Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Thoughts on "Gun Metal Grey 刑警"

This series was definitely my most anticipated series of 2010 – BUT I learned my lesson with “Born Rich” in 2009 so even though I was really looking forward to watching this series, I had some reservations with what to expect. I didn’t want to get my hopes up like I did with BR, only to be bitterly disappointed…so I definitely made an effort to watch the series with a clear mind.

Luckily, GMG turned out to be way different from BR – it was definitely worth waiting for and absolutely did not disappoint! I really enjoyed the series and it was actually one of the few series from 2010 that I was able to sit through completely (without giving up halfway through) – that definitely says a lot about what I thought of the series.

Also, I have to say that GMG was definitely one of the better series that TVB has made over the past several years. The cases were suspenseful and interesting – but to be honest, some of the cases were downright scary and actually gave me the creeps…I had to avert my eyes at certain scenes because I didn’t want to get too grossed out. But I’m actually not too surprised that some of the cases were so gruesome, since the blueprint of the cases were based on the top criminal cases in HK’s history.

As usually happens with cop-themed series, especially ones that revolve around a bunch of cases, there is of course a lot that can be covered in a review. But for the purposes of this particular review, I wanted to explore the different characters in the series as well as the relationships and storyline outside of the cases (plus some of the cases were way too freaky, so I would prefer not to dwell on them too much).

So here are the highlights:

1). Characters and Artists’ performances:

Michael Miu (Mad Sir): Of course, as the leader of the team, it is necessary for Michael to have a presence and be the ‘boss’ so to speak. His character has a very suave and cool personality, but yet gets along well with his colleagues. I actually think that Michael’s character is kind of cute and provides some much needed comic relief to the series. I don’t know how many people noticed, but I found it interesting that his character is supposed to be in such a high position (and leader of the team), but yet there are some parts where he is portrayed like a little kid – for instance, the scenes when he is sucking on a lollipop or eating ice cream on the rooftop). I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or inadvertently, but I actually got quite a kick out of it (I couldn’t help laughing at the sight of Michael eating ice cream out of a cup with an itty bitty spoon while Felix is standing next to him sipping coffee…lol!).

I also found it interesting how Michael’s character always acts so nonchalant and gives off the impression that he doesn’t care or takes his sweet time with stuff, but in reality, he is extremely smart and actually takes his responsibilities as a cop very seriously (not to mention that he is very efficient). There will be more analysis of Michael’s character later on in the review when I talk about his relationship with Jessica as well as his friendship with Felix.

Felix Wong (Stone Sir): Felix’s performance was excellent. Yes, he has done villain roles before, but somehow, those pale in comparison to his character in GMG. Maybe because Felix’s character in the series is pretty well-developed, so there is plenty of opportunity for Felix to utilize his great acting skills to bring out the depth of the character.

And the big question with Felix's character is whether his actions throughout the series can really be considered "wrong"? In my opinion, this is a difficult question to answer because it really depends on which perspective you're looking at it from....I'm actually not even going to try to answer the question in this review, because this topic would trigger a long debate in and of itself.

Again, there will be a deeper analysis of Felix’s character later on in the relationships section, so I will refrain from repeating myself in this section.

Jessica Hsuan (Kim Hui): If I had to choose a least favorite character among the main leads, I would have to choose Jessica’s character. It’s not that I don’t like her character, but I just feel that her character in this series was very similar to the characters that she normally plays – the typical strong woman character who at times can become a bit annoying with her overpowering nature. One redeeming factor to her character though (in my opinion at least) is that she does act ‘silly’ at certain times throughout the series – it’s almost as though the writers are trying to balance her “strong” nature by putting in some ‘schoolgirl type’ traits (which coincidentally matches perfectly with Michael’s “playful” personality). Even though I was not too fond of Jessica’s character, I actually loved her chemistry with Michael in the series (which I will touch on more later on).

