Two years after Danny Lee impresses with his triple duties as actor, writer and director in the acclaimed Law with Two Phases <公僕>, he returns to the familiar cop genre (after helming the Kent Cheng-starred comedy Cop Busters <拖錯車> a year prior) in The Law Enforcer <皇家飯>.
You won’t be expecting the same layered intensity that he displayed earlier in his award-winning role in Law with Two Phases <公僕>. Instead, Danny Lee plays a more subdued and straight-arrow cop role as Inspector Chan. The story deals with Chan alongside his colleagues (Parkman Wong, Ken Lo) investigating a suspended cop-turned-vigilante, Kent (Lung Ming-Yan, in his acting debut) as well as a group of dangerous criminals led by Ricky Yi Fan-Wai and Shing Fui-On.
Danny Lee, Edward Leung Yiu-Ming and Rudolf Chiu Hong-Shing’s screenplay is pretty much a standard-issue cops-vs-criminals drama. The pace also tends to be erratic and doesn’t get any interesting until around the last half-hour mark when Ricky Yi and Shing Fui-On begin their elaborate robbery plan.
Although it was admittedly too late and too little, Lee manages to redeem himself with a fairly effective direction during the final third act. The subsequent violent gunfight that takes place in a parking garage is both brutal and engaging.
While there is nothing much worth recommending about Lee’s typical cop role, Lung Ming-Yan (you may remember him as the minor adversary engaging in a Mexican standoff against Chow Yun-Fat’s Ken during the final gunfight in A Better Tomorrow II <英雄本色II> (1987) delivers quite a competent performance as Kent. But his role could have been better if the story addresses more of his sickness and not restricted him into a mere vigilante. Betty Mak Chui-Han is nothing more than appearing in an obligatory female role, while Parkman Wong does what he can in his underwritten role as Sergeant Man. Likewise, both Ricky Yi and Shing Fui-On (who received a Best Supporting nomination in the Hong Kong Film Awards) are perfectly typecast as uncompromisingly violent criminals.
Overall, The Law Enforcer <皇家飯> is more of a lesser effort from actor-writer-director Danny Lee.