Making Waves – Navigators of Hong Kong Cinema
Where the Wind Blows
風再起時 (Fung joi hei sih)
Hong Kong, 2022, 144’, Cantonese, English
Directed by: Philip Yung
Screenplay: Philip Yung, Effy Sun, Oliver Yip, Lam Wai-tung
Photography (color): Chin Ting-chang
Editing: J. Him Lee, Zhang Zhao
Art Direction: Andrew Wong
Music: Ding Ke
Producers: Julia Chu, Peggy Lee, Patrick Tong, Kingman Cho
Cast: Aaron Kwok (Lui Lok), Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Nam Kong), Du Juan (Tsai Zhen), Michael Chow (Bee), Patrick Tam (Yim), Michael Hui (George Lee), Chui Tien-you (young Lui Lok), Lam Yiu-sing (young Nam Kong), Jessie Li (Xiaoyu)
Date of First Release in Territory: February 17th, 2023
A tale of brazen colonial-era police corruption becomes a sumptuous epic in Philip Yung’s Where the Wind Blows, the latest in a colourful line of films featuring the exploits of real-life crooked cops Lui Lok and Nam Kong.
Viewers meet the pair in their youth, then watch them plunge into shady affairs from the 1950s and to the early ’70s. Lui (Aaron Kwok) was initially reluctant to take bribes, but that quickly became hard with payoffs ingrained in police culture – wads of cash are seen being distributed openly in police station changing rooms, let alone on the streets. Nam (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) on the other hand is a far more ambitious and scheming sort when it comes to dark dealings. When both win promotions for fighting triads and helping to quell riots, they and two more colleagues (together making up the “Four Great Sergeants”) shift corrupt practices into a formal system that can bring in money while keeping organised crime in check.
Once Lui, Nam and their cronies set up headquarters in a luxury hotel suite, a licencing scheme for shady businesses, complete with centralised payments, is established and triad activities are controlled so all can profit. Since crime stats officially drop under the system, they even come up with “crime tokens” to compensate scapegoats. By now Lui is married to tycoon’s daughter Tsai Zhen (Du Juan) and she gets deeply involved, handling matters behind the scenes to keep Lui’s hands clean. But getting close to major criminal elements, like notorious drug lord Limpy Ho (Tse Kwan-ho), carries grave risks. And in the early 1970s there’s a threat to the status quo when the government moves to set up the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Tales featuring Lui Lok and Nam Kong have become old standards in Hong Kong cinema, thanks to films like Powerful Four and the Lee Rock duology (all 1992), and more recently I Corrupt All Cops (2009) and Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong (2021). For his contribution, writer-director Yung presents the pair at a grand scale and explores each man’s character. The sprawling biopic goes back to harrowing experiences of Hong Kong’s 1941-45 Japanese occupation, then follows the antiheroes up through the ranks and into exile. And all the way Yung indulges in sensational cinema.
Under the lensing of Taiwan DP Chin Ting-chang, the decadence of corrupt senior cops becomes highly cinematic, with many scenes bathed in warm colour and gorgeous shots gently lingering on the players. The first half hour freely skips into whimsy, complete with Lui and Tsai dancing with umbrellas in the street, while other scenes carry shades of Wong Kar-wai-style elegance. Yung even goes for unbridled experimentation: when a gun battle gets going, the action slips bafflingly into music video-style montage set to Karen Dalton’s Something on Your Mind.
Adding to the pizzazz is top-tier casting. Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Chiu-wai impress as the central figures – Kwok veering between naïve, boisterous and tragic, and Leung injecting his own persona as he plays it cool. The show-stopping scene, however, actually involves neither of them. Instead, it’s veteran Michael Hui who steals the limelight as an ICAC official, making an impassioned speech that stands up for the suffering Hong Kong people. For the contemporary Hong Kong audience, there’s allegory to be found there. And for cineastes just keen to see Yung’s take on complex characters in complicated times, Where the Wind Blows offers a visually dazzling account on the big screen.
Philip Yung became involved in film and television production in 1998, and wrote and directed his first feature film, Glamorous Youth, in 2009. Yung went on to write and direct May We Chat (2013) and Port of Call (2015), with the latter winning widespread acclaim and award nominations. 2022 saw the completion of Yung’s fourth film as director, Where the Wind Blows, as well as the release of The Sparring Partner, which he produced.
2009 – Glamorous Youth
2013 – May We Chat
2015 – Port of Call
2022 – Where the Wind Blows