Raising the Bar

Surprisingly, I also watched this ages back and do not remember much anymore. However, I couldn’t get some things out of my mind regarding this for some reason, so I thought I might as well do a review and get it all out. I have already forgotten about most of the characters since there were a lot. Yet I remember some stuff, so will try to discuss those areas.

The reason why I even watched this in the first place was because of Ben Wong and how he managed to make it back to the main lead at long last. Yes, that was the sole reason why I wanted to watch at first. I usually do not watch legal series, but I made an exception for Ben. So, yeah, if Ben ever read this, he should be happy, lol. (YEAH, right, lol.) Anyway, how was it? To say that it was a mistake was an understatement. There were some good things about it–for sure. But some things were just too whatever.

Main Cast:

  • Ben Wong as Marcus Fan Chi Ngai (范智毅). So, Ben’s back as the main guy. How was he? In a sense of acting, I didn’t doubt him at all throughout. He delivered. It was a long journey for him making up top again so I applaud him. In a sense of character, I guess he was a typical good guy, so there wasn’t much to say about that. I actually liked his goofy off-work side more, lol. Because he would end up in all these strange debates with the other senior lawyers or with his friends.
  • Louis Cheung as Quinton Chow Chi Pok (周梓博). Coming in from Black Heart White Soul, I say my perception was mixed feelings. Yes, my last series of him before watching this one was that one, so yeah, it was going great for him really. (Yes, sarcasm.) However, I swear, he did better in the other one. Yes, even if he was a mix character in the other one, he delivered better in terms of acting. In this one, I thought he was too trying, possibly because of taking on a student a role or something. I’m not sure. I couldn’t figure it out. But his charater was all right. Nothing really special that stood out for me. At least, he wasn’t annoying either?
  • Ram Chiang as Woody Lam Sam Muk (林森木). He was the other shining character in here for me. I thought he contributed to shouldering the series for the majority of the main cast already and deserved a call out for that. He had some interesting insights and often the voice of reason among their group of senior lawyers at times.
  • Grace Chan as Giselle Tong Ching Chi (唐靖姿). I tried really hard to like her but I just couldn’t. Seriously, it was really hard. First, I had my bias with Grace–thanks a lot to Overachievers, I didn’t like her at all in there. So yeah, seeing her in here, it was hard to restrain. Battling that bias took several episodes for me and it became easier because once I got into her character, I did like her ambition and her willingness to work toward her goal. Her character was interesting in that sense and she did have some principles or at least, tried to live by the codes, not cutting corners, etc. But as the series went along, her character became boring for me in a sense. I guess, I was just impatient. So I tried to focus on other parts of the plot and see how it went with her journey to becoming a lawyer. What went completely downhill and became a nail in the coffin for me was the last conflict of the series. The one where Marcus was accused of having an affair with one of the students (or it was said he manipulated his way into it via his power). I seriously wanted to reach into the screen and strangle her. Yeah, that bad. I know we–as the audience–witnessed along with Giselle throughout how lawyers had gone astray or forgot their original goal after having been in the industry for too long. Giselle, herself, was also a victim of those harassment throughout the series. However, having been with Marcus for that long and understanding him like that, how could she disregard his words and believe the other girl completely? What happened to innocent until proven guilty or relying on evidence or whatever else. I do understand in those cases, there was a posibility of people in higher places abusing their power, etc. However, I thought she would have given Marcus the benefit of a doubt because she worked alongside him for so long. Nope, she not only disregard his integrity entirely but also withheld evidence, causing the situation to drag out until the girl’s family member decided to submit the journal on her own. What the hell? I don’t know how the legal system over there work (because I don’t live there, so this isn’t a snappy comment, just saying I don’t have firsthand information), but when you found something relevant to an ongoing case, you submit it. Or at least, that was how it was supposed to be. She withheld it and thought it was fine? Seriously? Even though it was someone’s personal journal, but there was an ongoing case regarding a very serious matter, that should qualify as evidence. I don’t know if that was an error of the scriptwriters OR just a flaw in the character, but that totally did it for me, not caring for her character at all. She shoudln’t have become a lawyer either if she acted like that. OR maybe she fitted right in with all those flaky lawyers? Seriously, I didn’t even know why Marcus forgave her at all. Sure, she had determination, etc. But she made the wrong call major time regarding legalities.

