Home > TV and anime > The Men of Justice or Fa Wang Qun Ying — review of episodes 1- 20

The Men of Justice or Fa Wang Qun Ying — review of episodes 1- 20

I suppose my tastes are relatively easy to define. I like whatever “it” is to be intelligent. So, be “it” book, film, television series or some other medium, there should be a willingness to present the narrative in a consistent way. Even though life is often messy, that does not mean there are no rules for living it. So, if you are going to create a work of fiction, it should explore the “messiness” within a clear structure of rules. Half the fun of science fiction or fantasy is that the author can create a whole new set of rules and see how the characters react. It’s a kind of Pavlovian dog experiment, assuming the “people” are shaped by the stimuli in their environments.

Lawrence Ng Kai Wah ready to take on the world

 

This may seem a slightly odd way of starting a review of The Men of Justice or Fa Wang Qun Ying but, in a way, this is everything good about the art of writing fiction. We all know that some of our police officers are corrupt. It’s a necessary part of our society that there are lawyers prepared to represent criminals when their cases come before the courts. Sex and sexuality are central to our cultures, defining the roles we can play and the prices to be paid for different kinds of behaviour. The question is how far a mass-market television show can or should go in exploring such issues. In a conservative country where the maintenance of social control is important to the government, a television company might have to move carefully if it proposed to deal with controversial topics. We might make that doubly careful if it was proposing to do so at length over 35 episodes. This is not a one-off episode challenging a single social convention. The whole series is deeply rooted in the messiness of the real world and, it seems, not afraid to show it on screen. This is interesting because, in the years since the return of Hong Kong to Chinese hands, the media generally and the press in particular, have been practising varying degrees of self-censorship. The concept of “one country, two systems” sounds good, but when the big brother Communist Party next door dislikes any more overt discussion of corruption, police incompetence or socially divisive issues, this inevitably puts pressure on the Hong Kong media to be less challenging.

Amy Chan running the show for the prosecution

 

So let’s just take a few of the issues raised in this serial:

 

— what do we think about gun controls, particularly if criminals get hold of them?
— what do we think of a private tutor who fondles his female students?
— would this behaviour justify a male student accusing the same tutor of sodomy?
— should it be an offence for a woman to give oral sex to a man in a parked car?
— how should a parent react when a daughter may be gay? how should colleagues in the police force react when one of their colleagues is probably gay?
— what should a lead detective do if she discovers evidence that police officers have robbed a bank?
— how should senior officers react if they believe one of their undercover officers has actually become a top criminal?
— how should society react when carers exploit the weak and vulnerable?
— has Hong Kong really become a society where ordinary people would drive by and leave someone injured to die?

 

The Men of Justice or Fa Wang Qun Ying was created and produced by Gary Tang Tak Hei. The cast includes Lawrence Ng Kai Wah, as Joe, a slightly humourless prosecutor, who was passed over as boss of the unit in favour of Amy Chen Sau Man. On the defence side, we have Kenneth Chan Kai Tai as Ben who feels ethically challenged but cares more than he chooses to let on, and William So Wing Hong as Patrick who seems to have no sense when it comes to dealing with women. On the side of the law and order, Pinky Cheung as Madam Winnie makes a good job out of lead detective, while ex-flame Jacky Lui Chung Yin works undercover to gather evidence on a top criminal.

William So Wing Hong relaxing

 

Thematically, the show bridges between individual cases by playing out a number of broadly romantic narrative arcs. Joe loses the girl he loves and is then pursued. Ben finds himself vulnerable if he is seen to care about women in his life. And the young thing seems intent on self-destruction by becoming involved with a weird young lady. Our undercover operative may put himself in danger by resuming a romance with a senior police officer. The minder gets himself into trouble with a woman, finds himself blackmailed by a second, and then cannot deal with the emotional fall-out.

 

Broadly this demonstrates the problem with the show as a whole. If it had adopted a scripting style to produce stand-alone cases per episode, rather in the US model, there was plenty of scope for courtroom drama while raising some controversial issues. Equally, if they had written a serial about an undercover operation to catch a big criminal, we could have followed that with interest as the police close in while the criminal tries to work out who is betraying him. Or we could have had a romantic drama based on the offices of state prosecutors or a set of lawyers chambers. But the trouble comes when the script tries to embrace all three because we lose the tension and excitement in the long-running undercover operation while we watch some convoluted love affairs. It’s trying to do too much and failing to maintain interest. This does not deny the show as ambitious, not to say, brave given the political context in which it was made. But after a strong start, The Men of Justice or Fa Wang Qun Ying was just fading away so that, by episode 20, I found myself getting bored. This was a shame. All the potential was wasted. Except the scriptwriters woke up and produced a major “surprise” in one of the threads. Far be it from me to spoil your enjoyment of the moment but, suffice it to say, I’m now going to keep on watching to see how it plays out.

 

For the review of the remaining 15 episodes, see The Men of Justice — episodes 21 to 35.

 

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