|This Review is written by Funn Lim.
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A Matter Of Customs
Which Is NOT ..
..and many many more faces that I could recognise but doesn't know their names. Not that you need to anyway since this series is so concentrated on two couples, and two main characters.
I mean, let me put it more clearly. It's funny how everybody knows everybody's real identities and yet never really know the truth until the end. Like how much each character has to suffer before they give us a....wait! Not even a happy ending!! Ok, let us count the deaths in this series achieved trough some dramatic means...
1. Siu Yau - poor girl. Almost driven to the brink of insanity by her hatred for Kong who killed her father accidentally (he thought he was some crook who turned out to be actually just a druggie), who realised that her beloved daddy was actually a homosexual drug addict, mom had illnesses, she had to work but no one appreciated her art of drawing hands (and only hands),feel in love with Kong only to realise (I missed this part but I assume) that she had some life threatening disease, ran away from Kong only to return to him and died in his arms, smiling and peacefully and leaving a very disillusioned and angry Kong. Poor girl! So much tragedy. Did I mention her sick mom was murdered as well??
2. Mellisa Ng - I can't remember her character's name but she played a doctor. Soon was waiting for her for 8 years when suddenly her sister, Heong Ku told Soon that he should no longer wait for her sis since she ain't coming back. So Soon went on and formed a love affair with Madam and guess what? She came back! Not only that, she was gracious enough to let go after much bitching around with Madam only to discover former lover boy became a drug dealer and later she was captured and tortured in the most horrific manner. She was beaten (very severely) and they even poured mercury on her face, slowly poisoning her whilst she slowly die of extreme pain. Soon did not have the guts to end her life but Kong did, doing her a favour. What a way to die!
3. Queenie - Ok, she was the busybody in the custom team but she was the best of friends with Heong Ku, always protecting her best friend's interest. The thing is during one operation our hero, Kong again had chicken hands or something accidentally shot her at the back when he meant to shoot the bad guy and she laid in the hospital bed and died. Ok, at this point I was telling myself never ever have a colleague like Kong when at the end of the series we found out she didn't die!! She had a new identity because..because....because....I'll elaborate on that later into this review ok? Let's move to victim 4.
4. Kong's father-Poor guy! Kidnapped by Jacky who sought revenge against Kong who betrayed her trust (he was an undercover, even to the point of seducing her so that he could find out the big guy of the drug cartel family who so happens to he her dad..awwwwww..and of course she hated Kong for betraying her trust, probably she was in love with him or something), the father was tied around the neck (he was fortunately unconscious) and when Kong and brother screamed "Let my father GO!!!" and let go she did and "crack", father died like one would have died by being flung from a high place tied around the neck. What a way to die!!
5. Moon - almost a victim I tell you. On the day of her fake wedding to Kong (meant only to lure Jacky out of her hiding place) she was kidnapped (very easily) and was tied on a pole by the pier or something, almost drowned. What a way to have almost died!
6. Heong Ku - almost died as well. She was heavily pregnant and was in an elevator when the elevator stopped and plunged downward, but everything was a-ok.
7. Soon & Madam - Soon was arrested and was injured and so he was placed in a prison hospital and Madam was there to visit him and guess what? Jacky the Invincible managed to attack them by shooting her rather large machine gun from the opposite building. For a killer, she is such a failure. Billions of bullets and none was hurt! But a close call.
8. Last but no least...Kong- Many disputed the ending. Seagull thought he committed suicide, many thought he didn't die. I saw the ending and I tell you...he's either dead or not dead. You see, when he finished off Jacky and was trying hard to hold onto the boat but couldn't because he was already tired, injured and very very hurt, he slipped into the water and well, we don't know whether he died or not, because the last scene was Moon swimming towards his last known position and members of the Custom officers were searching for him and THE END. No body, no nothing. Truth be told, I don't think he killed himself or he deliberately let go or anything. His hands were shot, he was very injured. He couldn't hold on any longer to the boat and off he goes into the muddy river. If TVB does no announce a sequal later on, I can guarantee you Kong died. My bet is he died, No suicide. Just darn tired, injured, couldn't grip the boat. Very obvious last scene.
Let's begin with our disillusioned hero.
What a hero we have. 3 times he shot someone accidentally, well maybe 2 because once he couldn't pull the trigger if I remembered correctly, at least twice he got the wrong person and successfully killed them (I would assume Queenie died, irregardless of her new identity as a French speaking, leather wearing, nose piercing, punk haired loose wanton woman). What a failure! 90% of the series he is sulking and his eyes is even more smaller when he sulks. Either that or he is sprouting some sort of a preachy message about his decisions and his life. I mean come on, move on! The only time his story was watchable was when he was trying to seek Siu Yau's forgiveness and their relationship, however no chemistry between the two actors were one of the highlights in this series and rather touching, but Siu Yau took such a long time to die, and that spoils the whole effect. And of course there is a sub plot of his story wth Moon, a strong headed girl who ping ponged between big bro and little bro, both relationships ended with her one line of "I don't think our personality matches" and there you're left thinking, big bro is so like her that she felt they couldn't love each other because they knew each other too well and yet little bro is so unlike her she couldn't love him because they knew each other too little, so what? Who can she love? But pity Moon who had to be a widow even before she had a wedding! Anyway, Kong is such a tragically stupidly sickeningly unbearable character that you just feel like slapping him. Everybody's death seem to relate to him in some ways and he is what I consider as the "death star". Be near him and you're most likely dead by either;
1. Being shot by our hero
I mean come on! If Moon wants to make you happy, so be it! But noooooo...he must say something like "I don't love you..I don't deserve to be happy." Preachy preachy preachy and wors of all, low self esteem preachy guy who is afraid he might hurt the ones he love but hey, by doing what he did, many more will be hurt!
