Sunday, October 15, 2017

HK web series OCTB (反黑) - A reunion of HK film industry veteran actors

As promised, here is the article I came across awhile back ago about the veteran artists who essentially stole the show due to their top notch acting in OCTB.  Note that this article came out several weeks ago, back when the first few episodes of OCTB were airing, so of course, many of the veterans who appeared later on in the series – such as Ng Man Tat, Dominic Lam, Carrie Ng, Gregory Rivers, etc. – weren’t mentioned in this particular article.  I am hoping that HK01 does an updated article later on that covers the other veterans as well so that current audiences can know who these veterans are and give them the accolades that they very much deserve!

I have decided that for this particular article, I am going to depart from my regular style – instead of directly translating the entire article pretty much word for word as I normally would, I will be paraphrasing portions of it and adding some of my own commentary.  The reason for this is because I’m actually familiar with all but one of the veteran artists mentioned in this article (I grew up watching most of them on TV) and have some additional knowledge of their backgrounds not mentioned in this article that I feel is necessary to add.  The parts in BLUE lettering are the “tidbits” that I added (not in the article) based on my knowledge of the artists.

**NOTE – there aren’t any spoilers for OCTB in the below article, however for those who never watched the Young and Dangerous movie franchise, some of the “collective memories” that are brought up below may be akin to spoilers for you, so just a heads-up….

Source: HK01

Article originally published 10/3/17


Hong Kong web series OCTB (反黑) has been taking the Chinese television industry by storm!   With only the first 10 episodes aired so far, the series’ viewership ratings in the Mainland has already exceeded 300 million and its popularity in HK has already reached new heights.   [TN: as of today, 10/14/17, with 22 episodes aired, viewership ratings in Mainland is close to 800 million already!]  In addition to praise for former category III actor Justin Cheung’s (張建聲) convincing portrayal of villain character ‘Chiu Jik’, audiences have also given high praise to the group of veteran actors – most of whom older HK audiences grew up watching on screen --  in the series who play the ‘bad guys’ (triad members) as well as the ‘good guys’ (cops).

From the moment all of these ‘uncles’ made their appearances in episode 1, audiences were already excited to see so many familiar actors back together on the screen -- as “icing on the cake” though, some of the characters that these actors portrayed were also ‘familiar names’ – for example, Frankie Ng Chi Hung’s (吳志雄) ‘Uncle Bee’ [his iconic role from the Young and Dangerous movie franchise].  With the resurgence in HK audiences’ penchant for “nostalgia” and “collective memories” in recent years, OCTB hit a sweet spot that has helped propel the series to almost instant popularity.

In this article, we will be taking a look back at these veteran actors and the ‘famous’ characters they portray.


Frankie Ng Chi Hung (吳志雄)Uncle Bee from first installment of Young and Dangerous (古惑)



In the series OCTB, Frankie Ng’s character is also called Uncle Bee, except that this Uncle Bee is a triad boss already in his last days, with little to no power and essentially no say in anything.  In the Young and Dangerous movie franchise, Uncle Bee was a character who only appeared in the first installment, but the righteousness of his character and the way he took care of his juniors endeared him at the time to many audiences….so in the movie, when Uncle Bee and his family were tragically killed -- ‘buried alive’ by Francis Ng’s (吳鎮) character Ugly Kwan, it evoked a strong reaction from audiences.  Perhaps because of this, Y&D’s director Andrew Lau (劉偉) decided to ‘resurrect’ Uncle Bee in the form of a different character played by Frankie in the third installment of the franchise – unfortunately, the effect wasn’t that great, as not too many people were able to recognize ‘Uncle Bee’…even his beloved ‘brothers’ from Hung Hing (Y&D’s triad society) didn’t recognize him!

My commentary:  I never got around to watching the entire Y&D franchise, but I did watch the first installment and I absolutely remember Uncle Bee and family’s death scene – it was pretty dramatic and intense…definitely not for the faint-hearted.  In fact, the entire franchise was actually quite violent with many intense scenes, though I’m not surprised that the franchise became so popular given HK audiences’ love of cop and triad-themed productions.  I can’t remember which installment of Y&D I stopped at, since it was so long ago (I think it was 3rd or 4th installment?), but whatever the case, I have no intention of finishing it up anytime soon, especially since I’m already getting my fill of Y&D nostalgia currently with OCTB (which is way less violent in comparisons).


