Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finding "Eye in the Sky" in Kuala Lumpur

My favorite mall in Kuala Lumpur isn't the KLCC, but the Berjaya Times Square. I would walk my way from my hotel to get there since most of the hotels I stay with are near the Bukit Bintang tourist center. Usually, after shopping for ORIGINAL DVDs at the Berjaya (somewhere at the 3rd floor near the cinema ticket booth), I would walk back towards Bukit Bintang, then head towards Jalan Alor - the famous hawker's street - where Hotel Seasons View is - where hundreds of tourists dine on makeshift tables. Along that street, head eastward. Although there are stalls selling dvd's, head further along the road until you notice a big shop to your right with shelves of dvds and music cds. And guess what I found?

Finally, I have gotten hold of a copy of the critically acclaimed Hong Kong movie, Yau Nai Hoi's "Eye in the Sky" (aka Gun Chung) which stars the other Tony Leung (who starred in Su Zhou's Train). I was just thrilled! Though I haven't seen the movie yet, I'd like to share some reviews of this movie.


Genre: Drama/CrimeDirector: Yau Nai HoiStarring: Tony Leung Ka Fai, Simon Yam, Kate TsuiRunTime: -Released By: Shaw & Scorpio EastRating:
PGOfficial Website:

Release Date: 21 June 2007


Surveillance, translated as “eye in the sky” It means “to follow” and to “keep careful watch” as if you had “an eye in the sky”.Team leader, Simon Yam (Wong Man Ching) and his men, including newcomer Kate Tsui (Ho Kai-bo), have a gang of jewelry shop robbers under close surveillance. Tony Leung (Chang Chong Shan), a seasoned criminal with the strong instinct of the hunted, escapes captures and sabotage police swoops umpteen times. It’s as if he too had an eye in the sky on his enemy’s movements.But, the net is closing in and Chan is now under Wong’s surveillance. Chan, a master of concealment and Wong, an expert at camouflaging. A game of cat –and–mouse. Who can outsmart the enemy and gain final victory?

Movie Review:
Hong Kong’s cop genre movies are often limited to either undercover tales or the explosive SDU and they are pretty much done to death in recent years. Although there are many more departments other than these two, there are far too few films that dare to venture into what these other police departments got to offer.

Eye in the Sky is a refreshing approach on cop movies as it shift it’s focus from the usual recycled material on Hong Kong cops (so recycled that even Hollywood copied from them) to a lesser known and definitely more low key division in the entire police force.

The Surveillance team follows their target relentlessly and yet anonymously. They set up for the big boys (such as the Special Tactical Unit) for the final payout while they fade away from getting any credits. Their job is as risky those involve with the major firearms but yet they seldom receive the credit that they are due for. There lies part of the reason why this department wasn’t ever featured in a movie of their own.

Simply that their duties, although dangerous, is simply not as exciting or explosive compared to those in the special task force nor does it has the seediness of the undercover blues. In short, it can get quite boring watching surveillance at work (that is unless you have an unhealthy interest in stalking).

That’s ultimately both the strongest and weakest point of this movie as on one hand, it stays as true to that area of expertise, providing interesting tactical operations but it also bring out the boringness of keeping tab on someone. Another trivial nuisance about this movie is how they indicate who the agents are by presenting these agents who are staring at their target personals’ movement. While this is to allow the audience to be aware of the agents’ presence, it felt rather absurd that any field agent would stare straight into their targets at all.

However, all the woes of Eye in the Sky were alleviated by the fine performance of the two Hong Kong veterans, Tony Leung and Simon Yam. Some of their cloak and dagger play against each other bear resemble of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s tension filled cat and mouse game in Michael Mann’s Heat. Once again, they prove that they could convince the audience easily that they are on the top of their expertise effortlessly and it’s definitely intriguing to watch how they try to outmatch each other.

Newcomer Kate Tsui’s performance on the other hand felt rather uneventful. Eye in the Sky marks her debut in movies and for most non Hong Kong residents, they might be wondering what her talents might be that helped her land such a meaty role among the veterans (fyi: She was a Miss Hong Kong back in 2004). Her appearance and on screen charisma felt that she was more suited to a supporting role, instead of a leading one but strategically placed, her weakness as a newbie is played to her advantage as her rawness both as an actress and character became effective in driving her “coming of age” story.This feature also marks the directing debut of Johnny To’s writing partner Yau Nai Hoi. Perhaps it’s their partnership, the Johnny To’s trademark in films are evidently felt in this movie. If you are unaware of the fact that he didn’t direct this one, you might have assumed it was one of his films. As far as a first timer goes, to score a standard like this veteran, it’s pretty impressive and definitely one to watch out for.If you enjoyed films like PTU (Police Tactical Unit, a Johnnie To film about the uniformed street walking cops) but preferred that it wasn’t overwhelming overdose with series of coincident events, Eye in the Sky will provide the right fix for a refreshing change to the tired cop genre film in Hong Kong while staying true to their subject.

Review by Richard Lim Jr for

Here’s another review from Mr. Don Willmot of

They say the Hong Kong film industry has lost a lot of steam in recent years, and I tend to agree. Lately it seems that all the movies being released there are either dim-witted comedies about shopping and/or breast implants or by-the-numbers police procedurals with rogue cops using forbidden tactics to go after evil triad bosses. Cue the shoot-out in the floating Chinese restaurant. Yawn. This sad reality makes
Eye in the Sky a really welcome breath of fresh air. Yes, it's a police procedural, but it has none of the usual trappings. We simply follow along as a rough-and-tumble undercover surveillance unit uses a mix of old-fashioned street smarts and modern technology to try to catch a group of brazen jewelry store thieves whose well-planned midday assaults are terrorizing the city. The lead undercover cop, Sergeant Wong (Simon Yam), goes by the nickname "Dog Head."

We first meet him in a brisk and intricate undercover training exercise as he scurries around the city monitoring the efforts of his newest rookie, the eager "Piggy" (Kate Tsui). Assigned to the jewelry store case, they're confounded by the expertise of the thieves, who are led by the enigmatic Shan (Tony Leung Ka-fai), a cool customer who is capable of sudden fits of horrific violence. He's the lookout, standing on a nearby rooftop to coordinate each heist via cell phone. But all is not well within his gang.

Greedy underlings want a bigger slice of the loot (an idea Shan dismisses with a casual act of violence over a group barbecue), and he himself is looking for a bigger slice from his own boss, an evil old lady who controls a vast crime syndicate. As Piggy and Dog Head bond over their all-night stakeouts, we learn a lot about undercover police tactics and cheer them along as they make small discoveries and shadow suspects covertly all around Hong Kong.

There is none of the usual Hong Kong bang-bang, just one surprising shootout notable for its sudden cruelty. This is street-level cat-and-mouse police work, and the movie races ahead with excellent pacing, the good guys and bad guys crossing paths constantly as they move toward the eventual final showdown. Yam and Leung are hard-working Hong Kong regulars with close to 250 movies between them. It's always a pleasure to see them, no matter how mediocre the movie, and in this case they really get to shine, Yam as the burned-out cop slouching his way to retirement, and Leung as the sadistic criminal behind the sunglasses. The Hong Kong film industry may be stumbling these days, but it's good to know it can still produce something as tight and entertaining as this.

P.S. I think if you click on this post's title link, you will be taken to the Youtube trailer of the movie... i think! 

We shall post our other DVD stash from KL very soon.

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