Nancy Wu (Hui Man Sze): Ok, I really have to compliment Nancy’s performance in this series – she definitely put herself out there and gave an excellent performance. I’ve seen quite a few of her series in the past and up until this point, none of her other performances really had much of an impression on me. Don’t get me wrong – I think that her acting has always been pretty consistent and she is definitely one of the newer generation actresses with the most potential – but I just never really got “into” her performances in the past. It could be perhaps that her character in GMG was quite well written, so that helped her performance stand out. I personally was quite impressed with her performance – even though Nancy’s character was tough and strong, there was a good balance to the character and so I ended up liking Nancy’s character way more than Jessica’s. To summarize, Nancy’s performance came across very natural to me and I was really able to see the maturity in her acting.

Vincent Wong (Carson Yeung): I must say that I was quite impressed with Vincent’s performance in this series. Yes, he is a newbie and has not been in many series, plus his acting skills still need some work, but I was drawn to his character for some reason. Personally, I find his acting and mannerisms are very similar to Joe Ma (which means that his acting is a bit stiff and not very ‘natural’ looking), so I was surprised that I actually like Vincent’s performance in this series – again, just like with Nancy’s performance, I think part of the reason why I was drawn to Vincent’s performance was because his character was well-written in the series and was very appealing. To be honest, in the beginning, his character was a little annoying because the impression he gave off was that of a rich young kid who is only concerned about getting attention and doesn’t take anything seriously, but later on, when we find out that his character is actually very righteous and serious about his job, plus how he is toward Nancy’s character, he actually becomes quite endearing.

2). Relationships and Chemistry in the series:

I do have to compliment the writers (and producer) on how they handled the relationships in this story, as I feel that the various relationships – whether it’s romance, friendship, or family – were very well done. In this section, I am going to focus primarily on the romantic relationship between Michael / Jessica and Vincent / Nancy as well as the brotherly friendship between Michael / Felix.

Michael / Jessica relationship:

Though the Michael / Jessica relationship was somewhat 'typical' of what TVB usually does in their series, I actually didn't mind this time around because I found the relationship to be quite witty and clever the way it develops. IMO, Michael and Jessica matched quite well -- though they had alot of opposite qualities (i.e. Michael's personality is very suave and nonchalant, giving off the feeling that he is always playing around and doesn't take things seriously whereas Jessica is very rigid, hardworking, and takes her responsibilities too seriously to the point of going overboard)....maybe that's why they end up together (as the saying goes, 'opposites attract'). I read in a few forums that some people who watched the series felt that Michael and Jessica had zero chemistry – I actually disagree….their chemistry may not have been “the best”, but it was definitely there.

The bickering scenes between Michael and Jessica throughout the series were absolutely hilarious!! I got many good laughs out of seeing the two of them going at it, probably because most of the time, they were arguing over silly, childish things (the two of them actually provide a lot of ‘comic relief’ in the series without even intentionally doing so).

I especially love the scenes where Michael 'plays' Jessica and gets her ticked off on purpose, knowing that she has a certain impression of him and rather than trying to 'correct' that impression, he purposefully 'misleads' her, just for fun. That one scene where Jessica is discussing one of the cases with both Michael and Felix at a cafe had me cracking up so hard -- how Jessica would speak to Felix in a soft, 'womanly' way but then she would turn around and speak to Michael in a curt, short-tempered manner. Then, when Michael playfully asks her why she gives him an attitude but speaks to Felix in such a soft way, she snaps at him that he should reflect on why she treats him that way -- Michael's facial expressions during that scene were very funny (almost like the 'innocent little child' look....which is in line with some of the previous 'child' imagery of him sucking on a lollipop and eating ice cream).

Vincent / Nancy relationship:

Surprisingly, I really like this couple and was rooting for them throughout the series (those who know me will understand why I use the word ‘surprisingly’). The way that the relationship developed between Vincent and Nancy was really well-done -- I liked how the relationship wasn’t “rushed” and was allowed to take its natural course.

