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| Wednesday, February 14, 2007


14 February 2007
The skinny: Drug lord Kun aka Banker (Andy Lau) wants to retire and pass on his trade secrets to his protege, Nick (Daniel Wu).

But Nick is an undercover narcotics agent, and as he gets embroiled in the trade, he finds himself torn between his duty as a cop and his friendship with Banker.

The review: Films surrounding the perennial topics of drugs, syndicates, and cops versus crooks are nothing new.

But while some movies such as Infernal Affairs set the standard, Protege remains, well, a protege in this genre.

With film heavyweights Derek Yee and Peter Chan as director and producer respectively, you'd expect a little more depth.

I can handle a simple story without an intricate plot, but not when the film-makers appear more interested in drumming in the anti-narcotics message than telling a good story.

In fact, I suspect the story is just an excuse for the message, played out by beautiful people of course.

Granted, the workings of the drug trafficking world are well-researched but when it comes to story-telling, Protege is merely scratching the surface.

Likeable and humane as the characters are, especially Banker, we are kept clueless about what motivates them to go down the path of no return.

Still, Protege is beautifully shot and the actors, especially Louis Koo and Zhang Jingchu as junkies, inject much flavour into their roles.

The one scene that justifies the ticket price:
In quiet contemplation after the deaths of Banker and his junkie neighbour Fan (Jingchu), Nick is about to give drugs a try but Fan's cute little daughter pops in and gives him a hug.

The one scene that will eject you from your seat: The ghastly scene where Fan convulses violently and writhes in pain after her husband (Louis) injects heroin into her neck. Later, Nick makes a grisly discovery of her rat-infested body, with eyes wide open and a trail of dried blood.

Best quote: The part where Nick ponders: 'People take drugs to fill the emptiness in them. So what's worse? Emptiness or drugs?'

Moral of the story: Drugs kill, need I say more?

- Avis Wong, Singapore The New Paper