Ok, now the biggest preacher of all, Madam. I was like My God, must she talk like that every day? As a Madam, she preaches. As an aunt, she preaches. As a wife, she preaches. I have no doubt she is a very honourable character but I can't stand Liza Wong! She preaches in ALL her series. Even in the one where she woke up after years in coma, she is still preachy! I can't stand this Madam, she is sooooooo preachy!
Now what else is the problem of this series? Yeah, like little bro loves big bro's ex-GF. I mean give me something new please. When they broke up I was already expecting that. What I didn't expect was the over the top ending and then I knew why in the music video, both Moon and Kong in wedding attires were like sulking big time.
Yes, the ending. Stupid wasn't it? Jacky was like Devil, could do so many things ALONE and UNAIDED. She could almost poison two families in one night, kidnap oh so many adults, carry big guns EVERYWHERE and shoot, shoot shoot. In fact she could even shoot through the window of the prison hospital! Wow! And for what? Because of what? A professional killer who kills because she was angry. One angry lunatic and make a mental note; never hire her as an assassin. Too emotional. And did you see that scene where she exchanged some heartfelt talks with daddy? That was really funny because it was so unreal. And in the end, they never caught the big guy. Nope!
And now one final note. One rather interesting note. Ah Soon became a prisoner in a prison. he was to be extradited to Holland for trial on the murder of his mom. You see he ran away when he was little and one day at a motel he saw his hooker-mom again who obviously didn't recognise her own son and even tried to bed him. Out of anger he pushed her and her head accidentally hit a nail and she promptly died. Nobody saw this supposed murder but one bellboy did. Year later former employer's spoilt rotten of a brother used this evidence by this one bellboy to threaten our Soon to be a drug dealer. And so Soon did as he was told and then he turned to be a police spy because he couldn't take it anymore. I was like what did the bellboy see anyway? Any good defense lawyer could have saved our Soon Kor instead of running around in one big circle. He didn't mean to kill her!! For all the wealth he had I am very surprised he did not have one trusted lawyer or legal counsel to help him in his legal issues. Anyway, ever seen a more relaxed prisoner than Soon kor? Yep, every few days he would have a visitor who would give him food, cross, news, pictures, anything. I thought he was far more relaxed in prison than out! Unbelievable!
This series was dead boring, except for a few sub plots. For one I thought the relationship between Heong Ku and her husband was done quite well, though they were essentially a boring couple. They had to marry because she was pregnant with his child after a drunken one night stand and he did it for responsibilities but learnt to love her and at the end of all the tragedies, he realised he was in love with her. I am very glad the curse of Kong did not reach Heong Ku and child!
So everybody almost vomited when Madam and Soon kissed but I thought their relationship was quite interesting towards the end. After all, Madam is only a woman and she found a new man in Soon who turned out to be less than perfect but she loved him nonetheless. Being pregnant was of course a big taboo for younsters who can't imagine their parents still having you-know-what at night and so can't believe Madam could be pregnant AT HER AGE full with wrinkles and all. But i thought, nice ending for this woman whose dad died, mom died, husband died, mom in law will probably die, husband is going to jail..at least she had a child to comfort her lonely days. But I still hated Liza Wong's interpretation of the Madam, preachy preachy preachy, except for the last episode where she stopped being preachy and she actually shed some tears, like a normal human being is imperfect instead of the perfect Madam!
Now before I give my verdict, I should at least comment about the performances.
Frankly, the performances are all ok, but nothing exceptional since their characters are nothing exceptional.
Wong Hei has always been a favourite actor of mine, an example that you need not have looks to be famous as long as you have talent. I was watching Burning Flame again and I realised Burning Flame was his best work because it was a very very good series with almost prefect casting. In this series, truth be told he was wrongly cast. He sulked a lot, true because he had such a tragic character but he seemed to be too pretentious. Though most would think this series is a sequal to Nothing To Declare, his character in here is not as likeable as in NTD. I find his performance bland and seriously lacking. I would have thought Louis Koo would excel in this role because Louis can very sulk, be tragic and yet be so bloody cool about everything. Nope, I don't think Wong Hei gave his best in here.
