Kent Cheng and Michael Wong in "The Log" (1996)

25 Years Later: The Log 三個受傷的警察 (1996)

Directed by Derek Chiu (Sung-Kei), who helmed several Milkyway films such as Final Justice <最後判決> (1997) and Sealed With A Kiss <甜言蜜語> (1999) made this underrated cop drama The Log <三個受傷的警察> — also stylised as 3個受傷的警察, which was originally released back in 1996.

Although the movie was hardly a box-office hit, especially given its paltry HK$1.8 million total grosses at the time, The Log <三個受傷的警察> famously won Kent Cheng his second Best Actor statuette (after Why Me? <何必有我?> in 1985) at the 16th Hong Kong Film Awards — the very year where Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost A Love Story <甜蜜蜜> made history for then-record-breaking nine award wins. And despite the latter almost swept the entire key categories (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Screenplay, just to name a few), it was Kent Cheng’s sympathetic role as the veteran cop Gump, who upstaged Leon Lai in the acting category during that year.

In addition to Kent Cheng’s victory, the movie itself was also nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Jerry Lamb) and Best Original Film Score. Looking back at The Log <三個受傷的警察> twenty-five years later, the film mainly works well because of Kent Cheng’s superb performance and Derek Chiu’s better-than-expected direction (this was his fourth directorial effort following Pink Bomb <人生得意衰盡歡>, Mr. Sardine <沙甸魚殺人事件> and Oh! My Three Guys <三個相愛的少年>).

The latter is particularly evident in the way Chiu took the typical soap opera-style narration found in the like-minded Hong Kong cop genre by incorporating sociopolitical allegories related to the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Even the movie itself was set during New Year’s Eve in 1996, where the story focuses on the three police officers of different ranks’ respective downfalls.

Michael Wong as Dixon in "The Log" (1996)
Michael Wong as Dixon in “The Log” (1996)

Beginning with Kent Cheng’s Gump, we learn that he’s a workaholic who spent more time in the office than at home taking care of their family. One day, his wife (Cher Yeung Suet-Yee) had enough of him and asked for a divorce. Gump also finds out that one of his well-respected superior officers (Fredric Mao’s Koo) has been seeing his wife behind his back all the while. As Gump begins to suffer from severe desperation, it’s only a matter of time before he finally loses his mind.

The second police officer is Dixon (Michael Wong), a by-the-book cop and hostage negotiator, where Gump works under him. Then came one crucial day where Dixon accidentally gunned down a hostage during a taxi hostage incident. Charged with manslaughter, he is subsequently being detained and questioned by two Regional Crime Unit (RCU) officers-in-charge (Raven Choi and Ronny Ching).

On the same day, the third character who had bad luck is Jerry (Jerry Lamb), a uniformed policeman who owes a lot of money before unexpectedly killing one of the gangsters during a gang fight in the restaurant.

Written by Lu Bing and John Chan (Kin-Chung), the movie tries its best to interweave these three separate stories. While Gump and Jerry’s stories have their own resolutions, the same cannot be said on Dixon’s side. It’s like as if the movie was not equipped with enough budget and didn’t have time to fine-tune the script and have to make do with whatever they got in the end. Frankly, it was a real pity, considering Michael Wong did a great job portraying a no-nonsense cop whose reputation is ultimately tainted after one false move.

Jerry Lamb plays Jerry in "The Log" (1996)
Jerry Lamb plays Jerry in “The Log” (1996)

Jerry Lamb, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Eric Tsang for Comrades, Almost A Love Story <甜蜜蜜> made quite an impression as the otherwise slacker and debt-ridden police officer suffering from guilt. The movie also featured then-unknown Stephen Fung (Tak-Lun), appearing in his second acting role after 1995’s Summer Snow <女人四十>. Stephen Fung, of course, would go on appearing in several high-profile Hong Kong movies, namely the late Benny Chan’s Gen-X Cops <特警新人類> in 1999.

The sociopolitical allegories about the 1997 Hong Kong handover in question can be seen within (most) locals’ mixed feelings of uncertainties and anxieties, which reflect the three principal characters in the movie. At one point, Chiu even made it blatantly clear during a particular scene where the increasingly unhinged Gump loses his sanity and keeps slapping a Mainland China suspect.

Given its obvious limited budget, The Log <三個受傷的警察> remains rough around the edges, particularly in the technical aspect with Tony Cheung Tung-Leung’s distractingly blue-tinted cinematography quickly comes to mind.

The Log <三個受傷的警察> was the only time that Derek Chiu got recognised for a Best Director nomination in the Hong Kong Film Awards. His recent movies in the 2018 black-and-white, politically-charged No. 1 Chung Ying Street <中英街1號> was a return to form for Derek Chiu, even though it failed to secure any nomination in the Hong Kong Film Awards.

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