Chinese Title: "Tor Cheung Si Jeh 4" (roughly translates to The Armed Policewomen)
# of episodes: 40
Theme Songs: Sammi Cheng "Lok Chor Cheh" (closing theme: roughly translates to Got Off the Wrong Car), opening theme is also sung by Sammi Cheng but I do not know the song title. My apologies.
Marco Ngai Jun Kit as Ching Fung
Joyce Tang Lai Ming as Chan Sam Yuen
Bobby Au-Yeung Chun Wah as Chan Siu Sang
Ada Choi Siu Fun as Wai Ying Jee
Frankie Lam Man Long as Ken Kong Ji Kin (Ken)
Yoyo Mung Ka Wai as Sunnie Fong Ching (Sunnie)
Chu Mi Mi as Yee Mui Jeh ("2nd older sister"; mother of Sam Yuen; older sister-in-law to Siu Sang)
Hong Wah as Wong Soh Sum ("Sum Jeh", wife of Wai Ying Hong and step-mother to Jee)
Ha Ping as Grandma Wai
Lam Suet Mei as Sei Fook ("4th luck", sister to Sam Yuen)
Cheung Wai Yee as Cheung Tin Wing (Wing)
Evergreen Mak as Sing Jin Choi (henceforth referred to as The Bad Guy)
The Gist: The fourth but unfortunately not final instalment of the Armed Reaction series is much, much better than Parts 2 and 3. Drama-wise and even acting-wise, it is the most successful, but unfortunately it does not possess the charms or premise of Armed Reaction 1.
Can be broken down in two large parts, the first that weaves the main crime story with romance-lust and the second which is ... well, romance. This is TVB, folks.
Fung-Sam Yuen-Wing-Bad Guy
After more than a decade of being together and some major tragedies (Sam Yuen getting raped, their son Kaka murdered, etc. etc.), Fung and Sam Yuen's problems persist. First comes complications with Sam Yuen's pregnancy, but that story ends happily when she gives birth to a healthy son they name Cheuk Cheuk (they're not very creative with their kids' names are they... Sasa, Kaka, Cheuk Cheuk). But then comes Wing and Bad Guy. Wing is the heiress to mighty triad group Hung Ying, and when her father dies she takes over the illegal local enterprise, much to the anger and frustration of most of the subordinates who aren't too crazy about being led by a woman. Bad Guy Sing Jin Choi is Wing's husband, and although he is a devoted and loving one he has absolutely no teeth in the affairs of Hung Ying, because Wing was wed to him by her father years ago when Bad Guy took a bullet for him. Wing never loved Bad Guy, and insists he keeps out of Hung Ying's operations.
Fung and fellow SID (Special Investigation Department) cops spend virtually the whole series trying to pull Hung Ying from its roots and send everyone involved behind bars, and in the process Wing becomes infatuated with Fung. In an unpredictable plot turn, Wing drugs Fung and they end up sleeping together, and Wing uses this to blackmail Fung into staying with her. But Bad Guy becomes furious when he finds out, and accidentally kills Wing. He tries to frame Fung for the murder, but evidence clears Fung's name. Getting even angrier, Bad Guy calls Fung out and lunges at him with an axe. He then puts the unconscious but severely bleeding Fung into a car and pushes it into the river ... And that's it. Yup. They end the series without ever recovering Fung's body.
Everything is jolly dandy between Siu Sang and Jee (although the latter refuses to marry him until she gets a promotion) until Siu Sang begins to suffer from a jealousy complex. Things get ugly and Jee finally breaks up with him, and not long after begins to date Ken. After Sunnie's hilarious pursuing, Siu Sang begins to go out with her. Of course, in true TVB manner Siu Sang still has feelings for Jee, and after witnessing a kiss between Ken and ex-girlfriend Sandy, Jee and him break up. But in the end, do they get together? Who knows? The last the audience heard was that Siu Sang came back from LA and the last scene showed him, Jee, and Sam Yuen rushing to answer yet another call regarding Fung's disappearance. What happens to Sunnie? She stays in LA , I think.