Supporting:

  • Elaine Yiu as Vivian Cheung Wai Wan (張慧芸). I was really, really surprised they didn’t throw Elaine off the bus this time. Well, in some ways, they did. She cheated, no doubt about it. But I was surprised they redeemed her later and made her character realized what was important during the car accident scene. I was also surprised that they allowed for her to return to her family all intact and didn’t forgo some side drama in that area also. It was strange because I swear I still have PTSD from all the times TVB threw Elaine under the bus because she wasn’t the main lead and was taking on continuous similar roles. I guessed that because they had to focus on other major characters, so they just let her off–or ran out of time. But I liked that she got to portray a lawyer this time around.
  • Natalie Tong as Ashley Cheng Cheuk Tung (鄭妁彤). I never thought there came the day I wanted Natalie to have more scenes. Yes, coming from me who kept complaining nonstop about her repetitive roles. However, this was seriously a different type of role for her and shone through. I was surprised they let her portray this role since it was completely different from her cutesy roles or innocent ones. I actually quite liked this side of Natalie with the professional front, but also a mysterious background–somewhat at first. She was daring, witty and charming. It was indeed addicting to watch her in here. I thought this type of role was more challeinging for her or more interesting to watch than the usual they kept giving her. It seemed more of a challenge.
  • Timothy Cheng as Duncan Yam Suen Yip (任雋燁). He was hilarious. Seriously, he cooked up a lot of schemes for Marcus. One of the rare roles I liked of his. Maybe it was because whenever I watched a series he was in, he took on a less than likable role. So, yes, this one was refreshing for me in that playful and light-hearted way. Of course, he took part in his own set of intense dramas, but for the majority of the time, he seemed to take on a comedic role among their group of senior lawyers.
  • Elena Kong as Judge Amanda Lui (呂官). I don’t remember much about her anymore. But I remember liking her.
  • Sam Tsang as Don Chu Yiu Lik (朱耀力). I kind of liked him at first, then the cheating came into play and I was just like, throw him away. However, for some odd reason, knowing his age, I didn’t find him trying too hard the way Louis did with his lively vibe. Maybe it was Sam’s experience or how his character was that made it less annoying. I don’t know.

Pairings:

  • Ben and Elaine. I remember reading some articles about how Elaine talked about her collaboration with Ben and they worked well together because they knew each other a long time already, etc. I don’t want to disregard all that. I thought it was interesting in a way that they paired up in here and even have a small family of their own. However, I still didn’t feel the chemistry as strong. Sure, I liked them together at times and the way they were at times. It seemed they were comfortable in their roles and their interactions. That was good. But in my weird brain, it didn’t work as a “wow” over the top chemistry as I spotted with some of their past on screen partners. It was still fun to watch though.
  • Elaine and Sam. I know, I must be crazy to be put them in. But I swear they had more chemistry for some odd reason. AND no, I don’t promote cheating or whatever. I hate those people and their excuses the most. However, in an interesting turn of events, them as actor and actress, I found more chemistry with them for some reason. So, what I’m trying to say is if they ever work together in another drama, I would support this pairing.
  • Natalie and Timothy. Normally, I wouldn’t like this repetitive formula. But considering the options of the drama, I found them much more interesting to watch than some couples in here. It was somewhat tragic or maybe just sad when the plot was laid out at some parts. But the ending was seriously hilarious. He had to work super hard for their family of three, lol.

Recommended? I would say you have to love the main cast to watch. It was hard for me mostly because of some of the things I listed up there. So, it wasn’t enjoyable for me. But those who like legal dramas might want to check it out. It’s not in my top 20, but it was somewhat okay to watch.

