“Color of the Truth” sports such a dubious pedigree that I sat on it for nearly a month before finally taking a stab at it today. Yes, I’m talking about the presence of the name “Wong Jing”. What worries me the most is that Jing is not only the writer, but also the co-director (along with Marco Mak, “Haunted Office”). So, with much apprehension, but somewhat buoyed by the fact that Anthony Wong is the star (and realizing that no movie has ever been completely a waste of time with Anthony Wong in a major role), I took the chance.
“Color of the Truth” stars Wong as Huang, a dedicated super cop who, as the movie opens, is confronting his partner 7-Up (Lau Ching-Wan (“Running Out of Time”) in a cameo) on the rooftop of a building where 7-Up is in the process of helping local mobster Blind Chiu escape a police dragnet. Chiu is played in another cameo by Francis Ng (“Bullets Over Summer”), whose character is not, as his name might imply, blind. That night gunshots ring out and Huang is the only survivor. We learn that both 7-Up and Chiu had sons — Cola and Dawei, respectively. (And if you can’t guess that ‘Cola’ is the son of ‘7-Up’…) Flash forward to 10 years later, and both sons are now grown. Dawei (Jordan Chan) has taken over his father’s criminal empire, while Cola (Raymond Wong) has become a cop; both have designs on avenging their father’s death — or do they?
Despite its title, there’s little ambiguity to “Color of the Truth”. There’s the truth, and then there’s the assumptions (which gets debunk, or confirmed, by movie’s end). The truth is that Huang is a terrific cop, never takes a bribe, and cares diligently for his paralyzed father. Let’s just say the guy should have a halo over his head. This, of course, makes Cola’s whole “you kill my father and now I must kill you” notions a bit hard to swallow, especially to himself. Jordan Chan (“Killer”), on the other hand, is all about revenge. So what does a hardcore Vietnamese gangster seeking vengeance and a supposedly retired mobster have to do with our little conspiracy of death?
Much of “Truth” is played straight, and writer/director Wong Jing, despite offering up a number of intriguing twists, nevertheless drops the ball with a deus ex machina to close things out. The movie “Infernal Affairs”, which had a similar premise to “Truth”, never took the easy road out; “Truth” just can’t help itself. Of course the vibe of the film’s ultimate ending is telegraphed early on, most notably hinted by the absence of the doom and gloom atmosphere that permeated every frame of “Affairs” (which, incidentally, also co-starred Wong — once again proving my theory that any movie with Wong in a moderately large role can’t be bad).
Although Wong is clearly the star (and he does a tremendous job), co-star Raymond Wong (“PTU”) also impresses. Unlike Jordan Chan, who is relegated to background duty, Wong shares many scenes with, er, the other Wong, and the young actor manages to hold his own. As Cola, the younger Wong has intensity and you believe the threads of loyalty pulling at him as he attempts to separate his need to be a good cop and the promise to avenge his father’s death. It’s a good performance by the young man, who shows more range than many of the pop idols that have turned the Hong Kong film industry into a superfluous niche in recent years.
To be honest, I don’t know what surprised me more; that I liked “Color of the Truth” as much as I did, or that it was written and co-directed by Wong Jing, a man I had sworn off many moons ago. To be sure, some of Jing’s trademark humor is still present, as epitomized by an absurd sequence involving a grenade, an elevator, and a bumbling cop. I could have done without the comedy bits courtesy of said bumbling cop (he, and the retired mobster, reeks of silly characterization), although I have to say that the comedy bits didn’t completely distract me. Imagine, a restrained Wong Jing. What are the odds?
“Color of the Truth” isn’t “Infernal Affairs”, the film that it will often be compared to (and justifiably so). “Truth” is more of a straightforward crime thriller, with much more action than “Affairs” cared to offer. Co-directors Jing and Marco Mak handle the movie’s many gun battles well, and the film is sure to please fans of Hong Kong action pictures. (I’m sure only one of them was responsible for the action, but I won’t hazard a guess as to which one.) For those who want more ambiguity and shades of gray in their crime drama, “Affairs” is the movie you’re after. “Truth”, though not nearly as complex as “Affairs”, is still a pretty entertaining ride.
Wong Jing, Marco Mak (director) / Wong Jing (screenplay)
CAST: Anthony Wong …. Jiang Huang
Raymond Wong …. Cola
Pinky Cheung …. Mrs. Wang
Jordan Chan …. Dawei
Gillian Chung …. Katie
Francis Ng …. Blind Chiu
Lau Ching-Wan …. 7-Up