From the beginning, Vincent obviously had a crush on Nancy and he was very open about it when he realized he had feelings for her. I like how he had no qualms about letting her know early on that he likes her and wants to pursue her – the directness of it was refreshing because normally, these relationships are handled in a way that makes the guy out to be very wishy washy or not sure of what he wants. Even though Nancy didn't like him in the beginning and sort of 'hated' him about a quarter of the way through because his dad was indirectly responsible for the deaths of her biological parents, he never gave up on his love for her. And I like how their relationship didn't follow the 'typical' formula -- for instance, after that huge car accident scene halfway through the series (when Nancy is captured by the photographer and Vincent goes to save her), my expectation was that Nancy was going to 'accept' Vincent's love because she was so touched by how he saved her life and so they would become a couple after that. But it turns out not to be the case -- instead, Nancy symbolically 'forgives' Vincent for what his father did and they become good friends and colleagues again -- in other words, she sees how sincere he is and so can't find it in her heart to hate him, but yet knows that she doesn't 'love' him (at least not yet), so doesn't even try to 'repay' him by being in a relationship with him when she knows she's not ready. Of course, the two of them end up getting together later on (obviously), but only when the timing was right and Nancy realized she truly did have feelings for Vincent.

I also liked how there were alot of "sweet" moments between Vincent and Nancy, even before they ‘officially’ got together as a couple – but the 'sweetness' was done in a way that wasn't cheesy or totally obvious….pretty much, these “sweet” moments were “nuances” throughout the series that were perhaps a hint of the relationship to come, but not ‘in your face’ type stuff.

One of my favorite “sweet moments” was in episode 18 (or was it 17?) when Nancy had gotten into an argument with Jessica earlier and so went to do some kickboxing to relieve her anger. Vincent shows up (he ‘says’ that he happened to go there to work out, but in reality, he knew Nancy goes there often so wanted to keep her company) and tells her that if she is upset, to ‘fight’ with him. She takes on the challenge and ends up giving him a bloody nose (not on purpose though). When he’s driving her home afterwards, she asks him to stop by the 7-11 to buy some stuff – when she gets back in the car, she gives him a band-aid for his nose. When he puts the band-aid on, he realizes it’s one of those ‘kiddie’ kind with like cartoon characters on it, yet he keeps the band-aid on – not only that, but he has this really happy, smiling expression on his face (probably overjoyed that Nancy cared about him enough to give him a band-aid for his sore nose, even though part of the motive on Nancy’s side was guilt over giving him a bloodied nose in the first place). This scene was quite funny and cute (I couldn’t help saying to myself – aww, how sweet!).

From the beginning of the series until they officially got together, Vincent was definitely Nancy’s “guardian angel” – constantly concerned for her and watching out for her. Seeing how much I liked their relationship, needless to say that I was saddened when Vincent’s character dies near the end.

Michael / Felix friendship and chemistry:

Ok, I admit it – I’m a huge 5 Tigers fan (it’s hard not to be growing up in the 80s), so of course, I was looking forward to the chemistry between real life Tiger brothers Michael and Felix. As I said earlier, I was unsure of what to expect of the series itself and didn’t want to put my hopes too high, but one thing I was definitely sure of from the beginning – the chemistry between Michael and Felix would be awesome, no matter how the rest of the series turns out.

I absolutely loved seeing the interaction between Michael and Felix – each of the scenes where there was just the two of them either talking (discussing a case, for instance) or arguing (Michael reprimanding Felix for ‘crossing the line’ and Felix defending his actions as justified) were so satisfying…it was definitely a real treat for a Tiger fan like me!

All those rooftop scenes (where Michael and Felix go to talk about the cases or if they don't want the others to hear what they are saying) were quite defining -- it's as though that's Michael and Felix's personal "space"....what I found really interesting though was how the setup reminded me of the whole 'rooftop' thing in the movie "Infernal Affairs" (coincidentally starring their fellow Tiger Buddies Andy and Tony). I'm wondering if that 'imagery' was done purposefully or not?

