Review: Wo Hu (Operation Undercover) (2006)

Directed by: ,
Cast: , , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

Once more we find outselves at the shady underbelly of Hong Kong society with the Triads that inhabit them. The stalwarts of Eric Tsang, Francis Ng, Jordan Chan and Shawn Yu populate this world of crime and violence as once again Hong Kong produces another film about the neverending battle between the police and the triads.

In the most cynical of modes, this is no doubt a cash-in upon recent quality productions more deserving of the spotlight, but it nonetheless still is an entertaining enough way to spend your crime-addicted dollars and hours.

While the film introduces itself with the premise of the police sending an army of undercover policemen into the triads, this is no Infernal Affairs. There is no exploration of the tribulations of living a lie with dramatic turns as both sides attempt to stamp out the mole. Instead Wo Hu looks at the effect and consequences when such suspicion undermines the relationships within a group that identifies itself as almost familial.

The triads are humanised and paralleled with the general populace, with performances and characters that are on occasion comic and sympathetic much more than they are ruthless and vicious. The images of all four central bosses in their interactions and politicking within their own group is tempered through our knowledge of their families and their personal lives as much as their decisions in their ‘working life’.

The conflict that arises in the film is a result of the unknown police mole but the tragic events that unfold are more significantly the consequence of resentment between the old style gangster — as represented by Jim and Walter who hold romantic notions of being a good people within the environs of the criminal underbelly — against the capitalists of Tommy and Fei, who merely look to seek advantage.

While there is not very much new with Wo Hu, it is still quite entertaining and makes good use of the current cultural value and discourse about the existance and position of crime in society. It is not a particularly tense film but is more an intriguing political film about the inner workings of a Triad gang, where its members balance their criminal lives against their personal lives and struggle with the moments where one bleeds into the other.

7 Moral Ambiguities on Either Side of the Law out of 10.
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