Michael Chan Wai Man (陳惠) – “Camel” Lok from third installment of Young and Dangerous



Michael (or Brother Wai Man as he is more commonly referred to) plays the ‘godfather’ crime boss of the Wo Hing Sing triad group in OCTB.  Everyone already knows Brother Wai Man’s ‘strong’ background in real life, so it is no surprise that in pretty much every movie / series he has been in, he almost always plays ‘big boss’ characters.   In the third installment of Young and Dangerous, he played the leader of the Tung Sing triad society, Camel Lok – a crime boss who valued friendship and doing things honorably and therefore encouraged co-existing peacefully with the rival Hung Hing gang rather than fighting them.  Unfortunately, Camel’s “underlings” were not of the same mindset as him --  feeling that he was ‘outdated’ and no longer fit to lead their group, he is killed by one of his “boys” Crow (Roy Cheung), who ends up framing the Hung Hing gang for the murder.

My commentary:  The article didn’t mention much about Brother Wai Man’s background so I will attempt to fill in the gaps for those who are interested.  Brother Wai Man can best be described as a veteran actor who has experience being on ‘both sides of the law’.  In his early days (before joining the entertainment industry), he had served as a correctional officer as well as a cop and was once a boxing champion (a hobby and passion that he still practices today).  It is well-known that Brother Wai Man used to be part of a few triad gangs and even though he is no longer “officially” part of those gangs anymore, he is rumored to still have “close ties” to some of them.  Due to his background, he obviously knows people from ‘both sides.’  In terms of acting career, Brother Wai Man is actually not really active in the industry anymore, as he has a wine business and a production company that keeps him busy, however he will still participate in some movies and/or TV series if he has time.  In a recent interview, Brother Wai Man confirmed that, regardless of his busy schedule and a few health issues he is dealing with, he has already ‘signed up’ to film OCTB season 2 (which is scheduled to commence filming early 2018).


Hugo Ng (吳岱) – Big Mouth Lin from Jiang Hu – The Triad Zone (江湖告急)



With his oft-praised portrayal as the villain character in TVB series Brother’s Keeper 2 (巨輪2) last year, Hugo Ng not only made a successful comeback to the HK small screen, he has also successfully imprinted his name in the memories of a new generation of television-viewing audiences.  It’s no secret that Hugo participated in a few category III films in the 1990s -- because he often played ‘crazy, psychopathic’ characters in those films, there was a certain ‘villain air’ to him that also led to roles in a series of triad-themed films back then.  One of his most famous movie roles was in the Dante Lam directed Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone where he played a gangster character named Big Mouth Lin who lit up the opening scene by going against the main character played by the film’s star Tony Leung Ka Fai and eventually getting a bottle broken over his head.  Despite only having a brief appearance in the film and a few lines of dialogue, Hugo was able to leave an impression on audiences with his performance – definitely no easy feat!

My commentary:  Most of you may already know this, since Hugo has been active in HK again ever since re-joining TVB again in 2015, but I will give my spiel anyway, lol.  Hugo is originally from Singapore and before joining TVB back in 1987, he was actually already a popular leading actor in the Singaporean television circle.  He filmed quite a few series for TVB in the late 80s and was considered one of TVB’s most popular ‘wuxia’ siu sangs.  His most famous role at TVB was of course as Fa Mo Kuet in 1988’s Two Most Honorable Knights (TVB’s adaptation of Gu Long’s famous wuxia epic Jue Dai Shuang Jiao 絕代雙驕).  His wife is former actress (and beauty pageant winner) Lily Chung (鍾淑慧), whom he had met on the set of TVB series The Man, The Ghost, and The Fox (人·鬼·狐) back in 1992 – they married in 1995 and have a son who is currently serving in the military in Singapore.  Hugo was actually one of my favorite actors back in the 80s (believe me, my ‘favorites’ list was LONG back then, lol) – even back then, his acting was top notch and he was quite versatile, as he was able to handle the wide range of characters thrown at him – good guy, bad guy, and everything in between – with ease.  I know most people probably only remember Hugo’s Fa Mo Kuet role (not surprising, since he was so good in the role) and he was largely typecast in wuxia dramas back then, but he also did a few non-costume dramas as well that are worth watching.  I actually stopped following his career after he left TVB (similar to many other 80s artists, he didn’t part on good terms with TVB), but I did know that both he and his wife did some category III films during the 90s before he shifted his career to Mainland.  I’m glad Hugo is back on HK television screens, as he is a great actor who can definitely carry his weight in the acting realm (oh and I recently discovered that he is a talented singer too!).


