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L Storm
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by Jay Seaver

"The most straightforward 'Storm' but also the most enjoyable."
4 stars

I don't know that "L Storm" is quite the improvement on its immediate predecessor that "S Storm" was to "Z Storm", but the extent to which this series has figured out its strengths and managed to make a decent series out of corruption, inter-agency squabbling, and white-collar crime is impressive. These won't become classics, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of solid, unbloated crime at the movies.

As things start, two different law enforcement agencies are staking out the same border crossing. Chief "William" Luk Chi Lim (Louis Koo Tin-lok) of the Independent Commision Against Corruption is watching Dik Wai-kit (Michael Tse Tin-wah), a border guard suspected of taking bribes to allow smugglers through; Lau Po-kyeung (Julian Cheung Chi-lam), newly promoted to a job within the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, is tracking Zhao Mei-xin (Sienna Li Xin-yue), who has brought a large amount of cash to be laundered by Tsui Yau-choi (Liu Kai-chi). They don't quite get in each other's way, but both get away, in part due to the intervention of Ho Tai-wo (Patrick Tam Yiu-man). Though Luk and Lau clashed on a previous case, they resolve to stay out of each other's way, but the ICAC's case is sabotaged when an accusation of corruption is leveled against Luk himself, with "L Squad" investigator Ching Tak-ming (Kevin Cheng Ka-wing) leading it and Luk's only lead to clear his name a seemingly unconnected model, Eva Ng (Sephy Tang Lai-yan).

The cop-on-the-run story is not exactly a new angle, but to watch this series is to see its utility. Louis Koo has been first-billed on all three of these movies, William Luk supposedly the central character, but neither of the previous two particularly seemed like star vehicles for him; S Storm, in particular, had him seeming almost like a guest star. From the start, Luk is leading teams, running after suspects, figuring out mysteries. It's not just his movie, but it feels a bit more focused - Luk, Ching, and Lau all have teams, some of them familiar from the previous movies for those who have seen them, but director David Lam and writers Wong Ho-wa and Ho Man-lung keep the complex story from being spread out over too many people. It's sometimes predictable, but it works.

Koo is the greatest beneficiary of this; Luk's not a terribly complicated character, but Koo hits a nice balance between the chief being driven to the point of some arrogance and empathetic. He plays well off the rest of the cast, from Stephy Tang as a flighty witness to Julian Cheung and Kevin Cheng as complementary cops (Cheung's Lau cool and collected, Ching intense). The cops chasing each other for a while means that the movie doesn't need a whole bunch of villainous factions, and the villains themselves are a bit underused - Michael Tse gets a good scene or two as Dik Wai-kit, while Liu Kai-chi and Patrick Tam Yiu-man are decent as differently flamboyant money launderers. They could get a little more use out of Sienna Li Xin-yue, though - she holds the screen beyond looking good, with Mei-xin seeming like she should be more of an important player than she is. Adam Pak Tin-nam is the one who seems to be having the most fun, although he doesn't really get to chew scenery until late.

He's one of the stronger screen fighters in the cast, too, enough to be part of most of the film's best action sequences. Slick title sequence aside, L Storm is not the most elaborate crime movie to come out of Hong Kong recently - it's polished but a little underpopulated, which means only a few feel really dangerous on top of being well-choreographed (as in S Storm, one of the best comes from Janelle Sing Kwan and I'm not sure why she's not in more movies). There's some iffy effects work that demonstrates that if you can't get something like an overhead shot of a guy jumping from one rooftop to the next perfect, you should probably just go for more conventional cutting. When they hit, though, they hit well, with good action involving fists, cars, and guns, and some impressively nasty work by a henchman or two.

"L Storm" isn't a huge step up from "S Storm", but it's the sort of spot-hitting genre movie that makes for a pretty decent hour and a half: Decent cast, not a lot of wasted time, quality action. Conventional as they come, but actively fun rather than just killing time.

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originally posted: 09/03/18 05:23:02
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  23-Aug-2018 (MA)

Directed by
  David Lam

Written by
  Ho-wa Wong
  Man-lung Ho

  Louis Koo
  Julian Cheung
  Kevin Cheng
  Stephy Tang
  Adam Pak

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