Review: THE CONSTABLE Is Crime Fighting At Its Most Pedestrian

James Marsh, Asian Editor
Dennis Law's latest low budget actioner sees Simon Yam play a former CID sergeant itching to get back on the front lines. Despite some interesting ideas and a decent cast, The Constable is under-developed and poorly structured, never getting out of first gear.

Sergeant Lam Kwok Keun (Simon Yam) is the Vehicle Commander of the Kowloon City Police Force, a modest position that keeps him off the streets and out of danger. Despite his cushy desk job, Keun can't help but get his hands dirty cracking cases on Hong Kong's streets, bringing down everyone from rapists to counterfeiters and even bank robbers, with little regard for his own safety. 

It transpires that Keun was formerly in the CID and transferred more than 10 years ago when he was left to raise his handicapped son alone. Now living across the border, Keun relies on local girl Cheui Yan (Niu Meng Meng), to care for "Little Chung" during the day. But her hoodlum boyfriend, Gong Hong (Sam Lee) grows increasingly frustrated by their close relationship, and when his growing money problems drive him to commit a violent crime, Gong Hung and Keun are set on a collision course.  

Writer, producer, director Dennis S. Y. Law is nothing if not ambitious. Law has created a string of Hong Kong focused thrillers and horror films tailored specifically for local audiences. In each case, however, his efforts to tell compelling  stories about triads, ghosts, vampires or - in this case - committed law enforcers, are repeatedly constrained by Law's own limitations as a filmmaker. 

Sadly, The Constable continues this trend, with an under-developed script that contains the roughest of outlines of characters, scenarios and relationships, which are never adequately explored or realised. Secondary characters and subplots are introduced, only to go unexplained or forgotten about entirely. Elsewhere, scenes of little consequence or purpose are allowed to run on far longer than necessary, and many shouldn't have made it into the final cut of the film at all. 

Much of Cheui Yan's backstory is left unexplained, only for revelations in the epilogue to unfold as though they had a greater meaning about which we know nothing at all. An extended training montage between Keun and his friend and (presumed) former partner, Wai (played by Lam Suet) is included late on, serving no discernible purpose, together with sequences of junior officer Kiu Mei (Nick Zy) that are confusing and meaningless. There is also a burgeoning love story between Kiu Mei and Maggie Lee's fellow officer that appears out of nowhere, only to be given undue focus during the film's finale.

Most frustrating of all is that much of Keun's own history only emerges in the third act, too late to bring real meaning to a potentially interesting character. A born law enforcer, Keun is unable to resist the temptation to keep fighting crime and taking on the city's bad guys despite getting himself reassigned away from the action so he can be a more responsible parent. It is over an hour into the film before we discover he is anything more than a quietly ambitious beat cop operating above his station.

Simon Yam is fast becoming Hong Kong's answer to Nicolas Cage. He remains capable of delivering an impressive performance when the materials demands it, but is perfectly happy to appear in any old nonsense provided there's a pay check involved - and does so on an almost monthly basis. In The Constable, Yam is as convincing and commanding as ever, but the material rarely demands much of his talents. Physically, however, he is forced to run laps, jump out of windows, scramble over rooftops and fight numerous bad guys, but these scenes are excited with little in the way of technical flair beyond the occasional crane shot.

The Constable shows no discernible advancement of Law's abilities as a writer or filmmaker, who is still in desperate need of better writers and more disciplined editors to inject his films with the pace, excitement and urgency they so desperately need. With talents such as Yam, Maggie Shiu, Lam Suet, Cheung Siu Fai and Ken Lo at his disposal and a decade of experience, one would hope Law would be capable of delivering something far more enjoyable and accomplished than flat-footed adventures of constable plod.
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