David Lam’s 90-minute commercial for the ICAC is exactly as boring as it sounds.
“Where there’s corruption, there’s ICAC.”
Law enforcement and its many, many branches is something of a beloved topic in the world of Hong Kong crime thrillers. Granted, it’s tricky to really do much in the genre without involving the police in some form, but I don’t think I’ve seen any film industry as dedicated to depicting every facet of this – and with so much attention to the minutiae that goes into the jobs – as Hong Kong has. From the ever popular Organised Crime and Triad Bureau to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau and the
Sex, pardon, Special Duties Unit I’d be surprised if there was a single branch that hasn’t had at least one Gordon Lam-starring feature film made about it.
David Lam’s 2014 movie Z Storm concerns itself with the ICAC, or the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which isn’t technically the police, but it’s law enforcement so it still counts. Louis Koo plays Luk, an ICAC agent trying to mount a case against HK Police Officer Wong (Gordon Lam), who he suspects to have taken a $10 million bribe. This investigation leads him to uncover a massive billion-dollar Ponzi scheme called the Z Hedge Fund that will defraud thousands of people. With only a few days before it goes public, Luk races against the clock to prevent one of Hong Kong’s biggest cases of financial fraud.
You might have gathered pretty early in my summary that Z Storm’s plot isn’t exactly what one would consider particularly thrilling. And in no way does the film try to make its tedious subject matter exciting, probably because it seems to think that it really is. Characters sit around board tables discussing fraud, and ICAC agents gather around a board discussing those people sitting around the board tables discussing fraud.
Visually, there’s a lot of grey interiors and decent if ultimately uninspired shots of Hong Kong’s banking distract. The grey is meant to invoke a sense of sleekness and sophisticated modernity, and at times feels like director David Lam is taking some inspiration from David Fincher. In many ways, Z Storm contains many of the cool trappings of a glossy, modern Hong Kong crime thriller but lacks all of the personality needed to make it work.
Occasionally director David Lam tries to liven things up with a car chase or shoot-out, and while those moments do inject the film with some much needed life, the scenes don’t really go anywhere nor do much to advance the story. They feel a lot like a studio somewhere was running through a Hong Kong Police Film checklist, and squeezing in scenes of police action in what was clearly meant to be a love letter to stocks, bonds and, in a strange Sesame Street twist, the letter Z. The saving grace is the utterly wasted cast, who do some excellent work with very bad lines. The few short scenes between Gordon Lam and Louis Koo are by far the most intense, and might even trick you into staying around for more.
Apparently Z Storm is part of an ongoing series of letter storms, and does leave us with a cliffhanger ending: Who is Zoro? Why is his name spelled like that? Will he come back in future instalments? I suppose they’ll answer these in the sequel. Can’t wait to put them on.
Verdict: Z Storm’s is a barely cohesive economic crime thriller that’s hardly worth investing in.
Overall entertainment: 4/10
Most Underused Actress Award: Dada Chan.
People Falling to their Deaths: 3
Tsui: The ideal hamster? Did I zone out while reading that line?
Z Storm (2014)
Also known as: Z風暴
Director: David Lam
Writer: David Lam
Louis Koo – William Luk
Gordon Lam – Wong Man-ban
Dada Chan – Angel Leung
Michael Wong – Malcolm Wu
Janelle Sing – Tammy Tam
Lo Hoi-pang – Law Tak-wing
Stephen Au – On Tat
Derek Tsang – Joe Ma
Cheung Siu-fai – Yu Hung-sing
Felix Lok – Tsui Wai-king
Liu Kai-chi – Cheung Keung
Philip Keung – Ho Tak-wing
Tony Ho – Stephen Shum
Deno Cheung – Siu-leung
Clement Tien – Pa