Law With Two Phases 公僕 (1984) Review

Although Danny Lee was largely known to international audiences for his acting collaborations alongside Chow Yun-Fat in City on Fire <龍虎風雲> (1987) and The Killer <喋血雙雄> (1989), he already made his mark earlier in Law with Two Phases <公僕>.

Danny Lee plays seasoned cop B, who teams up with by-the-book rookie partner Kit (Eddie Chan). Unlike Kit, B is more of an unorthodox cop who doesn’t necessarily play by the rules. Then one day, things go awry when B accidentally shot down a kid while pursuing a suspect (Parkman Wong).

It was this moment as well as the rest of the final 30 minutes that helps define the career of Danny Lee. Lee’s nuanced performance from a seemingly easygoing cop to a guilt-ridden and emotionally-conflicted individual is simply top-notch. The kind of role that made him truly deserved his first Best Actor win at the Hong Kong Film Awards, beating the likes of Chow Yun-Fat in Hong Kong 1941 <等待黎明> and Jackie Chan in Project A <A計劃>.

Eddie Chan and Parkman Wong in “Law with Two Phases” (1984).

The increasingly pessimistic approach during the last half-hour is also a far cry from most HK cop dramas during that era, as Lee — who also responsible for co-writing the screenplay alongside Hoh Hong-Kiu — offers a then-bold perspective at crime and law enforcement where nothing is as simple as black and white.

While Lee is the centre of the attraction here, the supporting actors are equally engaging. Eddie Chan, best known for his groundbreaking undercover role in Alex Cheung’s Man on the Brink <邊緣人> (1981), delivers strong support as B’s partner. Tai Bo, who received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his ill-fated role as B’s informant/drug addict as well as Parkman Wong as B’s childhood friend/gang leader, deserved a few mentions as well.

Danny Lee and Kam Hing-Yin in “Law with Two Phases” (1984).

Still, Law with Two Phases <公僕> isn’t without its fair shares of flaws. The movie tends to be episodic in few places and it takes time to pick up the pace. Despite the shortcomings, this otherwise genre-defining cop drama remains one of Danny Lee’s best movies ever made and definitely a must-see for every HK movie fan.


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