Ben Ng (吳毅) – psychopathic rapist in Red to Kill (弱殺)



As the fiery-tempered For Shi () in OCTB, Ben’s character seems to be right up his alley!  But actually, his character here can be considered ‘mild’ when compared to the ‘psychopath’ roles he usually played in movies.  His first foray into the ‘psychopath’ role was 1994’s Red to Kill where his chilling portrayal of a psychopathic rapist left a huge impression on audiences, though it also resulted in him being typecast in similar roles later in his career.  In that movie, Ben had actually taken his performance to extremes, not only shedding his clothes for some of the scenes, but also shaving his head in efforts to make the character more realistic.  With that type of ‘extreme’ experience, asking Ben to play an impulsive gangster in OCTB is ‘a piece of cake’ in comparisons!

My commentary:  Not sure how familiar audiences are with Ben now but those who followed ATV and TVB back in the 80s/90s will definitely know who he is.  Ben was a graduate of ATV’s acting class and filmed various series for them up through the 80s, jumping ship to TVB in the mid-90s.  He started filming movies in the 90s and actually has had a simultaneous film and television career ever since.  Ben moved his career to Mainland a long time ago, which is why it’s not surprising if current HK audiences aren’t too familiar with him.  He’s actually a decent actor, though a bit too ‘crazy’ for my tastes, lol.  I remember many of the ATV and TVB series he was in, though I don’t recall any of his roles back then being memorable.  To be honest, I’m actually more familiar with his wife – former actress and Miss HK 2nd runner up (1984) Joan Tong (唐麗球), even though she was active in the industry for less time than him (probably because she was in series/movies that I actually watched and am familiar with, lol).


Jones Soong (宋本) – ‘Big Wong’ Ah Chun in 1999 film Street Kids Violence (三五成群)



The name Jones Soong probably won’t sound familiar to most people, but those who did watch the 1999 cult film Street Kids Violence will probably remember Jones playing the character Ah Chun in the film.  If you don’t though, it’s not surprising, as that movie was pretty much Jones’ only ‘memorable’ acting performance – after that film, he played mostly ‘kelefe’ roles in subsequent movies.  With a never-ending passion for film, Jones decided to take his love for the art behind-the-scenes and after much learning as well as hard work, he later became a director and producer.  Jones is co-owner of the production company Visual Brothers (alongside Danny Chan Kwok Kwan), which is the creative team behind OCTB – Jones is credited as executive producer / producer / director for the series and also has a cameo role in the series.  If you didn’t know who Jones was before, you probably know him now after the OCTB’s huge success!

My commentary:  I actually had never heard of Jones Soong until OCTB, lol.  Because of this series, I’ve been reading up on Jones a bit the last couple weeks (there isn’t much information out there unfortunately) and was a little surprised to learn that he’s actually quite well connected in the industry.  I guess it does make sense, since he’s been a producer and director a long time now and has undoubtedly worked with enough people in the industry to be able to establish a good amount of connections.  There were also a few things I learned about Jones and Danny’s company Visual Brothers that I feel are very interesting and also promising in terms of this company’s future endeavors in the area of film and television series production.  I won’t go into too much detail here but will do a separate post later on when I have time.


Philip Chan (陳欣) – the entertainment industry’s real life ‘Dai Sir’!



