CIB Files

Reviewed by: purpleprose

February 07, 2007

Rating: four

Bowie Lam as Tony Chung
Christine Ng as Emily Cheng Chung
Wong Hei as Mark Chung
Maggie Siu as Samantha Hui
Wai Ka Hung as Daniel Kwok
Kenny Wong as William Hung
Chan Hung Lit as Albert Chung
Kayee Chow as May
Lok Ying Kwan as Yip Sir
Yu Yeung as Jimmy Chan

Synopsis (Spoiler Warning):
Tony and Mark Chung are two effective police officers employed in the Criminal Intelligence Bureau. Contrary to their respectable public images, the two brothers actually cope with broken childhoods caused by their father Albert’s desertion more than twenty years ago. In order to earn the forgiveness and reacceptance of his sons, Albert claims to have stomach cancer. The soft-hearted Mark accordingly lets Albert move in with him, but Tony still refuses to acknowledge any concern for his father. When the deception is brought to light, the brothers are overcome by both displeasure and relief. This relief, however, coupled with Tony’s frustration over his own domestic woes, leads him to identify more with Albert, and the family reunites.

Tony Chung, with his beautiful wife Emily, rising career, and dutiful son Michael, seems to have the best of life. His dedication to his work is widely appreciated, and his relationship with Emily largely admired. Yet in the course of time, the hours he and Emily spend upon their work take a toll on family relations. The lack of communication launches one misunderstanding after another, and Michael’s departure to England opens the needed opportunity for their separation. Though their love for each other remain, Tony’s hesitancy and Emily’s temporal self-obsession keep them from reunion. Only after the separation papers are signed do the two face their own feelings and decide to rekindle their romance and restore their marriage.

As a housewife who had to begin her career late, Emily Chung is keenly competitive in her position as chief editor of a popular magazine. When her boss Jimmy employs the highly paid Samantha Hui from a rival company, Emily becomes obsessed to rise victorious in the feminine feud. Emily and Samantha, with the aid of their respective assistants, launch plot after plot against each other, both determined to triumph. When Samantha softens from romantic ties, Emily is left to wonder at the vanity of her victory. As the two slowly build a friendship, Emily observes the true feelings that mold the lives of everyone around her. She learns to value people beyond their practical purposes and is challenged to pursue her own happiness once more.

Samantha Hui, after experiencing three deaths of three fiancés, is wary of beginning another relationship. As she absorbs herself in her career, however, fate brings her to become closely acquainted with Mark Chung, an eccentric but caring man. Their relationship flourishes, only until Mark suffers an almost fatal assault. Convinced that her innate bad luck caused Mark’s misfortune, Samantha insists on breaking up. Mark spends time and effort to seek out Samantha’s past, finally proving that her past fiancés were either still alive or dead by natural causes. With the misunderstanding dissolved, the two lovers come together with the goodwill of all their family and friends.

In spite of the name of the series, 'CIB' is little more than a definition of Tony and Mark’s jobs. The cases are interesting, but their impact on the personal lives of the characters are not as strong as their counterparts in other serials (e.g. “Take My Word For It”). The focus of the script is on the trite characters and their trite interactions, and the wordings are unremarkable. The script is plainly written altogether, and only the veteran cast saves the story.

Cast Analysis:

Bowie Lam is good as always in his portrayal of Tony Chung. Though the down-to-earth role as an introvert police officer and family man may not offer the chance for him to exhibit a particularly special area of acting (e.g. a deaf man in “The Dance of Passion”), Bowie successfully presents the tangible quality of the character. Tony’s hesitancy to share his feelings with those he truly loves makes room for Bowie’s ability to touch audiences with simple, wordless, but genuine expressions. His acting turns a seemingly everyday character into a live person on screen. Wonderful job, as always.

Christine Ng offers a satisfactory performance as the career-oriented Emily Cheng Chung. The selfishness and even heartlessness of her character for the first half of the series will keep her from winning audience regard, though Christine actually does a nice job for those episodes. Christine’s portrayal of Emily’s gradual change into a more considerate and affectionate woman is touching, and the performance ends on a high note. Nothing excessively remarkable, yet perfectly in line with a high-caliber cast.

Wong Hei plays an eccentrically meticulous Mark Chung just adorably. Even though this role may still be on his ever-lengthening list of public hero characters, the subtlety and nervousness of Mark defines this role differently from the others. In stark contrast to his other loud, playful characters, Wong hints at bashful smiles and carries small, kind actions in this series. Not what audiences would expect, but charming nonetheless.

Maggie Siu, though far from a fresh face in TVB, presents a quite refreshing performance as Samantha Hui. Just like in Christine’s case, her character’s competitive and scheming persona will ward off audiences at the beginning. Yet Maggie’s successful depiction of a patient and dutiful daughter to the mothers of her past fiancés rightly softens Samantha to a lovable character. The performance is capped by the oddly engaging couple she makes with Wong Hei. Nice chemistry, nice work, nice job.

Wai Ka Hung finally manages to land a considerably positive and major role as Daniel Kwok, Mark’s talkative subordinate. Wai is an experienced actor, and his performance justifies his being cast for the role. Though the sweet-talking Daniel is quite a two-dimensional character, Wai molds him well. Daniel’s rashness also offers diversion from the dramatic main characters. Good job that reflects Wai’s solid acting talent.

Kenny Wong is almost comical as William Hung. The name of the character itself may already arouse laughs from overseas audiences, and the plain tough luck of the diligent cop creates some light irony for the series. It is the character that captivates, however, not the actor. Kenny does not do anything wrong in his portrayal, but he does not enhance William well enough. Credible but simple performance.

Chan Hung Lit’s portrayal of a socializing old man is considerably fair. His emotional scenes are not poor, though the same scenes might fare better with other actors. Kayee Chow is not captivating as Emily Chung’s sister sidekick, though she does her job. Lok Ying Kwan is actually quite amiable in his role as Tony’s closest friend and mentor. The unconcluded romance with his true love also gives a deeper quality to his role. Yu Yeung, playing the boss of Emily and Samantha, does poorly. Yet altogether, the extensive cast — policemen, office people, criminals, families, police fighters — is impressive and powerful.

Plus Points:
1) Well-matched looks within the main cast (e.g. brothers look like brothers, children like their parents).
2) The bits of office satire, courtesy of Daniel.
3) An interesting pop and jazz soundtrack.
4) Strong camera work.
5) A climax rightly saved until the very end.
6) A grand production.

Minus Points:
1) A first half that sorely fails to engage audience emotion.
2) A terribly confusing format for the first episode.
3) The seriously disturbing intensity of Emily and Samantha’s initial rivalry.

This series is just one addition to the recent rage over legal hero stories. It is catchy entertainment, but there is nothing to mourn over if missed. The series is a commendable watch for fans of the main cast. Any other audiences would be taking a chance with its combination of a poor script, superb production, and concrete cast.

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