Bar Benders

Reviewed by: purpleprose

January 18, 2007

Rating: two-point-five

Adam Cheung as Tseung Man To (Tony)
Louisa So as Jong Hiu Wai
Sammul Chan as Lam Ka Sun
Leila Tong as Ting Ting (Tseung Si Ting)
Power Chan as Darren Lei
Sek Sau as Ngai Sing Kwan
Anne Hueng as Sophie

Synopsis (Spoiler Warning):
Tony Tseung is an outstanding but materialistic lawyer who charges outrageous fees for anyone who would employ his expertise for any matter, however trivial. His arrogance and pragmatism grow until he can no longer relate in harmony with his daughter Ting Ting, his associate Darren, and his girlfriend Sophie. After an embarrassing loss without Darren’s assistance, Tony punches someone at a bar and is sentenced to 480 hours of community service. He acquaints himself further with the optimistic, caring Hiu Wai during his community service and also manages to re-establish his professional reputation afterwards through a court case introduced by her. Tony gradually changes for the better after these experiences. He reconciles with Ting Ting, and he finds a new romance with Hiu Wai as he carries out his new resolution to be a true knight of justice.

Ting Ting is a promising young lawyer who, thanks to a broken childhood without paternal attention, repeatedly fails to find true love. When her doctor boyfriend is proven a cheater, she starts a relationship with the clever but scheming Darren. Darren manipulates circumstances and even uses the affections of Ting Ting’s secret admirer Lam Ka Sun to secure her heart. When all is brought to light, Ting Ting breaks up with Darren while the kindhearted Lam Ka Sun explores his newfound wealth and possibilities with Ting Ting.

Script and Production:
In spite of all the professional details and dynamic relationships it entails, this script is very poorly written. The interactions of the lead characters, though emotional, are too elementary. The court arguments are planned well only to be downtrodden by poor wording. The ending is unimaginably rushed, and Tony’s touching speeches during his latter court cases are illogical and out of character. The secondary characters are also uninteresting and too loosely connected with the main plot. This is altogether a sub-par story made for filling in cheaper television slots.

The production is likewise disappointing. Apart from Tony’s grand and Ting Ting’s adorable apartments, the sets of the offices and courts and homes all sport boring wood planks and bright, white light. Outdoor shots are stingily few in number, and even the two or three car accident shots are haphazardly done. The background music and lighting are not bad, and yet unremarkable.

Cast Analysis:
Adam Cheung proves his veteran status with an excellent performance. He properly exudes an above-the-world aura in portraying the initially heartless and greedy Tony, then he shows a tender side as a father longing to receive his daughter’s affirmation and acceptance. The emotional scenes are worth watching primarily for his participation. The character may be inconsistent and flat, but Adam adds that comical twist that will make audiences fall in love with him again. It is his performance that saves the stupid script from showing its true colors.

Louisa So does a mediocre job as the kind and generous Hiu Wai. Her character is already static, and Louisa does not help with her two-dimensional performance. Her chemistry with all other cast members is poor, though she does manage to play Hiu Wai’s friendliness convincingly. This is a performance that her fans probably don’t want to remember.

Sammul Chan portrays the rash, uneducated, but self-sacrificial Lam Ka Sun quite impressively. He appropriately leads audiences to identify with Sun through his blunders, learning experiences, and sacrifices for Ting Ting. Sun ended the story by receiving his proper monetary reward for his work. Sammul should end this series by receiving proper appreciation for his improvement. This actor still has some experience to earn, but he’s on the right track.

Leila Tong is simply wonderful as Ting Ting. The mature role of a lawyer suites her very well, and she pulls of this performance perfectly. She is very pretty, very smart, and very lovable in this series. Her gradual reconciliation with her father is moving, though her interactions with the guys have merely fair chemistry. Yet there is altogether little to complain about this performance. Leila definitely earned her nomination for Best Improved Actress here.

Power Chan does quite a good job for a character that walks the line between protagonist and antagonist. He convinces in portraying Darren’s genuine love for Ting Ting, but he still makes himself hateful for Darren’s darker dealings. He still lacks depth, but he achieves a general effect well enough.

Sek Sau does a rather annoying job in his overdone role as a dashing but evil rich man. His attempt to make Ngai Sing Kwan different from his other characters by adding maniacal laughs and loud expressions makes him seriously irritating. Not only is the character distasteful, the performance is too.

Anne Hueng, who never has been much of an actress, barely passes the line of tolerance for her portrayal of a cosmopolitan career woman. The heavy make-up and big hair cover up some of Anne’s flaws in her features, but her performance is still unlikable. The relatively conservative proportions of the role make her less irritable. Yet she does nothing particularly commendable for this series.

Extra Good Points:
1) The main cast looks good for Hong Kong standards.
2) Adam Cheung is allowed to play a paternal side, which he does strikingly well.
3) The ending gives everyone what he or she deserves.

Extra Bad Points:
1) The stories of peripheral characters (e.g. Rose, Sophie, Louisa’s brother) are ridiculously elaborate in relation to the already simple main plot.
2) Lam Ka Sun does not really have any strong ties to the rest of the development until the concluding episodes.
3) As aforementioned, Tony’s moving monologues in court are as misplaced as they are touching.
4) The pace of development is strangely inconsistent.
5) There are many moments of laughter that seem to be forced into the script. True humor is finding wit in common, not intentional, scenarios.

This series is indubitably passable. Adam fans will enjoy it, Leila fans must not miss it, and Sammul might win a few more fans with this, but the entire series is quite disappointing. If you don’t feel an urge to watch it, don’t bother. If you have extra time and no good books to read, some entertainment is better than none.

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