Color of the Truth
Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei
Chinese Title: Hak bak sam lam
Director: Wong Jing
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Wong Ho-Yin, Jordan Chan, Lau Ching Wan, Francis Ng, Gillian Chung
Genre: Action Police Drama
Country: Hong Kong
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 104 min
Rating: *** (out of four stars)
Color of the Truth, the latest police drama-thriller to come from Hong Kong, is directed by Wong Jing. Now, before sirens start going off in your head, rest assured that Color of the Truth is much, much better than the Wong Jing-produced Naked Weapon that was unleashed on audiences last year. Obviously inspired by the success of Infernal Affairs, Colour of the Truth is pretty much the same story told a different way - with a slightly different cast, and a more irreverent tone than the somber Infernal Affairs. And whilst Colour of the Truth does not reinvigorate the genre in any way, and is riddled with gaping plot holes, it is solidly entertaining, which is more than can be said for many HK productions in recent memory.
The film begins with a short prologue set in 1993. Huang Jiang (Anthony Wong), a dedicated policeman, guns down two men on a rooftop - one his friend and colleague 7-Up (Lau Ching Wan), the other a triad boss Blind Chiu (Francis Ng). The relationship between the three men is not so simple, however 7-Up is also a good friend of Blind Chiu, and word on the street is that Huang Jiang killed 7-Up in cold blood in order to advance his own career. Unsurprisingly, Huang Jiang becomes the enemy of both families, and little Cola is bent on taking revenge for his father.
Flash forward nine years to 2002, and Cola has grown up to be a fine young man (played by Raymond Wong) who chooses to enter the police force. Initially in the Narcotics bureau, his performance in the force impresses Huang Jiang, now head of the Regional Crimes Department, and Huang Jiang decides to take Cola under his wing. All is not well, however, and when Blind Chiu's son Dawei (Jordan Chan) resurfaces in Cola's life, and makes plain his desire to kill Huang Jiang, Cola is thrown into a moral dilemma. At the same time, the Regional Crimes Department has to investigate the case of a drug deal gone wrong, with the spurned Vietnamese trader Cyclops (Terence Yin) after the life of the drug dealer Huang Kun (Patrick Tse) who has usurped the drugs for himself. However, things are not what they seem, and an intricate web of deception lies beneath the surface.
To go further into the plot will make things spoiler-ly, so suffice to say that red herrings and plot contrivances abound. Just when you think you've figured out the mechanics behind some of the relationships in the film, another twist comes around, and then another, and another. However, the denouement of Color of the Truth is very predictable given the number of twists and turns beforehand - as long as you pay attention to several of the more important plot developments, it would be impossible to not figure out what happens. To Wong Jing's credit (doubling as the writer for the movie as well), he manages to work in elements of humor that were not found in Infernal Affairs, and the end result is a film that could possibly be accessible to a wider audience than Infernal Affairs. Most of the comic lines are channeled through one clown-like character; there is a drawback to this method, however, as the clown thus never really fits into the rest of the film, and sticks out like a sore thumb, which is never really a good thing.
The rest of the film fares pretty well too. Co-director Marco Mark has worked as a film editor prior to this directorial attempt, and also serves as editor on Color of the Truth, and as a result the editing is taut and seamless. Camerawork is also more innovative than most Hong Kong films, as the directors resort to unconventional camera angles and occasional camera tricks to enhance the atmosphere of the film. The young actors, especially Raymond Wong, perform relatively well, but the veterans are the true stars of the movie - Anthony Wong, as usual, steals every scene he is in, Jordan Chan brings an understated menace to his role, while Patrick Tse hams it up as one of the villains.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency for Color of the Truth to go over the top. The soundtrack features tribal music that sporadically overwhelms, the dialogue veers into cheesiness frequently (check out the final line of dialogue especially), and even the humour becomes too strained at times. It is also a pity that the characters are rather one dimensional, with each of them being absolutely good or bad. If these aspects were improved upon, Color of the Truth would have been an excellent film, but as it is, the movie already ranks highly when compared to other Hong Kong films.
Final Word: A perfectly acceptable Hong Kong thriller, laced with trademark Wong Jing humour, and more enjoyable than I had expected it to be.