In less than a month, we are treated to double doses of Andy Lau, beginning with The Goldfinger <金手指> at the end of 2023 and now, I Did It My Way <潛行>. The latter also marks the return of cinematographer-turned-director Jason Kwan, who proved his worth as a co-director alongside Wong Jing in the entertaining Chasing the Dragon <追龍> and Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch <追龍II: 賊王>.
I Did It My Way <潛行> would be the second time Kwan made his solo directing feature after his 2017 debut in A Nail Clippers Romance <指甲刀人魔>. His new movie has all the makings of a potentially good crime-action thriller. We have the calibre of not one but a few notable actors including Andy Lau, Lam Ka-Tung, Eddie Peng, Cya Liu, Simon Yam and Philip Keung. The story combines a mix of tried-and-tested and current narrative angles of cops vs criminals, undercover and dark web-related techno-thriller. Not to forget, the involvement of Chin Ka-Lok serving as an action director.
And yet, a lot of things go wrong in I Did It My Way <潛行>. The story is one of the biggest problems here — a bloated mess of different ideas meshed together minus the solid execution. The movie, however, wastes no time jumping straight to the action as the superintendent of the CIU (cybercrime investigation unit), Eddie Fong (Eddie Peng) leads his team under the supervision of Simon Yam’s role as the superior to catch Chan Chiu-Sang (Philip Keung in a croaky voice), a wanted drug dealer believed to be “The Boss”. We learn that Chan is always well prepared in case something goes wrong, thanks to his trusted associates including barrister George Lam (Andy Lau) and enforcer Sau Ho (Lam Ka-Tung).
But what could have been a promising first act is hampered by Jason Kwan’s haphazard direction and Chin Ka-Lok’s action set pieces that are all loud noises of gunfights, explosions and car crashes. The jittery and fast-moving camerawork, coupled with annoyingly rapid-fire editing and close-ups are all here in an attempt to evoke a visceral sense of thrills and tension.
Unfortunately, I find it hard to enjoy the action choreography and Kwan’s somewhat dim cinematography doesn’t help either. The latter is especially true with one of the major action sequences taking place on the island in Malaysia.
Going back to the story, I Did It My Way <潛行> demands you to keep up with the plot since it tends to jump from one scene to another at a pace that is too brisk for its own good. What you need to know is that Eddie’s police raid triggers a series of unfortunate events and somewhere in between, George Lam is looking forward to wed his pregnant girlfriend (Cya Liu). We also learn that George and Sau Ho are longtime friends but too bad the brotherhood angle is all perfunctorily written.
The movie incorporates the techno-thriller vibe that reminds me of last year’s Aaron Kwok-starred Cyber Heist <斷網>. The story includes moments of a group of young hackers led by Terrance Lau helping The Boss to manage the online shopping of drug dealing via the dark web. The visual depiction of hacking along with the inner workings of the dark web feel like they are straight out of the dated ’90s-style Hollywood techno thrillers.
What bothers me the most is George’s hasty character arc from a somewhat mild-mannered barrister to a vengeful antagonist following a certain tragedy. Let’s just say it has something to do with his questionable decision of botching an international drug deal, making me wonder if it was more of a flimsy excuse to raise the so-called dramatic stakes. I’m not sure this particular storytelling angle is a victim of an oversight or whatever behind-the-scenes tinkering which resulted in a disjointed turn of events.
As for the acting, I was hoping that Andy Lau could re-capture the terrific cast-against-type role seen in Protégé, where he took home a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor win at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Although he retains his usual charisma in I Did It My Way <潛行>, his antagonist turn is disappointingly superficial. Frankly, he deserved better and the same goes for Lam Ka-Tung, who plays the conflicted enforcer while Eddie Peng is wasted in a thankless role as the determined CIU cop.
The rest of the supporting cast isn’t given much room to expand their acting abilities namely, Cya Liu who made such a lasting impression in Limbo <智齒> but she doesn’t get to do much in her obligatory wife role in I Did It My Way <潛行>.
It’s hard to believe this is the work from Jason Kwan, missing much of his directorial prowess in the crime action genre that he successfully showcased in the first two Chasing the Dragon <追龍>.