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August 10, 2015

Z Storm

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Z fung wan
David Lam - 2014
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Z Storm is a police thriller about the financial industry. And while it is set in Hong Kong, inspired by true events there, it touches on the way the financial industry affects people globally, in ways related to recent and current news. What I also liked is that going against current commercial trends, David Lam filmed his made in Hong Kong movie in Cantonese, the spoken dialect of Hong Kong. The city itself is the subject of several gorgeous shots, especially at night.

A branch of Hong Kong's police department, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, investigates the accusation of one of Hong Kong's chiefs of the Commercial Crime Unit, Wong, for accepting bribes. Wong is first seen helping cover up the the evidence in his own bust of an accounting firm. Luk, from the the ICAC, discovers connections between Wong's cover-up, and a highly publicized stock offering that is to get government backing. What takes Luk longer to discover is that behind the dazzle of promises of high financial returns, is someone behind the scenes, the one chiefly responsible for the bribery, blackmail and intimidation, that hamper the investigation. The main villain, Malcolm Wu, is working on behalf of financier, Zoro, for whom the Z Hedge Fund is named.

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While Malcolm Wu does his best to get away with murder, among other crimes, it is the actor playing Wu, Michael Wong, who runs away with this film. The guy's a native English speaking Chinese-American actor, and the best Hollywood can do is give him a supporting role in a Transformers movie? Wong mostly speaks Cantonese here, with a smattering of English, slipping back and forth between languages without pause. It's not too different from the way Wong speaks in the DVD supplement in discussing his role. What makes it appropriate for the character is that he is this high priced lawyer who also slips between legalities, using the law when needed, going around the law when more expedient.

There are some car chases, and a shoot out near the end, the staples virtually required in a film about any cops. More thrilling than the visceral set pieces, are the scenes that play like movements in a chess game, each side anticipating or attempting to outguess the other. There are several moments devoted to visual evidence, photographs and videos used for blackmail, investigations into overlooked laws, and the discovery of connections between several characters. Ultimately, the film is about not only manipulation and criminality within the financial industry, but how people can be easily corrupted even with relatively modest amounts of money, or the promise of easy financial gains.

Z Storm is a personal film for David Lam, who made films for the ICAC between 1980 and 1985. Unfortunately, there is only a sliver of information about Lam, mostly his filmographies and little else. This is Lam's first film since 1999. The ending of Z Storm suggests a possible sequel, one I would look forward to seeing.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 10, 2015 02:12 PM