Black Heart White Soul

This series brought me back to watching TVB series again. Since I haven’t watched Roger’s stuff for a while now and really want to see what this one is about, just like how I tried to watch each time he comes out with a new series. And I was glad I could finally watch something Roger’s in without having to bite my teeth down and trying to just wait and see if it improves. Because this one with its intense theme had worked like a charm from the beginning to the end. Even if there were some sideshows I rather not care for. So I will start with my usual character analysis before jumping into more details of the plot/theme, etc.

Main Cast:

  • Roger Kwok as Matthew (Matt) Ko Chit Hang (高哲行). The complexity of his character just compensated for some of the past roles he had taken. His character in here reminded me of the role for Last One Standing in a sense of his manipulation and cunning nature had gone to the max. Yet the differences were: a) he was driven to fight for his own future and b) he repented in the end. What made it so chilling about his character was how he had transformed from being a pitiful victim to a notable model after his loss and then eventually turning into the scariest villain in the whole web of madness. Roger delivered brilliantly from the beginning to the end. Like there was a doubt about it.
  • Ron Ng as Cheung Lap Fan (張立勳) aka Funny. Totally impressed. NO, I’m serious. I don’t know what happened with some other productions, but this one really blew my mind away. I meant it wasn’t like he was phenomenonal or anything in that sense. But compared to his past performances, this one even surpassed my expectations. I meant he was doing fine at one point and then what was with the swinging back and forth with his body movements at times that I mentioned he was doing in Wax & Wane when I was comparing his performance against Forensic Heroes III. Yet this one, the character created wasn’t just to make him shine and show off his good looks or whatever else. This character had challenges and depths, not just showy/cute and/or hot-headed like his typical past roles. He had a lot to work with, considering how he was stuck in a lot of moral dilemmas right from the start, whether with his family, friends, or colleagues. What made me really like his character even more was how he wasn’t reduced to a dumb character later on just because of a lot of complications going on at the same time in the end. He was conflicted, that was true, but he didn’t steer from his righteousness and his duties as a cop. That was what was different about this cop role than some past ones.
  • Kristal Tin as May Tam Mei Ching (譚美貞). There were mixed feelings for her throughout. Yet I must say it was very interesting and complex to see how her character change and grow. Like she wasn’t just suddenly changing to super good but it took a lot of time for her to start over after her past failure and how she had caused trouble onto herself by mingling with someone like Fire. What was even more ironic was how she had changed her lifestyle and had considered what she really wanted to do with the rest of her life yet she was thrown into another conflict. This one, much more intense than ever. Kristal once again delivered.
  • Kiki Sheung as Sin Hui Ying (冼慧英). WOW! At first, all I could say was that. Because she has been typecast in the last few years into housewife roles or just plain scheming woman roles. SO I was surprised to see that they let her portray a cop. Not just any regular cop but the madam. I was glad for that as the plot moved on, giving some sense of freshness into the whole thing.
  • Waise Lee as Henry To Yee Hang (杜以鏗). Haven’t seen him for a long time. Maybe it’s mostly because I haven’t been watching TVB stuff for a while so I didn’t know when he came back. Anyway, scary indeed yet I realized he wasn’t that scary after all. Because he was just a big bully standing on the top of the world, trying to control everyone around him and taking out others who oppose him. And people are dropping their jaws, thinking I’m mad for saying he’s not scary with his destructive abilities. I felt he was scary at first too, but later, when Marco confronted him, I realized Marco was right. Marco said he already been to prison so he wasn’t scared and the person who had to be scared was Henry. Indeed, Henry was soooo used to being on top and giving orders and being in the spotlight. But could he handle prison? It’s a scary place–regardless of if it was only a setting in the series or real life. There was also Matt, whom Henry, couldn’t predict would be his death.
