What are the defining traits of a Hong Kong action cop film? There is no objective answer, but certain timeless and recognisable elements include a protagonist with a strong sense of justice, a complex, inscrutable case to crack, exciting action set pieces, and dangerous stunts.
But that doesn’t mean having the right combination always works.
G Storm, the fifth and final title in David Lam’s Hong Kong action-thriller Storm movie series, is also of the Hong Kong action cop film persuasion and this makes it both a blessing and a curse. Like the other films in the franchise, it centers around the fictional exploits of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and we see franchise veterans reprising their roles, from Louis Koo’s protagonist, investigator William Luk, Julian Cheung as chief inspector of the VIP Protection Unit Lau Po-keung, Kevin Cheng as investigator Kenny Ching, and Louis Cheung as William Luk’s friend Wong Luk-lam.
The premise of having to fight against corrupt officials who are able to exercise political influence and power to crush the ICAC is highly intriguing, and lends itself to a David and Goliath situation where audiences cheer the underdog heroes fighting against the system on. It is a chance to move away from relying too heavily on the tried-and-true good cops versus bad criminals gun fights which, while always an exciting watch, are a bit hackneyed at this point.
However, G Storm decides against that drama-heavy intrigue by starting off with a terrorist bomb threat. In fact, there are four bombs used in the film. While the complex case surrounding an international human trafficking ring involves the bribery of some local officials and uncovering corruption, that aspect isn’t given enough weight, quickly fading into the background as the ICAC takes on a criminal mastermind, Siu Cheuk-ngah (Michael Tse) and leader of the trafficking ring, King (Rosyam Nor).
One can’t help but feel like the ICAC’s opponents this time are out of their purview. Not only that, the ICAC doesn’t seem to have any struggles against bureaucracy, instead, they seem able to just storm into the scene, guns blazing, ready to take out any baddies. Granted, in the film, the ICAC is more reactive rather than proactive, which does give them a convenient excuse to go trigger-happy. Of course, as a popcorn flick, perhaps it is best not to overthink the plot details, since a watertight plot and deep character study aren’t the point.
Instead, it should be about the action set pieces, the stunts, the adrenaline-pumping choreography. In this aspect, G Storm is, well, okay. The explosions and blood are mostly done using CGI, and one can’t help but miss the days of practical effects that make every bullet and every punch feel visceral. Also, the action scenes in G Storm have a lot of cuts, which does move away from the conventions of Hong Kong action films, choosing to evoke a sense of chaos through editing rather than intricate choreography.
Stunt-wise, the only memorable one happens when investigator Ching and his brother, Ching Fei-hung (Bosco Wong) did a two-part jump off the side of an overhead bridge. This is the most overtly dangerous stunt, and the film knows it, going into slow-mo at that moment.
It really is a film that sticks to the template of Hong Kong action cop films, but doesn’t really replicate what makes those films endlessly rewatchable. G Storm feels too ‘clean’. The heroes are never pushed to the point of desperation and forced to claw their way towards redemption, and emotional beats come and go like the wind.
For instance, Ching Fei-hung is a corrupt official who accepted a bribe in exchange for facilitating the human trafficking. Investigator Ching, being his brother, should be forced into a morally strenuous situation where he doesn’t quite know what is the right thing to do. Yet, instead of showing the audience his struggle, investigator Ching casually and simply decides to help cover for his brother, and upon being exposed, was given a slap on the wrist, with his superior, Investigator Luk, promising him that he will make sure investigator Ching’s brother gets off lightly.
There’s also the death of investigator Luk’s friend, Wong, who sacrificed himself and died to a bomb. Luk is seen grieving over the death of his friend for one scene, and then the impact of his death is never revisited or shown again. In both instances, it’s as if the movie glosses over these because they know they need to have it, but don’t care enough to invest in it any more than necessary.
Everything feels low-stake, as if G Storm is afraid of evoking raw, authentic emotions from the audience.
As the final film of the franchise, G Storm is in an unenviable position of having to give the protagonist, investigator William Luk (played by Louis Koo), a hero’s send-off. After all, having to tie up all loose ends and subplots without another sequel to pick up the slack is tough and the film marches on fearlessly, introducing subplot after subplot, many of which are resolved with just the lightest of touch. For example, the above-mentioned death of Wong, and the one-sided feelings of Tammy Tam (Anika Sheng) are done in such a laissez-faire approach to plot progression and resolution that it becomes almost admirable in its own way because as audiences, we simply stop caring.
Overall, this is the type of film that one shouldn’t expect to engage deeply with, as it is simply meant to be a fun, mindless watch. In that regard, G Storm does serviceably well. It is an easy, inoffensive film for the whole family, and it isn’t trying to be anything more than that.
G Storm opens on 31 December 2021.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
As the final film of the franchise, G Storm has the unenviable task of giving Louis Koo’s William Luk a hero’s send-off and while the final journey leaves much to be desired, it is an easy, inoffensive watch for the whole family that brings a mediocre end to an already mediocre franchise.
Story - 5/10
Direction - 6/10
Characterisation - 6/10
Geek Satisfaction - 0/10