The main actors in the show, who are also from the same on-screen family (excluding the mother) are from left, veteran HK actor Liu Kai-Chi, Malaysian child actress Crystal Lee, HK heartthrob Nicholas Tse and Taiwanese King of Pop Jay Chou.
The are plenty of detailed reviews out there so I will spare you all that and just share with you my own thoughts on what I enjoyed, as well as what I found odd. Hm, let me start with what I found odd.
Odd may or may not be a negative, depending on which side of the window you are peering out of. To me, I am still unsure if they are considered the 'bad' of the movie. Instead, it felt weird, especially when in my mind, it is a HK production with ethnic Chinese actors and actresses of different nationalities. Naturally, thinking that it is from HK (and Taiwan if you count the big Taiwanese names included), I was expecting a Cantonese mixed Mandarin script. When I heard the large amount of English and Malay (and a smattering of Arabic at the beginning), I could not help but giggle. I giggled not because the languages were badly spoken but plainly because I grew up watching HK action blockbusters in Cantonese. So not used to it being non-Canto.
Another oddness was how the places in the movie were not HK places like the usual Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok or Causeway Bay. Instead, the landmarks in the movie were Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, the Kuala Lumpur Train Station, the International Medical University, Putrajaya, and Port Klang, to name a few. Oh, and also how instead of Benzes, Chevies and other automobile big names we normally see in action flicks, this movie saw the action stars in a Proton Perdana and a Perodua Myvi. Did I forget AirAsia? Haha, it did feel a little like a promo ad that was advertising Malaysia.
Despite how I felt they were odd, I also felt that Malaysia proved a great place for the movie. I did not realise how amazing KL could look in a movie, which brings me to what I liked, which in effect made a huge impression on me.
Being an action movie, it definitely was not short on action. The movie reflected the director's love for guns and explosions. Even the scenes in Malaysia (my lovely country where I thought would not allow for such 'explosive violence' - oh so wrong) were action-packed. They had explosives go off along Jalan Sultan Ismail, bullet exchanges in a KTM train (with passengers!), a cafe blown to bits in Putrajaya and a Toyota Alphard dive crash into a monsoon drain at a roundabout which could have been the Merdeka roundabout, or the one at Jalan Pudu or Jalan Hang Tuah. I really could not tell but it was in the middle of a part of bustling KL notoriously famous for insanely high traffic volume. Oh, did I mention the car chase that went through Pavilion?
This may sound mean but while they were shooting this in KL, Nicholas was going through his high profile divorce with Cecilia Cheung, which I think really helped with building the character he played. I could feel for the character he played - all the agony of being abandoned by his mother, having to run to another land with a gambler father whom he picks after and not being able to be there for his daughter. And then add to that the sudden appearance of the younger brother who is on the other side of the fence. To me,this was what I really liked about the story. It's not just filled with non-stop action. It also had humanity weaved into it. There were some scenes which tugged at my heartstrings, as the importance of family was heavily stressed upon. How befitting for CNY.
One such scene was where Nicholas could not punch Jay in the face after Jay blurted out, "我是你弟!"
Another impressive thing about Nicholas was how he executed all the stunts personally, including this 8-storey jump:
I have to admit that Jay's performance in this movie is his best yet. His acting has improved by leaps and bounds. He is less stiff and gives more life to his character. I suppose, it does take more experienced actors to mentor you and a sensitive director to take you out of your shell.
Another powerful scene was where veteran actor Uncle Chi sacrificed himself to let Nicholas escape. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched Jay frantically trying to break the door open to the carriage his father was being killed in. The crying of little Crystal made the impact even stronger.
Crystal put up a stellar performance in this movie, producing acting that was beyond her years. Who is she, I hear you ask? Well, let us walk down memory lane and recall the CNY movie by Astro called Great Day or 天天好天. Remember this scene?:
Yes, this nine-year-old Malaysian child star was that little girl who ran away from home to go on a search for her grandpa.
Coming back to the current movie, the last scene of her hugging Nicholas as he told her that he will be back after serving yet another prison sentence and that she has to listen to her grandma showed what raw emotions the little girl is capable of evoking. Big things are going to happen to this young lass. Another Malaysian to be proud of.
How things change. CNY used to be Once Upon A Time in China or Fong Sai Yuk by Jet Li, or New Police Story by Jackie Chan. Oh well, things have to change, ey?