  • Louis Cheung as Marco Ma Kai Yuen (馬啟源). I don’t know what to say about him. I don’t remember watching him before. So let’s say this is the first time. In a way, I pity him. Yet I felt it had to be that way. Maybe it was his own ending because he had betrayed Fire when he obeyed Henry’s orders? Although Fire didn’t die because of him, he had chosen, even if he did try to delay the inevitable. Other than that, loved the song he sang in here.
  • Leanne Li as Scarlet Sze Ka Lei (施嘉莉). Wow, seriously? I swear I tried to get into her story and felt she was really pitiful. She was, at one point. I didn’t really blame her for trying to push Marco into taking out Henry since she was indeed living in hell the way things were. But what shocked me was when she didn’t want to flee with Marco but chose to crawl back to Henry. I guess the person who understood her the most was Henry, not Marco. She indeed was just using Marco after all. Although in a way, it was a good role since it showed that the female side could subtly manipulate in here too, not letting the guys dominate the scenes all the time, but I felt as an actress, she was once again typecast.
  • Jason Chan as Alvis Yung Chi Chung (翁子聰). I was a bit disappointed that his role didn’t get elaborated a little more. I guess it was just a little sideshow to introduce Roger’s character a little more. Not that I want every single character to be involved in the end, since characters indeed come and go, and some just plain died along the way. But it was a bit disappointing to see that he didn’t get taken care of by Matt too. I meant, come on, the guy was a jerk to Matt from the start, so it was strange he was let off so easily.
  • Vivien Yeo as Icy Yeung Man Bing (楊漫冰). OMG, I loved her entrance since the beginning, so cute and funny. I thought she was going to play an important role in here. Well, again, NOT like I want everyone to be upfront and in our faces kind of thing. But I swear Vivien had been soooo robbed since whenever. Yet I guess I should be glad she wasn’t playing some nonsense role like that one time I was watching. Too bad, but can’t do anything about it anyway.
  • Lisa Lau as Gillian To Cheuk Chi (杜綽姿). I don’t know what was going on here but I felt she was a really weak part of the cast. It wasn’t always so obvious and I didn’t look her or any other new people up before watching this. So I didn’t know how creepily she looked like Suet Nei until I saw her. Then when her character cut her hair in the show, Lisa was looking sooooo much like Suet Nei that it got creepier. The fact that they both lacked in acting made it funny too. But not too funny. It was so sad and hard to endure her parts. She was too trying in a lot of ways. Although there were some scenes that could be said to be better, she didn’t impress me at all throughout. Or show even a tiny bit of potential, unlike some newbies that the majority picked on and I was fine with (because they didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, lol). Her character didn’t help at all either. It wasn’t like I would expect her to be the perfect chick alongside the main leads. But she was like so self-destructive at times that made it disturbing, clinging onto Funny like that. I got the part about her being depressed over Sap Zai’s death since she really thought she was responsible because she had used reverse psychology on him not long before the fall. However, the other elements, later on, made it so bad that I didn’t want to bother with being patient anymore. Like how she went along with the others, trying to use death on Funny, etc. Suicidal episodes and thoughts are real psychological issues of this world, but people who used death on others so they could get what they want? Well, she felt bad for tricking Funny, but she went along with it anyway to get what she wanted. So I didn’t empathize with her at all. Although I guess the most pitiful thing about her was not knowing what kind of monster her father really was. Or was that better to not know? Or would she eventually know if she were to wake up one day?