In OCTB, there is definitely no shortage of police officers!  The main leads Jordan Chan (陳小) and Danny Chan (陳國) both portray police officers in the series, but let’s not forget that there was another significant police figure above both of them – ‘Dai Sir’ Cheung Kwok Jim, portrayed by veteran actor Philip Chan (陳欣健).  Younger audiences who don’t know Philip Chan’s background might be wondering – what’s so special about this ‘uncle’?  Well, let’s start with the fact that he has been in the entertainment industry for more than 40 years already and has had one of the most prolific careers in the industry – in addition to being an actor, he was also a screenwriter, director, producer, singer, TV program host, record company executive, etc. – the list goes on.  In the 80s and 90s, Philip served as MC for numerous shows and events (both on screen and off) and at one point, was also a high level executive at record label Capital Artists.  It can be said that Philip is truly one of the first generation of HK artists to find success in the industry in various capacities across multiple media platforms.  But Philip’s biggest legacy involved his career prior to entering show business  – in 1965, Philip officially joined the HK Royal Police force and within 9 years, was promoted to Superintendent of Police.  One of the most famous cases he was involved in during his tenure was the Shanghai Street bank robbery hostage case back in 1974 – Philip was the top level officer in charge of the case and was personally at the scene directing police operations…at the time, TVB had sent reporters out to cover the case and even interviewed Philip on site! 

My commentary:  I wouldn’t be surprised if the current generation of audiences don’t have a clue who Philip Chan is, since he was most active in the industry back in the 80s and 90s.  While he is still involved in the industry even now, he mostly does behind-the-scenes work and also hosting for major business and charity events, plus he also has his own companies that do entertainment consulting and event arrangement type stuff.  For those who are wondering how Philip ended up joining the entertainment industry, he’s actually told the story many times over the past 4 decades – in 1975, Philip was offered the opportunity to write a script (in his spare time of course) for a movie about cops that one of the production companies at the time planned on making.  Due to his experience in the HK police force, Philip was able to write a script that was true to life in its portrayal of police officers and the film went down in history as being the HK film industry’s first realistic cop film -- the name of the movie was Jumping Ash (跳灰), which was officially released in theaters in 1976.  [Side note: For all you OCTB fans out there, here’s a fun fact – the theme song to Philip’s movie (in Chinese, the name of the song is 大丈夫, which is loosely translated as “Masculinity”) is the same song that OCTB’s production team decided to have re-produced and used as OCTB’s theme song currently!]  This brief foray into film sparked Philip’s interest in film-making and in 1976, when he was invited by the head of his film’s production company to join their team, he accepted the offer, deciding to give up his high-paying job as police superintendent to enter showbiz.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the article. I'm way too young to know any of these actors but definitely recognising the skills of the veterans. Most of them have a background in movies and behind the scenes which is probably why they are so good. It so refreshing to watch a Canto drama that has solid acting and script (since HKTV's unfortunate series of events)

    OCTB is probably going to go down as a classic. Still unsure about how I feel about season 2 though. I would like to see more productions from this company and the cast but sequels are always bad.

    Out of interest - if you have time, would you be able to add another article on the young actors in this series - some of them are very promising, but I don't know any of them.

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    1. @Phixster: You’re welcome! That seems to be a pattern with most of the veterans they invited for this series – almost all of them are/were active in movies and/or behind-the-scenes in some capacity…definitely makes a huge difference, though as we saw with HKTV, the vision of the company producing the series also has a huge impact. In one of Danny Chan’s recent interviews, he talked a little bit about the production company he has with Jones (Visual Brothers) and he said that one of the things that sets them apart is the fact that they refuse to make changes to their productions in order to accommodate market conditions or to please investors – that has always been their attitude since starting the company and they don’t intend on changing that just because OCTB has become so successful. That’s actually why their path has been so difficult and are only now being “known” to a wider audience despite already having produced other programs previously. Not sure if you guys remember the LETV web series that had come out several years back – the one that starred Jordan Chan, his wife Cherrie Ying, Danny Chan, plus a boatload of veterans and other artists…that was also a Visual Brothers production, though obviously that series didn’t generate much noise….

