Wong Jing is one of Hong Kong's most prolific film-makers, best known for movies that are built on "homages" to other movies and lots of toilet humor. But over the past few years, he has created some more original and serious pictures, and you can add I Corrupt All Cops to that list. While it's nothing revolutionary, aficionados of cop dramas will feel right at home here.
Based loosely on the real events in the 1970's that led to the creation of the Hong Kong police force's version of internal affairs, the Independent Commission Against Corruption or ICAC, which not coincidentally also forms the acronym for the film's English title, the movie tells the story of Gale (Eason Chan), a cop that has risen to a high rank, not because of his police work, but willingness to do favors for his superiors Lak (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) and Gold (Wong Jing), most notably taking care of their mistresses.
The British government is growing tired of the rampant corruption in the police force, and so they put straight-shooter Yim (Bowie Lam) in charge of the ICAC. Yim starts going after Lak and Gold, but his group of young recruits aren't up to the task until disgraced undercover officer Unicorn (Anthony Wong) joins the team and teaches them some over-the-top, but effective, tactics. As ICAC's net draws nearer, Gale starts having a crisis of conscience as he must decide whether to keep serving Lak, or come clean.
Wong Jing's scripts usually employ a blitzkrieg style, throwing everything into the mix, including the kitchen sink. The effect is usually hit or miss, much to the chagrin of many Hong Kong movie fans. Here, Wong takes a much more linear and subtle approach, and it works. There's no ultra-violence, no shoehorned comedy, no gratuitous sex scenes, and no plot twists thrown in for the sake of doing so.
Sure, ultimately, the story isn't mind-blowing in any way, but the basic plot centering on an older period in time makes a nice change from the "pretty young cops and Triads" style many Hong Kong film-makers seem to favor, and the lean and mean storytelling was quite refreshing in this day and age, when far too many pictures from all over the world come off as far too over-long and over-blown for their (and the audience's) own good.
Wong's "velvet gauntlet" approach also comes through in the realm of direction. He gets a lot of very solid performances from his leads, without having to resort to the melodrama that has derailed far too many Hong Kong productions, both past and present. Tony Leung Ka-Fai, one of the more under-rated actors in Hong Kong, in particular delivers a great take, Anthony Wong does a fine job as the down-trodden Unicorn, and even Wong Jing himself comes off pretty well, in what might otherwise be construed as a vanity role.
I Corrupt All Cops does end up feeling a little empty and incomplete. It perhaps might have been better if more time was given to the consequences to the characters' actions. But, overall, this is a very solid crime drama that will fit the bill if you're looking to check out one of Hong Kong's better recent takes on the genre.