Evaluation of Cast and Characters
Long one of TVB's most under-used actors, Marco is superb as Fung in AR4. There's no one else who would fit this role. Marco plays a devoted, loving husband and father, and does a fantastic job revealing Fung's emotions in his struggle over the decision of whether to tell his wife about his infidelity. He has a natural talent for acting; given any kind of character, his face and acting skills just mold him to the role. In the latter part of the series Marco looks appropriately worn out and burdened (remember Gallen Lo from Golden Faith?). Aside from star quality, he also obviously has fantastic chemistry with Joyce Tang; they seem like an old married couple in this series. I was cursing at the scriptwriters for their decision to have Fung drugged and get involved in an intimate relationship with Wing, since this entirely betrayed what the audience had gotten used to in the role of Fung i.e. an ideal man. But in any case, Marco Ngai undoubtedly gave the best performance of the series and handled the meatiest role of AR4 with confidence. I really hope to see this guy in more leading roles because he definitely deserves more exposure and opportunities.
I've never been a huge fan of Joyce but she really surprised me here. Of the entire Armed Reaction series the fourth one boasts the best performance from this actress. She seems to have improved a lot (maybe it's because she finally got the hang of it after 3 series?). Anyway, Joyce delivered a strong performance as the suffering wife who didn't know whether she should support her husband despite his unwanted betrayal, and her transition from tomboy Sam Yuen to motherly and wife-like Sam Yuen seemed believable. You know what was one of the best scenes from her and Marco? The part after Fung's affair with Wing was revealed and the reporters were chasing them around. She just stood in front of him, holding his hand and in a determined voice, calmly but firmly said that she would stand by her husband no matter what. Marco just stood behind her, looking ashamed and worn out while Joyce just stood her ground. A terrific performance in that scene. Her crying scenes were surprisingly emotionally affecting although sometimes her expressions were lacking in other parts. Despite evident chemistry with real-life boyfriend Marco Ngai, the idea of the two having a 12-year-old daughter (or however old the actress who played Sasa was, she definitely looked 12 or even 13) was just so ridiculous that it's laughable. Also, from some angles Joyce looked like those female ghosts in those Japanese horror movies because her hair was at times disturbingly straight and hid the sides of her face. As for her character, Sam Yuen was portrayed the best in AR4. Her character was ridiculously cumbersome in AR2 and AR3, but I really sympathized with her in this series.
A predictably solid job as Siu Sang. Bobby is an actor whose real-life personality is revealed onscreen, and AR4 is no exception. Hes known for being witty as ever and for always adding lines to the script. His Siu Sang, although annoying at first (for not trusting Jee), was funny and intelligent as the work-serious boss and as the off-work-amusing uncle/boyfriend. Bobby and Ada had some surprisingly good chemistry, but although they made a fun couple to watch, nowhere did they have the spark that Bobby and Esther Kwan had in the first two parts. But despite this fact, Bobby is an example of an actor who can succeed even without great looks, a fit body, or a full head of hair i.e. based on acting talent.
Totally affable and amusing as the playful, vibrant and determined Jee. I think that Ada is an actress who uses different voices to portray different roles, literally. In Where the Legend Begins, her voice was gentle and quiet as the feminine and elegant Yan Fook. Here in AR4, her voice is charmingly rough as the tomboyish Jee. She also has a real flair for using body language and gestures when playing her characters. At the same time, Adas dramatic scenes were palpable, such as when Jee breaks up with Siu Sang. Her performance wasnt spectacular here, but it was confident and solid and I do think she is a comformable actress.
Now this was a weirder-than-weird departure from when I watched her in Good Against Evil before this series. Suddenly Yoyo Mung became a work-dead-serious but off-work outgoing young woman and the transition is surprisingly believable. By no means is she a terrific actress, but I do think that she has some kind of moldable face and that shes pretty benign. Her Sunnie was agreeable and also made a compatible couple with Bobbys Siu Sang. I was most struck by something she said somewhere in the middle of the series: "Every human being lies... only evidence tells you the truth". A simple line that subtly reveals Sunnie's insecurity. Well done, scriptwriters. All in all, I find myself more affected by Sunnie's scenes with her mother - if anyone knows the name of this actress please do email me (I think it's Han Ma Lei?). She's one of the older ones found everywhere in TVB and is a lovely supporting actress, but I do not know her name. She also played Francis Ng's mother (Shek Sau's wife) in Triumph in the Skies. Anyway, Ive said it before and Ill say it again, Yoyo Mung has one terrifyingly odd voice when she cries, so in her sad scenes Im more scared than touched.
