Another year, another alphabet and yes… another Storm <風暴> has made its way to the cinemas.
In this seemingly never-ending ICAC-themed movie franchise, director David Lam and lead actor Louis Koo return for the fourth time in P Storm <P風暴> following last year’s L Storm <L風暴>.
This time, ICAC chief investigator William Luk (Louis Koo) goes undercover as a prisoner to investigate a bribery case involving a rich inmate Cao Yuen Yuen (Raymond Lam) and corrupted high-ranking prison officers (among them is Patrick Tam’s Sham Kwok-Keung) on his payroll. While going undercover, he also finds himself encountering his old nemesis, former Superintendent of Police Wong Man-Ban (Lam Ka-Tung) from the first movie, Z Storm <Z風暴> (2014).
Unlike previous Storm <風暴> series, this fourth instalment marks a significant change of pace by integrating two of among Hong Kong’s popular genres in the ICAC-themed action thriller: prison movie and undercover drama. While I admit it was a nice move to help freshen up the franchise from turning stale, P Storm <P風暴> pretty much functioned like another standard-issue HK action thriller. It even offers more or less the same storytelling beats seen in S Storm <S風暴> and L Storm <L風暴>, which are both generic but still able to provide adequate amounts of quick-fix entertainment values.
Likewise, David Lam’s direction is pedestrian at best but manages to keep things busy with multiple story threads over the course of its nearly 100-minute running time. The plot, which again scripted by L Storm <L風暴>‘s Wong Ho-Wa and Ho Man-Lung, squeezed as many stories as they can, covering everything from Luk’s central investigation to his rivalry with Wong Man-Ban and even subplots which include the ones with Louis Cheung’s Wong Man-Luk and his girlfriend played by Dada Chan in a cameo appearance. Basically, it feels almost like watching a whole season of a TVB drama condensed into one feature-length movie. And as you may guess it, the story is all superficially told with little depth whatsoever.
P Storm <P風暴> also suffers from the same abrupt scene transitions and inconsistent editing — two recurring problems that have yet completely rectified even we are already in the fourth movie. Sure, David Lam’s rusty direction that plagued the god-awful Z Storm <Z風暴> did show some minor improvements over the course of two Storm <風暴> movies but if you are expecting any major positive changes, you won’t really find it here.
Despite most of the shortcomings, P Storm <P風暴> remains a reasonably entertaining movie. It offers enough visual distractions as well as star power and familiar faces to satisfy even for casual HK movie fans. The overall action sequences, which is again choreographed by L Storm <L風暴>‘s Tony Ling Chi-Wah, are equally tense and exciting. This is particularly evident during the prison brawls and a climactic finale involving a helicopter fight between Kevin Cheng’s Ching Tak-Ming and Raymond Lam’s Cao Yuen Yuen. Speaking of the helicopter, I’m surprised the CG used during the particular setpiece is quite convincing for an HK/China production.