is provided with. Since I haven't seen the TV-series "E.U." I can only draw some conclusions from the film's ending which is a small outlook on Gor's actual life as a triad member. Here, he oozes some of the charisma that he lacked all the rest of the movie.

Apart from the fact that it's always fun to watch Anthony Wong and Francis Ng together on screen, there is some pretty tense enmity unfolding between them, which, however, only really takes effect at the end. Still, it's rather strange that the two characters do a 180 concerning their actions, so that the viewer can't truely understand their behavior. At least when it comes to Anthony Wong's character. Zatoi gets some human facets thanks to his sister which Ng can deliver in a well-versed manner and very convincingly as always. Still, you somehow get the feeling that the script could have done more concerning this subject.
The movie gets unnecessarily muddled because of numerous flashbacks which are even taking place on two levels. One kind of them are easy to spot thanks to bright black-and-white pictures, others are more cofusing, though, as only some sort of graininess of the pictures hints at the fact that we are not part of the present anymore. Instead of raising the movie's tension with this stylistic device the cinematic flow is disrupted.

The confusing way the plot is presented leads to the matter that you never really feel captivated by the film. Instead, there is even frustration roused as you soon get aware of the fact that such confusing storytelling only wants to cover the fact that the script doesn't really amount to much. Actually, you will find a solidly crafted triad movie under the artificially bumptious surface, the kind of you will find a lot of better ones, though, among others "On the Edge", also from director Herman Yau. In "Turning Point" you might in fact some of Yau's expertise, there are also some nice chasing scenes, but all of this can't excuse the incredibly unstructured and confusing presentation. Francis Ng and Anthony Wong may serve as some sort of consolation and the ending also regains some ground, but this still isn't enough to make "Turning Point" deserve a recommendation. Sadly, Laughing Gor fans also won't get their money's worth as their favourite character becomes nothing more than a supporting character most of the time. With this being said the film proves to be a vain attempt to squeeze some more money out of the "E.U." franchise and at the same time trying to deliver a movie of high quality.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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