Others:

  • May Chan as Lau Miu (劉淼). Mixed feelings at times. Yet what I admired about her was her loyalty to May. What May really wanted, she didn’t mind. Even if May wanted to stay with Matt at one time, knowing or having suspicions that Matt killed her brother, etc. She was indeed annoying at times and was even overboard with her words, but she was also right in some of the things that she said about Matt.
  • Matt Yeung as Lau Yim (劉焱) aka Fire. Don’t know what to say. I thought he was creepy at first, but later realized he was just a pawn in the big puzzle.
  • Claire Yiu as Yip Ying Sum (葉應心). Didn’t like her an ounce in here. Yeah, I got it that she was scared and didn’t want to get involved and her boyfriend/later-husband didn’t want to see her involved either. Yet I felt that she was really a doormat at times. She didn’t say stuff out yet just blamed it on others as well. Yes, May was aggressive at one point, but she didn’t have to hang out with May. If she chose to be a doormat, then don’t get bitter about it. What made me super mad about her was how she said it was okay that her husband beat her. Well, she didn’t say it like that, but she said she shouldn’t leave him in time of hardship, etc. Yes, it is true that people try to work the relationship out since she indeed did say they had good times in the past, how could she leave him when he was having obstacles, etc. BUT that still didn’t make it right for him to hit her or abuse her in any other way. Didn’t he realize that they were a team and they should work it out, not drenching himself in alcohol and beating his wife? Aside from that, will Claire ever make her way up again? Just wondering. NOT that I want everyone to be the main person, but seriously, Claire’s roles have been just plain whatever since I don’t remember anymore.
  • Becky Lee as Denise Chiu Man Fai (趙敏暉). In a way, I really pity her. I meant she was really loyal to Marco and had to endure a lot. In a way, it was her choice, but I couldn’t help but feel sad for her.
  • David Do as Ng Shing Yee (伍承義) aka Sap Zai (十仔). Um, I swear I feel pity for a lot of people in here. But for some reason, I couldn’t even pity him. He was pathetic in a lot of ways. It made it hard to watch. NOT that I wanted him to die, but I swear it made sense. There were just too many complications going on and he didn’t take actions in time so he was pulled in any way. He didn’t know, but as a cop, he should have some kind of instinct. Or even have the nerve to do something about it. Besides, Funny and Madame Sin were always by his side, why did he choose to trust the other dude to cover his ass than his family?
  • Parkman Wong as Siu Wing Kwong (蕭永光). Um, I couldn’t feel anything for this dude either. Just another pawn in the whole mess. He thought he could get out of it alive–and then gaining some. Yet he was wrong. So wrong.
  • Derek Wong as Benjamin Ko Chit Ming (高哲明). Matt’s younger brother. Sometimes when he appeared, I just want to hit him over the head with something. Yet ironically, he finally turned a new leaf and then his brother was all bad-ass. Although I really wanted to say he was just pretending, Derek’s expression really convinced that he had really changed–even if it was only a brief time in prison.
  • Jennifer Shum as Ada. The poor woman. Just a few days and she would be happily married. OR so it seemed. Yet things didn’t turn out that way.
  • Koo Koon Chung as Kwong King Cheung (鄺景昌). He’s back! I didn’t realize it since again, I haven’t been watching TVB stuff. But I really enjoyed his role and performance in here. It has been a while now. I felt he was the coolest, for a villain that was.
  • Joe Tay as Leung Ching Wah (梁正華).
  • Lau Kong as Ko Lam (高霖). Don’t know what to say except a reunion between him and Roger for a father and son relationship once again. Then I guess I could forgive him for not allowing Matt to drain his retirement money over a hopeless surgery (or so they thought at that time). Yet what was really pitiful was how unsupportive he was in other matters, always siding with the little one. At least that seemed to be true with real-life stuff, considering how at times parents do favor one over the other (no matter how they try to say it was NOT true).
  • Gregory Lee as Choi Chi Fung (蔡子峰). I like how he was involved with the cases. Yet I felt it wasn’t enough. It was more fun watching him at times then oh let say some person I really don’t want to keep picking on. But I guess it was fine since didn’t want to get too random.
  • Momo Wu as Lung (綸).
  • Man Yeung Ching Wah as Yip Ying Sum’s boyfriend/later husband. I just plain hate him no matter how I look at it. I try to reason of course the past May was really scary and unpredictable and he wanted to stay on the so-called “respectable” side of the society. Yet I swear I can’t like him regardless.
  • Burmie Wong as Bonnie.
  • Glen Lee as Hung Gwok Dong (洪國棟). Only appeared a bit and then was killed off. Yet the impact of his death became really large scale later on. Considering how the story moved along to tell us all the pieces eventually with the puzzle moving and emerging.
  • Stephen Ho as Satay. Another gangster role. Nothing new. But contributed somewhat to the plot. At least moved some things forward.
  • Geoffrey Wong as Yip Chi Kit (葉智傑). He got a somewhat cool role in here. Undercover and all. First, I thought he was tossed into this for a random role and once again a not so likable character. Yet his role wasn’t so senseless after all.

