Detective Investigation Files IV

Reviewed by: lea

December 24, 2004

Rating: four

Louis Koo, Sunny Chan, Jessica Hsuan, Lee San San, Charmaine Sheh, Maggie Sieu, Anne Heung

Louis stars as Tu Phi, a silent, broody detective with a complicated past. He is the latest addition to what seems to be the only detective team in HK, headed by the sharp, stable, and all-round nice guy Tu Son (Sunny). At first incompatible with almost everyone, Tu Phi soon proves himself equally adept at solving complex whodunnits – and in the process showing he really has a heart of gold under all that arrogance! The two develop a close friendship and form a formidable investigating team.

The Love Triangles

Tu Phi, Quan, Thien Thien

Tu Phi continues to be haunted by the disappearance four years ago of his fiancée Thien Thien (Anne). He refuses to believe she is dead, is constantly searching for her - both physically and subconsciously - and still sees her around every corner (so to speak). Tu Phi is quite content to wallow in this state of waiting and wondering, until a series of events throws him into the path of Quan (Jessica), a psychologist working for the police department. An intelligent, level-headed woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go out and get it (sound familiar?), Quan forces Tu Phi to confront both his past and his developing feelings for her. He at first rebuffs her, but in typical Hollywood style, a would-be catastrophe forces both of them to confess their feelings for each other.

Thus their relationship begins, already on rocky ground with Thien Thien forever hovering in the background, popping up now and again to create friction for our two star-crossed lovers. It's bad enough without her physical presence, but what happens if and when she returns for real?

Tu Son, Tam Nhu, Man

One day Tam Nhu (Lee San San) and Tu Son meet outside a movie theater. For some reason they decide to watch a movie together. After this single chance meeting, Tam Nhu has remarkably fallen in love with him, not knowing that he (of course!) is her best friend Man's (Charmaine) boyfriend. Naturally she hides her feelings, which she does for many years. They are now three best friends, and of course Tam Nhu is dying inside every time they're together. A very unhealthy situation. Another series of events lead to Tam Nhu's feelings being discovered by both Tu Son and Man, Man making a conscious decision to withdraw from the relationship (all the while still loving Tu Son of course), and Tam Nhu and Tu Son finally getting together (after a lot of effort on Tam Nhu's part). Then Man has a change of heart. Who will Tu Son choose? But more importantly, who does he love best?

The Cases

Admittedly, the bulk of this series is taken up by the cases. But don't despair! This is not as bad as it sounds. Kudos to the writer(s) – most of the cases are compelling, and indeed, many are very cleverly constructed. Each is able to stand on its own as a crafty whodunnit, helped along by an impressive cast of supporting actors, including Florence Kwok, Marco Ngai, and Joyce Tang, just to name a few.

Also impressive is the lead-up to each case. By no means seamless, the writers have given it their best shot at making each seem less construed, planting seeds well before the next body turns up. But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect is that the cases are very cleverly interwoven with the lives of the main characters. In other words they do their job in propelling the story forward, the dynamics in both Tu Phi and Tu Son's relationships usually connected in some way to the investigations they are working (this is my 'series of events'). In this way, if you're like me and are more interested in their love stories, you'll be able to sit through the cases without too much use of the fast-forward button.

Just a final note about the ploy of getting the culprit to recount his crime in minute detail – it actually works here. Why people complain about it so much is because it's very repetitive, and TVB often treats its audience like three-year-olds. But because we are presented the clues as the detectives see them, many aspects of the crime remain unclear, and so a narration can be appreciated.

The Players

Louis Koo as Tu Phi
A perfect role for him. Equal parts arrogance, compassion and tough-guy, Louis pulls it off very well. Some may complain that he's a bit wooden in expression, but the eyes speak volumes. Maybe I'm biased, because of the remarkable chemistry between him and Jessica. Or is it just comfort? I dare say he's more comfortable with her than any other actress he's been with.

Jessica Hsuan as Quan
The role that started it all. Now she can't seem to get any type of role other than the strong-willed modern day woman. But then she has made it her own with this performance, especially being paired with Louis, which is a stroke of genius on TVB's part.

Sunny Chan as Tu Son
Perhaps his best performance in a serial. Again I may be biased, as I really like this character. Calm, cool, and collected, and Sunny is totally convincing. After his turn in Secret of the Heart, he deserves some credit if he can be convincing in this role. And very comfortable in scenes with his two female leads, considering their acting is below par. Well done.

Lee San San as Tam Nhu
Ok, she doesn't suit with Sunny, physically. Despite this, they made a nice couple, so though this isn't Lee San San's finest moment, it definitely isn't her worst.

Charmaine Sheh as Man
An appalling performance, but what else is new? I keep wondering when Charmaine is going to lose her self-consciousness in front of the camera, but recently I realize it's not going to happen. There's nothing worse than a self-conscious actor, though I don't think I'll ever call Charmaine an actress. Even as bad as Lee San San is, at least she can forget to think about herself for a second. The only time when Charmaine partly succeeds in impersonating her character is when she is evil or bitching. So my recommendation? Stick to evil roles.

The Verdict

One of TVB's better serials, back in the time when they were still making decent serials. A star-studded vehicle, watch it if you like any of the main characters, as no one loses. But then no one wins out in the end either. There are mushy gut-wrenching love scenes galore (with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster at Disneyland), rather clever forensic cases, and an excellent supporting cast make this a superior production.

Oh, and one more thing: watch out for Louis and Jessica's hospital scene at the end – you'll be reaching for your Kleenex.

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