Jessican Hester Hsuan is actually playing a sidekick in here. poor girl, her screen time is getting lesser and lesser and yet her name is top billing. I am sure most fans would feel cheated when they watch A Step Into The Past though I was glad she wasn't in the series much. Anyway, in here she plays a very independent and strong willed Moon. The same old character for Jess, always the one running after the man, always the one who rejected someone else because of personality clashes, always the one who has to act stubborn and strong and yet she is actually quite vulnerable and weak. ALWAYS. And it is so boring to watch her act in same same same roles. In fact, Charmaine Sheh had more varied roles than Jess, but of course Jess is a more accomplished actress, IF ONLY she changes her voice. She talks the same, walks the same, angry the same, cry the same, same same same that every time she appears, it seems so same same same. The only thing that made me sit up and watch was when she and Wong Hei were swimming. I was actually admiring their swimming skills. Anyway, no chemistry with our Wong Hei at all, and same same same. Boring!
Jade Leung has some strong fan base since her performance as the tragic firewoman in Burning Flame. She was quite ok in all her performances but she has a face that does not stand out amongst the crowds. Jess is more pretty each time I look at a photo of hers but Jade Leung gives me an impression that she is one dead serious woman, even when she was doing travelogues she reminds me so much of Esther Kwan, who takes herself too seriously and just can't loosen up and have some real fun. In here, she was ok, but not remarkable, simply because she has a face that I will forget very easily. No screen presence, however good an actress she may be.
Evergreen Mak is at his usual best. Nothing much to say about this talented actor.
Fiona Yuen is well...she is rather pretentious in all her roles, this not excluded but well...she was ok.
One that was surprisingly fun to watch was the ever optimistic character, I forgot the name but I would put my money on the name Elsa. Anyway, Joyce Tang is very pretty in here and less sulky, always smiling and every happy. She gave a very good performance for a walk on role.
Shirley Cheung was ok, sulky as every and not remarkably great. A better actress could have garner more pity for Siu Yau.
The guy who plays Wong Hei's brother, I can't remember his name. More watchable than the mega boring Frankie Lam but less charisma than Raymond Lam, he gave an ok performance that defies logic. I mean, in the series Kong's GF just died and this little brother of Kong is jealous because Moon (his GF) was always running after Kong to comfort Kong?!
Sunny Chan as Jacky the lunatic assassin was really bad. I was so confused you see. I have just finished AR II and in here this actress wore similar clothes and I was so confused about the two characters and I was thinking, why at first she was a member of the customs with Michael Tong and now she is an assassin and nobody seems to know her at all? Yeah yeah yeah. Funn Lim, you need glasses, a.s.a.p! Anyway, her performance was nothing great, in fact inadequate. Nothing emotional, nothing cool or cold or soulless. A very "Not there" performance. Disappointing.
Liza Wong is not a great actress as some might think of her. She is popular, no doubt about it but in the old days Dodo Cheng could beat her in the acting department anytime, even now! She belongs to the old school of acting. Rather pretentious and always preachy. I never liked her, does not like her now and will never ever like her as an actress, not because of her public image of wanting to be sexy but because she is not a very remarkable actress. She could be effective in some scenes, like when her father died she was crying, when hubby is arrested she was crying..those scenes she did well but overall, her performance was one exercise of prolonged pretension to be someone else. I don't see a heart and soul effort from her. Because she is a veteran and she has failed to impress me, I would say she gave a bad performance.
Melissa Ng was ok, nothing much to do but she is very pretty in here, with her curly hair and flawless skin. One of the best scene in this series was Liza and Melissa bickering over Danny in the most polite fashion, both cooking a meal for Danny and both commenting why the other should just leave him. I thought all did very well in that scene, especially Melissa who holds herself high against Liza, after all Melissa was saying things like Liza being old and all. Excellent scene.
Danny Lei Sau Yin was a very popular actor back in the early 90's or so. He gave Stephen Chow his first big break into movies. In fact Danny was always the cop, the righteous detective helping people to solve unjust murders or corruption. He looked very honourable and I guess th reason he was cast in this role would be because he had such an honourable image that none would believe he could be a mean or bad man. And indeed, I didn't. I just thought he was a hypocrite, when I thought this man won't pirate VCDs but he would deal with drugs before watching the ending!! Anyway, many slammed his performance. I was very disappointed with his less than manly voice since I was so used to his cinema-voice. But truth be told, I thought Danny Lei gave a very heartfelt performance, especially at the end where he asked Evergreen to take good care of Liza and her unborn child, (or was it Heong Ku and her child? Can't remember) where he was teary eyed. Or how he couldn't let go of Liza when he was about to be sent off to Holland, his eyes very emotional, almost crying. Or how he dragged that useless spoilt brat of as brother of his former employer and how he was screaming at him. I actually think Danny Lei did well, except that I didn't like his dyed blond hair at the front.
Anyway, the main problem is not the performances but rather the story. Boring stuff. If there is a sequel, which I don't think there will be one, just avoid it.
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Copyright (c) 7-Dec- 2001 Funn Lim. All Rights Reserved.