Of course, how could I do a review on GMG and not talk about the ‘conflicts’ that Michael and Felix encounter (the core of the series)? Obviously, Michael's character and Felix's character are complete opposites in the series: Michael is a righteous cop who may not necessarily follow the rulebook 100%, but knows very clearly where the line is and does not cross it; Felix, on the other hand, can also be seen as 'righteous' in a sense, but his definition of 'righteousness' is different from everyone else's, due to his own experience spending 15 years in jail for a crime he did not commit -- he ends up crossing that 'line' and doing things that are "wrong" and even criminal, but to him, are completely justified (basically carrying out justice on his own rather than trusting the legal system).

Surprisingly, I actually liked Michael's character -- even though he was an 'enabler' in a sense because he didn't 'rat' Felix out when he suspected him of crossing the line and also covered up for him a few times (partly because he felt guilty that his testimony contributed to Felix going to jail), he didn't do "stupid" things such as blindly defending Felix or being in denial that Felix had issues. He was smart enough to suspect that Felix may be 'crossing the line' and knew that he didn't have any proof (so he kept his suspicions a secret until he gathered evidence) and also asked Vincent to help keep an eye on Felix behind the scenes. For me, this was very refreshing because TVB is notoriously bad when it comes to handling these types of characters (they usually make the lead character overly righteous to the point of being naive and stupid and allowing the bad people to walk all over him/her) and I usually end up hating the character(s) rather than liking them. Once again, I really have to compliment the writers this time around for doing a good job in terms of character development (for Michael, Felix, Nancy, and Vincent, at least).

3). The flaws and ‘low-lights’

Of course, every series has its flaws and this one is no exception. No matter how much I like or enjoy a series, I will undoubtedly always find fault with it because the fact of the matter is that no series is perfect. Despite the flaws, my enjoyment of the series will not change and I still feel that the series was well-made – especially in comparisons to the crappy stuff that TVB has been putting out as of late.

In GMG, I did notice quite a few ‘implausible’ and ‘cheesy’ situations that occur in the series which definitely could be improved. Here are the main ones that come to mind right away:

>> The fact that Felix was able to get his old policeman job back without much difficulty (even after he was in jail for 15 years) and then to be promoted not too long after that (keep in mind that his name isn’t actually “cleared” until later on) -- not very realistic if you ask me. Logic tells me that even if they allow him to be a cop again (which is already rare), they would wait until his name is completely cleared and he is truly proven innocent before doing so…right?

>> I totally did not get that part about Michael having 'extraordinary' hearing abilities (he can hear people's heart beating and such) due to the tumor in his brain…was that supposed to be a way of incorporating some ‘supernatural’ element to the series? Whatever the case, I don't think that was really necessary.

>> It would have been better if they did not have that one scene where Felix is in the storage room holding a gun and you see the "evil Felix" on the wall, then all that fire sprays out like in a comic book or something...that was totally unnecessary and pointless. My hunch is that the producer put that part in to show Felix's 'official' transition to 'villain' so to speak in terms of him doing something a righteous cop should not have done. But to be honest, it wasn't necessary because this was already obvious from the previous scenes (when he 'shot' the evil Sau Dai Fu with another cop's gun and lied about it) -- to me, they were "trying too hard" with the 'fire imagery' scene.

>> Vincent’s role as one of the Senior Inspectors on the police squad who is actually on the same level as Michael does not seem very plausible. First of all, he seems too young to have that high of a position. Second, if I remember correctly, he had become a cop because of his father and actually liked his previous job (as a stock broker??) better at first – with his age, how could he have been promoted to such a high level position so quickly? Third, Vincent’s character is not mature enough to be the team leader of a police unit in the same capacity as Michael – it’s just not convincing given his age and the development of the character.

Concluding comments:

This series is definitely on my “favorites” list for the ‘after 2000’ era – not only because I liked the series itself, but also because I really liked the chemistry of the cast as well. I truly enjoyed following the cast on Weibo as the series aired in HK and seeing the various commentary as well as behind-the-scenes ‘tidbits’ about the filming, the artists, the series, etc. From everything that I’ve read about the dinner gatherings of the cast, various interviews, etc., I could definitely tell that the GMG cast really enjoyed working together on this series and were able to develop a genuine friendship outside of work as well.

