(I’m a bit behind on this series and I know I won’t be able to catch up until next month. So I don’t want to see any SPOILERS please!!!! Although I think I saw one just by doing a simple Google search. WTH!)
In the last couple of years I haven’t watched that many TVB series at all. (Probably 2 or 3 per year) Most of the time I select a drama based on cast. Maybe I should stop doing that because the last TVB I really enjoyed (Master of Play) – I wasn’t even interested in any of the cast and now with Ruse of Engagement, I started watching it mostly out of curiosity and boredom.
I really had no expectations going into this, maybe that’s why it totally took me by surprise.
Story Outline from TVB
Widow TONG SUK-FAN (Louise Lee) is saddled with hardship alone, struggling to bring up her two sons CHONG YAU-CHING / Carson (Ruco Chan) and CHONG YAU-KIT / Alfred (Ron Ng). The brothers join the Intelligence Unit and the Operations Unit of Anti-Terrorist Force (ATF) respectively, and both gain recognition from their superior SHUM CHI-NGO (Eddie Kwan), which is supposed to be a comfort to their mother.
Unexpectedly, their brotherhood is turned to enmity owing to an intelligence. Through a reliable source from a journalist YIP TING (Yoyo Mung), YAU-CHING probes into a secret organization, during which he nearly gets himself killed and cannot resume duty immediately. After seeking aid from his girlfriend CHUNG YAT-KA / Jessica (Aimee Chan), who accesses the database in secret by leveraging her duty as the intelligence analyst, he uncovers that there is a mole in the intelligence agency.
His younger brother YAU-KIT not only suspects him of being a traitor, but also takes advantage of his absence to court YAT-KA. Just as YAU-CHING is caught helplessly in a dilemma, fortunately, he gets help from YIP TING, and the two gradually develop romantic feelings for each other. However, in an attempt to ferret out the culprit, YAU-CHING does not hesitate to use himself as the bait, walking to the path of no return. Long-gone seems to be the days when fidelity, love and righteousness still mattered to him…..
That doesn’t mean the beginning was all that great. After week one (5 episodes) I was about to give up. But thankfully, from about episode 7 onwards it definitely improved and I’m eager to see how Yoyo’s association with this ‘organisation’ would fit into the story.
The story so far
Eps 1 to 2 (Case 1) – The beginning was GO GO GO, pretty much non-stop action. Terrorists, explosives, anthrax?!? Ah yes this was filmed in 2011. I like action series but I do think the HK netizens were fair in their criticisms of the totally unrealistic action scenes. The first example would be the gun fight in the middle of a busy shopping centre. Somehow, an old lady in a wheelchair got stuck in the middle of nowhere amongst all the bullets and yet, no innocent bystanders were hurt. It’s also extremely funny when the ATF (Anti-Terrorist Force) team was apparently trying to keep a low profile, not wanting the target to know the police are there and yet, they rock up in a black van with the huge words “ATF” on the side. Yep, that operation is totally covert!
Ngo Sir: If he finds out, it will cause panic. (Yeah well, everyone can see ATF on the streets??!?!)
I know I maybe picky here, but if the news anchor announces that there’s an incident happening in Tsim Sha Tsui, please don’t show me scenes shot in Dragon Centre (and there’s a banner which clearly states that) – which is in Sham Shui Po and not exactly near TST at all. An overseas audience might not be bothered by this, but it creates another distraction and gives the netizens another excuse to say TVB’s attention to detail is pretty lacking. It’s becoming a sport to play ‘Find a flaw’ in TVB series these days.
Eps 3 to 5 (In Training) – If you’re not a fan of Ruco or Ron, maybe you should skip these episodes. It just felt like we’ve seen it all before. I wondered what Carson (Ruco Chan) and Alfred (Ron Ng) would need to do to get themselves kicked out. They’ve deliberately defied orders more than once and yet they get away with it every time. The other trainees were forgettable. I don’t remember any of their names. Ngo Sir was seriously funny because he looked so angry ALL THE TIME. I want to laugh everytime his angry/stern face comes up on the screen.
For an ‘action’ series, it’ really unfortunate that the action scenes are not that great. But really, this has to win an award. Or is it long jump world record? Someone made an edit of the scene where Ngo Sir jumps across the rooftops and it’s absolutely HILARIOUS. (The first 30 seconds? was what was shown on TV LOL.)