On the Other Characters and Performances
Ive never liked Frankie Lam as an actor and hes predictably redundant in this series as Ken. If there's one thing Frankie Lam lacks as an actor, it's charisma. Or screen presence. He's just so boring and emotionally unaffecting I'm positive the guy has no personality in real life. And who was the ke-le-fe who played Ken's ex-girlfriend Sandy? That woman was mercilessly irritating. The girl who played Cherry from the bar was also terrible. But aside from these weak performances, the rest of the supporting cast was strong.
Veterans Ha Ping and Chu Mi Mi are at their usual best as the jolly authority figures of the series. The actor who played Ying Hung (Jees father) was amusingly dopey, although his pairing with Hong Wah (easily one of TVBs most beautiful actresses) is a little odd. Speaking of Hong Wah, she was great as the good-hearted Sum. The dynamic between the SID team and in the Wai family was also very fun to watch. Does anyone know the name of the actor who played undercover cop Hong? He was very good too.
Now I personally thought Cheung Wai Yee did a good job as the icy Wing. She was appropriately unfeeling and tough as leader Wing, but also appropriately womanly and vulnerable as the desperate-for-Fung Wing. Good job from this actress. Evergreen Mak was fairly decent as the villain of the series, he doesnt have what it takes to be a leading actor but is always a reliable supporting one.
Why Its Better Than AR 1-3
First of all, Sam Yuen was exasperating in Parts 2 and 3. I dont want to go into details but she was the indirect cause of her son dying and never learned her lesson, and she never really appreciated Fung for all he did. In AR4, though, she thankfully matured into a responsible and feeling mother and woman. Joyce Tang, as mentioned, also delivers her best performance in the fourth AR instalment. I also liked Sunnie's character in here; a straightforward, capable but still funny young lady. I like this Yoyo Mung.
Also, the whole series was founded on the Hung Ying case, which meant developed characters including developed villains. We see the motivations behind the villains actions, and we see the others reactions to those. AR4 is also where Marco leads the way in terms of acting and he really gets a chance here to show his acting chops (although those were already transparent in AR3 when Kaka died). Plot-wise, AR4 also succeeds much better than the first 3, mainly because the criminal stuff here is abruptly violent (eg. death of Wing and undercover cop Hong). By the way, who else was freaked out by that scene where Sunnie studies the evidence and Wing's face appears on the plastic? That was one scary scene.
Why Its Not
1) The very basis of Fung and Sam Yuens problems i.e. Fungs involvement with Wing. What a way to betray a character. I know that his unfaithfulness was entirely unintentional but I cant help but think it was out of character for Fung. Or at least, out of what the audience grew to love about this character.
2) The absence of Esther Kwan. Shes always been one of my favourite actresses and although Ada Choi does an above average job as Siu Sangs new lover, she doesnt measure up to the original charm that made the Bobby-Esther couple so endearing.
3) The writers amnesia for the original premise of the series, clearly encapsulated in the title: The Armed Policewomen. Its gone here, with Jee and Sam Yuen working in the traffic department and Siu Sang and Fung catching the big bad guys. The only exception is Sunnie whos an intelligent and capable female forensic scientist. AR was originally founded on the idea of women being able to catch thieves and jump over walls, and this was entirely forgotten in AR4.
4) Most importantly, the cliffhanger ending. Now we know for sure there will be a Part 5 or the audience will revolt. What kind of lame ending is that? Quite frankly I do not know how they can save this one in Part 5. Fung gets saved by some boat people but loses his memory? He actually does die? He gets amnesia and instead becomes some criminal and Siu Sang, Sam Yuen, and Co. have to catch him? Personally I dont like endings without closure. I do not like imagining what could have been or who and who could have gotten together. And in my opinion, Siu Sang and Jee should have gotten married or something and get the whole thing over with.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
No particular reason not to. A competent series with a coherent narrative and good acting.