Overall, awesome series, awesome cast, awesome chemistry! Definitely a keeper!


  1. The flaws - I totally did not get how Felix was back in the force and was promoted that fast either. Since how the cops really want to keep their reputation. It wasn't like they were 200% sure. It was just some piece of evidence that said otherwise. Like you said, they did not even find the real killer yet.

    The thing with Vincent's character was another one that I couldn't even answer. Even my mom was confused and thought it made more sense IF Felix was the boss rather than Vincent's character. BUT a possible weak reasoning is that those people want to suck up to his father (just for kicks) though the father already retired? Does that even make sense? NO...LOL!

    The fire imagery thing - I didn't think it was too cheesy, but that's just me being weird. I meant sure, it was unnecessary since we know that he already crossed, but it was more like it finally sank in to him that he was no different than those that he tried to catch. Although he chose to do it at that time and apparently planned so carefully with the stories and lies but when he finally shut the door and was alone again, it finally hit him. It was like his own POV. A no turning back point. He was seeing himself as a terrifying being for the first time. His world was crumbling apart and it would never be the same again. So he ended up trying to come up with reasons more and more in the later parts to justify his behaviors because he didn't want to admit that what he was doing was wrong. He even tried to use the guilt thing that Michael's character was already suffering through (with accidentally causing his imprisonment) to his advantage. SO I guess it wasn't necessary, but I thought it wasn't the worst scene either.

    I think I don't have the right to comment about the rest yet until I finished the series since some of the essential parts are still out there. But I have to agree 200% on the bonding of Felix and Michael AND I almost thought it was really Michael who did it and pinned it on Felix. (The typical roles they would take on with the whole Kwok Jing/Yeung Hong reations, LOL!) Still fun to watch them.

  2. @DTLCT: Yay -- glad to see your comments! I was actually waiting for you to finish watching so we could talk about the series...but this is good for now... :-)

    Regarding Felix becoming a cop again -- that was like the one complaint that my entire family (since we all watched it together) had in common...I mean, I know that him becoming a cop again was critical to the plot, but stil, that was definitely stretching it....

    Yea, I totally didn't "get" Vincent's character in the beginning...when I found out he had the same "title" as Michael in the police force, I was like huh? I mean, I know his father was a big shot and stuff, but still...and I really thought Law Lok Lam was going to be the evil villain again, but turns out he wasn't...I thought that twist in the plot (the storyline involving him) was interesting, but some parts of it didn't make sense at first -- I really had to think about it before I actually "got" it.

    Fire imagery --your explanation makes sense, but the whole thing was just weird to me...I guess I was expecting something a little less obvious...

    Haha...funny you mention the Kwok Jing / Yeung Hong thing because I kept thinking back to Condor Heroes when I was watching the interaction between Felix and was interesting how the tables were turned in GMG (Felix is the villain and Michael is the good guy)...oh, and I actually thought the exact same thing you did in the beginning - that Michael was the one who killed that couple...wasn't really expecting for it to turn out the way it did.

    Oh, and don't want to spoil the ending for you, but I forgot to comment in my post regarding it -- I actually think TVB did a decent job with the ending this time around (shocking, huh? LOL...) -- I can tell you that I was really surprised with the way it ended (though I sort of already knew who would die and who wouldn't, since I had read up on the series beforehand)...and for once, it wasn't an open-ended ending...

  3. @llwy12: Yeah, I need to get going with finishing it since my mom is left hanging and she hates that, especially in cop series, LOL! So I'll come back when I finally am done. Don't hold your breath though. You know my past record already.

    Fire imagery - It's one of those things TVB loves to throw in so it gets boring once awhile with their way of portraying the psychological state, etc.

    Great to know that they managed the ending fine. I guess that would keep my hopes up with watching the rest more. Since regardless of how good their series are - even in its Golden Era, I tend to find the ending rushy or not as strong. Except for like some really rare exceptions.

    I'm out for now...