Relationships – Family, friends, and romances:

  • Roger Kwok and Kristal Tin as a couple. I wasn’t sure about this couple when I saw the cast list. But I was proved wrong and I was glad of it. They were refreshing and funny in their own way (when they finally become a couple, that was). And cute too.
  • Ron Ng and Lisa Lau as a couple. Seriously? Is this Ron’s worst pairing ever? I never thought the day I would side with Ron or pay that much attention to his pairings. I thought as long as it worked somehow with the plot, it was fine. Yet Lisa seriously was a disappointment as his pairing. NOT talking about character either, but that had gone against her even more with her nosy nature and using Sap Zai to extract information–both regarding police stuff and about Funny.
  • Ron Ng and Kiki Sheung as mother and son. Refreshing for me since I haven’t watched them collaborated in that manner before. But that didn’t sell me until near the end as things got even more complicated. Because at first what I saw was just a typical pair of mother and son with expectations and pressure to do good and her nagging of him as a parent/madam. Yet what stepped past all that was the whole responsibility of being a cop. Then it tied it right back to both, with him having to prove to her that he wasn’t the greedy type already being pulled in by the other side–and also being a good son. What happened, later on, was really tragic but really touching. Both really convinced me of their relationship as mother and son.
  • Roger Kwok and Ron Ng as friend-enemies. Real interesting and nerve-racking on many levels, especially seeing who would win the battle later on in the plot. And for those thinking Ron got robbed with not appearing more than Roger, I swear it wasn’t like that. Anyone want to get technical, go ahead. But I thought how the plot was crafted, it was really fascinating and intriguing to watch and see which side was going to win in the end.
  • Ron and Vivien? Why not? I mean come on! I swear they would be paired up, considering how they came into the department on the same day, and she sort of chided him with a shove to greet the other members as well! LOL! Icy was really cute and funny in her own way and he was just teasing with not letting her know he was their new boss, etc. Then how he dragged her into posing as his girlfriend. But that ended up as nothing. They always like to do those ‘fake turning into real’ kind of thing, so why not? But I guess it would be too cliche with them working together and all. Such a shame though, since they would be a cute couple. They do not have to be focused on so much, but just a side cute thing for the rest of us among all the intense battles in here.

The finale? Very satisfying for me as in intense and chaos, etc. Who was the winner in the end? Kwong King Cheung. Yes, I swear he won. Since he managed to dodge all the prison terms and other things, successfully taking out Henry and completing his mission. Because seriously, the others either died, went to prison, or had other casualties. Aside from the intensity and confrontation with Marco at one point, he didn’t have any true enemies, always collecting money and doing his deeds, and then that was it. He didn’t need to worry who was after his head, he only sided with money. I was actually rooting for him to win in the madness of all those battles among different forces in here. At least where all the villains were involved.

But kidding aside, it wrapped up quite well. Not only it wasn’t rushed but it paced itself just fine throughout, not saving everything until the end. Although there were even more intensity and conflicts playing out in the end, it had been that way since the start. The whole not knowing who could be trusted and the side battles between different groups. I had to go and read spoilers to see what might come out of it in the end, and thinking it might be rush with Ko Chit Hang turning good again. But it wasn’t too unreasonable when the scene came around. It made sense, considering how he really did love May. It was just that he was too into twisting facts to his own benefit. So when he learned to finally let go (thanks to the nurses who were taking care of him in prison), anything was possible for his case. And if Roger doesn’t win the “Best Actor Award” this year, I’ll hang my hat. (LOL!) Okay, I’ll just hang one since I have several hats, LOL!