Oh yeah, and the ‘love triangle’ between Carson / Jessica / Alfred. What? Carson and Jessica got together? Why? I admit I wasn’t paying 100% attention in these episodes.
Eps 6 to 9 (Case 2 – weapons smuggling / WTO) – Now that Carson and Alfred have completed their training (so glad we got that out of the way) we finally move onto a new case about weapons smuggling. These episodes focus on a terrorist plot involving a North Korean who infiltrated a group of Korean farmers who are protesting at the WTO meeting in Hong Kong. We got to know more about Yip Ting (Yoyo Mung) who is a famous writer / reporter but along with her adopted father, they belong to a secret group known only as the ‘organisation’. At this stage, we don’t know who is really behind this organisation and what they actually do. The ‘organisation’ seems to have a more sinister agenda than what Yip Ting was led to believe.
The main actors / characters
Ruco Chan as Carson – I must admit I’ve only seen ONE of Ruco’s dramas (where he was the lead) since his career ‘revival’ at TVB and that was The Other Truth. (A decent series btw, and I liked him in it.) I think he suits this type of mischievous role because there’s an edge to him that goes beyond the righteous, ‘good guy’ type but his character can just be really annoying. Carson is one of those guys who thinks he can do it all and never wants to admit defeat. He might be very good at his job BUT that doesn’t include the part where he has to follow orders. I really wondered how Carson and Alfred could stay in training when they repeatedly disobeyed their commanding officers. Just what does it take to get kicked out? Or you can do anything just because you can also jump across roof tops? Maybe he’ll get more interesting when he goes undercover (?) again. So far, the romance with Jessica is completely underwhelming and his rushing into things without thinking it over just makes me want to roll my eyes. I am however, looking forward to his romance with Yip Ting.
Ron Ng as Alfred – Poor Ron. Not getting much screentime these days and really, I can’t see why the writers would give Alfred more screentime because he’s not that interesting. Plus when I realised they called him ALFRED I thought – the writers are making fun of him right? Afterall, Ron is like the inventor of the well-known phrase – mai fei fut (賣飛佛). It doesn’t mean anything in Cantonese but it’s like the HK-English way to say ‘my favourite’. It originally came from an ad Ron did some years back. (To be fair though his English in that ad was pretty normal, the dancing however…) But in any case, his nickname on the show, Ah Fut is like…. a joke on Ron LOL, which is why I’m saying the writers probably don’t like him!
I used to cringe whenever Ron spoke because his pronunciation is just… there’re so many ‘lazy sounds’ it’s like he can’t even speak properly. So glad he has improved over the years. Doesn’t really help his role here because he hasn’t been given much to do. Seems like Alfred has been completely overshadowed by his brother Carson, since Carson is always the one who likes to boast.
Aimee Chan as Jessica – I really don’t know what to say about her because so far, her character is just there to look pretty. She’s some sort of computer expert and comes from a rich family. I’m not so biased against Aimee Chan these days (oh let’s forget those Burning Flame 3 days) but here, she just seems to be overshadowed by the other characters. Even Leanne Li’s character, Beauty seems more interesting.
Yoyo Mung as Yip Ting – she has been the biggest surprise for me in this series. I never really liked Yoyo Mung’s acting (this goes back to the Heart of Greed days) and to be honest, her performance here is serviceable but it’s really her character which kept me watching. The writers have already set up a few ‘bombs’ which are ready to be exposed as the story continues. The mystery behind her real father’s death. What is this ‘organisation’? What is her adopted father’s involvement in the organisation? The opening theme indicates there’ll be romance between her and Carson…
I worry though out of the four main characters, the only one I’m actually interested in is Yip Ting. That probably means I have to sit through a lot of filler material? Maybe when Carson goes undercover and the end of all the sweet talking between him and Jessica, that’s when I want to see his storyline again.
The news articles about this series seem to concentrate on two things – lots of complaints and low ratings. Not exactly a great combination. But keeping in mind HK citizens LOVE to complain and some of these complains are rather hilarious, especially the ones concerning ‘too much violence’ or ‘not suitable for younger viewers’. WTH people. If you want family-friendly dramas watch Come Home Love. Or better yet, how about put your kids to bed instead of having them watch TV?
I’m not saying Ruse of Engagement is spectacularly great, but I do like this type of police investigation series so this is one of the more enjoyable ones SO FAR. Yes TVB has a habit of crappy endings, let’s hope this isn’t going to fall into that abyss. By the time I come back from holidays I’ll probably find out whether it tanked in the end.