Colour of Truth (2003)
Director: Marco Mak, Wong Jing
Cast: Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Jordan Chan, Ho-Yin Wong
Synopsis: A man becomes a cop in order to take down the police superintendent who may have killed his father, and that of a vengeful Triad boss.
For some films, such an over-familiar storyline as that contained within Colour of Truth might prove fatal — it’s a story we’ve heard and seen countless times over and contains little in the way of surprises, but this film manages to rise above its ordinary plot courtesy of some first-class direction from Marco Mak and Jing Wong (who, incredibly, has written and directed nearly one hundred films since the late 70s), and some nice characterisation from the lead actors.
Ho-Yin Wong (Koma) plays Coke (or Cola in the subtitled version I watched: as I write, someone somewhere is probably watching a version in which he is called Pepsi), a young policemen whose father (Ching Wan Lau — Fairy Tale Killer), also a policeman, was shot under suspicious circumstances. Cola finds himself working under Huang (Anthony Wong) the policeman suspected of killing his father, and comes under pressure to kill him from a local gangster whose father was also killed in the same incident and who has been surreptitiously supporting Cola through his childhood. Consequently, Cola finds his loyalties torn as his unit investigate a cocaine war between rival gangs.
One of the film’s early scenes features a tense three-way stand-off on a Hong Kong rooftop that is typical of everything that is right about this movie. Although Mak and Wong’s direction is energetic throughout, it rejects the MTV-style cutting favoured by Hollywood in favour of close-ups on faces and hands, so that an insignificant touch of a character’s shoulder will have you tensing up with expectation. It’s a tactic that works well, and combines with the use of muted colours and incongruous but effective tribal music/warbling to deliver a stylish package that overcomes a storyline that is not only familiar but also peppered with too many moments that illustrate an Asian audiences willingness to accept plot twists that Western audiences might find difficult to swallow. The comedy element of the picture also misfires badly — the comic relief, a shabby colleague of Cola’s called Toast, simply isn’t funny and grows old very quickly — and, as usual, the subtitled translations are pretty poor. It’s a shame more effort isn’t put into the translation of films like these, where the interaction between the characters is so important to the plot. You can’t help but feel you’re missing out on a lot of important stuff when conversations are reduced to a couple of sentences.
Ho-Yin Wong is the star of the picture, but it’s Anthony Wong who steals the kudos from the younger actor with a charismatic role that has something of Spacey about it. Overcoming the over-use of sunglasses to emphasise the enigmatic nature of his character, he gives a nicely restrained performance that hints at a man haunted by events of the past without overstating the fact. For a Hong Kong action movie this one actually takes a lot of care to develop the main characters — although it is more successful with Huang than Cola — which is a good thing as it is the true nature of the characters — which isn’t at first clear (about or) to anyone involved — that must decide the outcome of the story.
Colour of the Truth is a stylish, well-acted crime flick with mostly believable characters that will entertain fans of the genre without offering anything new in terms of plot.