      Totally agree that it is refreshing to watch a Cantonese drama with good acting and script! Hopefully we will get to see more of these types of productions in the future. The new trend nowadays seems to be producing web series (so many companies are doing it, including TVB) so I imagine there should be plenty of competition out there a few years down the road once the trend becomes more widespread…but Visual Brothers will be ahead of the curve by then so hopefully we will continue to see great things from them!

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    2. @Phixster: As far as the sequel goes….I technically agree, though part of me is also looking forward to seeing which veteran artists will be participating (I heard the lineup is pretty stellar). Also, I’m encouraged by some of the things that Danny Chan talked about when he did his interview – it’s obvious both Danny and Jones takes their productions seriously. He said that both of them essentially invested all of their savings into this company and have an obligation to make sure things are done correctly. He said that the two of them went through the series again and already noticed a lot of “errors” and “inadequacies” with OCTB’s first season, which they kicked themselves for and have already committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again with season 2. There was also a lot of thought that went into the script and choosing the right people for the roles, which shows that they didn’t take anything lightly. I will say that I’m not completely on board with a sequel either, but the vision of the company and the way they operate give me hope – maybe they will revolutionize things and for the first time in HK television history, actually make a sequel that doesn’t suck!

      Sure, I can write up something on the younger actors, but it is going to take some time though – partly because of my schedule but also because HK01 decided to split things up and talk about each of the younger actors separately, lol, so I have to dig through dozens of articles and combine them all into 1 post. Most likely it won’t happen until after the series is over (since we are in finale week already)….as long as you don’t mind not being able to read the post simultaneously in conjunction with watching the series…

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  2. So the first season is over and I could tell they leave a lot of things open for a season two. Season one ended in 1995 so I think they'll take the series up to the handover. I look forward to seeing more old school veterans.

    Here are my suggestions if Jones Soong some how stumbles upon this page:
    1)Mark Cheng (Prison on Fire, School on Fire) would be a great addition. His acting is so great that as an audience member, you just hate this guy lol.

    2)Anthony Wong Chau Sang if they could afford him.

    Notable mentions: Ray Lui, Kent Cheng, Vincent Wan

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    1. @ch1kusoo: I read an interview that Danny did where he confirmed that season 2 will definitely feature more Y&D people. Rumor has it that Anthony Wong and Roy Cheung are the additional Y&D people -- the production team said that Roy for sure won't be in it, as he has that recent drug arrest thing so they can't invite him....they wouldn't confirm the rumors about Anthony though so he's still a huge possibility (especially since he's been filming TV series in recent years anyway). There were a few other names thrown out there (both Y&D as well as non Y&D) and Danny basically responded they won't rule out any possibility. So the names you listed are very possible actually...

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  3. damn I had a brain fart when I typed that. I meant to say Roy Cheung! lol I can't believe my suggestions are close to Danny's! I don't remember Y&D very well since it was such a long time ago but if they are heading in that direction, any word that Ekin Cheng would be in it?

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    1. @ch1kusoo: In an interview Justin Cheung did today, he said he has heard the rumors about who was invited to film season 2, but he can't say anything because 1) he's not the producer and 2) a lot of it isn't confirmed yet.

      The 3 "rumored" names from the Y&D world that I've heard thrown out there so far are Roy Cheung, Anthony Wong, and Ekin Cheung. Non Y&D world I've heard possibly Danny Lee Sau Yin from City on Fire and The Killer fame. We already know Roy is for sure a No (producers already confirmed he won't be in it). Anthony and Ekin we don't know because no one is saying yes or no -- I personally think Anthony is most likely a yes but Ekin I'm not sure. Danny Lee I'm going to guess is probably a yes as well (mostly because he fits the path that OCTB seems to be taking, plus it was the reporter who interviewed Danny Chan that asked about the possibility of Danny Lee joining and the answer was pretty much "wait and see".

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  4. Roy Cheung is a must, its hard sometime to get actors that are normally defaulted as a main character i.e ekin cheng. I love to see Patrick Lam as a villion, he was in beast cop and century of the dragon. Also love to see, Jordan Chan cousin in the Y&D series. Really curious to know who is Godfathers son, was disappointed with Han story now his back in prison.

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  5. I was so excited after finding out about this show but having just watched the first few episodes on Netflix, I can say this: it looked very promising at the start but very quickly plot holes popped up everywhere. And the endless cliches were painstaking, some of which were especially contrived and totally unnecessary.

    I understand the need to dumb things down for a Mainland audience, but having deliberately goofy characters deliver unintelligent dialogue just ruined the storytelling - I'm thinking particularly of the scene in Ep 1 when the junior cop kept asking the senior cop silly questions before and after they ambush the crims, and the main villian when he was a driver before he went all Harley Quinn.

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  6. @Unknown: Yes, there were plot holes and the series was flawed in many areas, but personally, I was willing to overlook all of that because 1) from the beginning, the production team was up front about the series’ flaws and acknowledged the many areas where they saw issues that needed fixing – they did not try to cover anything up or pretend that the series was perfect when it wasn’t….in other words, they were humble throughout the process and did not try to pull the wool over audience’s eyes; 2) this was Visual Brothers’ first major production and given the producer Jones Soong being mostly self-taught and not having much experience producing other works at the same level, this series was already quite good for a debut…with the experience of first season under their belts now, I’m pretty sure they will do better with subsequent seasons; 3) this is one of those cases where I applaud the effort and sincerity of the production more than the actual production itself…it’s obvious when a production team puts their hearts into making a series, which I definitely sensed with the OCTB team (versus TVB who constantly oozes arrogance and basically tells me with every production that they don’t give a crap whether audiences like it or not and they aren’t even going to try to make a decent production because they no longer have to do so); 4) overall, the acting in this series was much more high caliber compared to other web series due to the outstanding performances from the veterans (though Jordan and Danny as the leads were CLEARLY lacking)….from a story standpoint, I also wasn’t bored out of my wits – in fact, I was motivated to “chase” the series from one episode to the next, which does say a lot about how engaging the series was (compared to let’s say Infernal Affairs that is airing right now on TVB, which is technically similar theme / type of series but bored me to death after 2 episodes).

    Overall, OCTB definitely wasn’t perfect but it’s a “sincere” series that I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt as well as continue chasing. Of course, this is purely my two cents and others may not feel the same way, which is fine too. :-)

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  7. So many easter egg. Phoenix is from San Kai. There is a saying as San Kai cannot be Phoenix.
    Also the Mahjong scene where all put 1 bamboo and call it San Kai.
    Also Blackie from Taiwan those pictures are from Y&D. Cant wait for Season 2

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  8. @Eric Lim: Hi! I take it you're a Y&D fan? Yes, there are alot of Y&D related references in the series (the ones you mentioned as well as a few others). Also, not sure if you got a chance to read the other posts yet (the 2 Entertainment Newsreel posts where I put some updates about OCTB season 2) but many of us are waiting for them to announce the cast of season 2 in order to see what other Y&D veterans will join. The latest is that Michael Tse (Dai Tin Yee in Y&D) was slated to join but had to pull out last minute due to schedule conflict. There are still quite a few rumors out there on who will join season 2...now that Michael pulled out, my bet is own Anthony Wong joining, either in a cameo role or something bigger. Everyone is waiting to see whether one of the other main Y&D figures will join (alot of people want Ekin to join so they can see reunion between Ho Nam and San Kai, lol).

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  9. Just finished watching it on Netflix! I’m hooked!!! This will become a classic. I was blown away with the veterans’ performance! Bravo!

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    1. @Unknown: Good to hear that you liked the series! I agree that the veterans’ performances were fantastic! Now to wait for season 2.....

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    2. When is season 2 out? Can’t wait!!

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  10. Finished watching the whole season 1. My question....(ah tao) chief went undercover and killed another undercover(baldy) to proof his loyalty to hon bun. So he killed a police... but theres no proper closure to his murder. By right, the cops would think that hon bun did it and only hon bun knows who pulled the trigger.

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