Review: “Ghetto Justice 2” (By Funn)
Ghetto Justice 2 <怒火街頭 II>
TVB Drama 2012
Producer: Joe Chan
Genre: Legal Drama
Number of episodes: 21
“All in all, a sequel that is meant to milk the series rather than to complement it or to continue it.”
SPOILERS … SPOILERS … SPOILERS
Kevin Cheng – Law Lik Ah
Sam Lee – Ting Ka Fu/Teng
Alex (Jazz) Lam – George Mike Jr/Mai Cho Chi
Raymond Cho – Leung Bao
Ching Hor Wai – Poon Siu King
Myolie Wu – Kris Wong Si Fu
Choi Yiu Lik – Wong Si Yuen
Stephen Hyunh – Victor Ching Pok Him
Christine Kuo – Lynette
King Kong- Lynette’s admirer
JJ Jia – Chin Sam Sam
Celine Ma – Beauty
Crystal Li – Grace
Elena Kong – Jenny Wan
Law Ba returns for another day to fight for the folks in Shum Shui Po in the courts!
I posted some comments about this series as I watched it at the main blog here.
I spent many hours, time and effort to write my episodic thoughts for Ghetto Justice and it was a series I enjoyed immensely even if I had my reservations about certain plot, the legal cases and such. So when I found out there will be a sequel and inevitably so, the first thing in my mind is will Kris be killed off so that Law Ba will have a new love? Of course she won’t, because this series, Ghetto Justice 2 is a true sequel for any TVB series. No girlfriends will be blown up, or best friends murdered. All that were in Ghetto Justice who had substantive roles return, save for Butt Chik (Eddie Kwan) who didn’t die and moved to China, Tai Ng Ting (Joyce Tang) moved away and married someone else. Basically what is great about this sequel is no one from previous series who survived died (except for one prostitute) and their whereabouts are accounted for, so you won’t go “Where is so and so” except for poor Mandy Wong’s character but then we all know what happened to her; she became far too big and famous for this tiny little assistant role. And also missing Kris’ younger sister, as if she never existed. Whoever is gone, will be replaced. And that’s when this series sucks.
Why it sucks, Funn? Why?!
It is a sequel and if there is any indication via the themesong and themevideo, nothing has changed. Same song, same sort of video, same concept which is expected, same characters different names.
Gone with one nice silly cop that is Butt Chik, in with another nice silly cop that is Leong Bao who seems to be more like “lepak-ing” (To hang out with friends, loiter about and do absolutely nothing. Commonly used in Malaysia) rather than doing proper police work.
Gone with one assistant and in with a new one, this time proper lawyer for the legal centre and she is a sweet girl who loves to smile named Grace. And more role also. If Mandy is an example, I believe Crystal Li may be in for bigger things even if she will smile through any dramatic scene.
Gone with one prostitute with a golden heart, in with a masseur with a golden heart named Sum Sum for Ah Teng.
Out with one arrogant big time lawyer (Spencer), in with another as arrogant big time lawyer, Cheung Kwok Keung as Barrister King who is a better actor than Sek Sau but has the same sort of role. But at least he doesn’t kill anyone.
The creep of the show is Evergreen Mak as a character so explosively evil, it was such a pity he didn’t get him comeuppance properly in court.
It sucks because you can see a trend don’t you? Ghetto Justice II is basically the same except a few tiny adjustment.
A new character which potentially could have lifted this series to being more than just a mere sequel is the character of Lynette who is Law Ba’s wife of a decade. Not even ex wife, they never divorced but wife, played by Christine Kuo, and unfortunately, neither the character or the actress lived up to expectations.
There are some new cases, some rather touching, that of Elena Kong’s very stubborn character who had her reasons and also the last 3 episodes, where the building collapsed killing many people. That collapsing building could have been a huge case that would have been a great legal battle where in criminal or civil court but the writers of this series bizarrely decided to just shift gear and made the last episode into one boring melodrama that even Korean producers will go “No, get that rubbish out of my face!!”.
The sequel has potential in terms of storyline, but as any potential go, if they’re unrealised, they’re just “what ifs” and nothing more.
The Court Cases
There are a few court cases, same concept as in the 1st series except the focus is much less and the court scenes itself much lesser than 1st series.
Of all the cases, the one that to me is most memorable is Elena Kong’s divorce case and her dying husband demanding to use their son’s placenta for some radical medical procedure and she refused. She looked cold, sounded cold but in the end she revealed why and Law Ba found a way to ensure she is understood without the full facts revealed. That was a good case, and a touching one.
Some cases which involved Mike George Jr is interesting because his behaviour as a small ranking magistrate is very real although some legal arguments is stupid; like that former judge who defended himself by not presenting any evidence as to his medical condition and Mike George was right to ask for a medical report. As if that former judge’s words is the gospel truth. The fact that such a dialogue is in the script shows the writer knows zero about legal stuff. But I had to bang my head against the wall when Mike George congratulated himself on a verdict well delivered for one poor woman sued for cheating the welfare system when she didn’t disclose the fact that she had thousands in her joint account with her mother in law which would not make her eligible for welfare in the first place, except she didn’t own that money, the money was her mom in laws. Because of that, her own welfare taken away, her husband’s disability claims taken away, etc. Stupid isn’t it? Well Mike George investigated and proclaimed her guilty BUT sentenced her to community service or something like that in lieu of prison sentence. Which to me is so damn stupid. You know why? So she is guilty of cheating the welfare system? So in the end all her welfare claims will be denied because she has a conviction isn’t it? Yes, she did not disclose that information, but she had no intention to cheat the welfare because the money isn’t hers. If Mike George is satisfied over that fact, then he must proclaim her innocent and the welfare must payback the sums owed to her for those few months. Again, the writer probably never read a legal journal in his life.
Then there was one case that will be potentially a great one, involving a definitive “gan seung” aka evil entrepreneur that is Kau Tai Wai (Evergreen Mak) whose questionable tactics in business will have anyone wishing the ultimate comeuppance for him; imprisonment, bankruptcy, etc. Except he got killed in the end, and I don’t mind revealing, by Law Ba who was so angry with what that guy was saying (basically openly planning the murder of Kris’ mom over the phone) who picked up a golf club and just whacked it over his head and killing him. How then could Law Ba escape?
Eh isn’t this deja vu? Last episode in 1st series ALSO involves Law Ba, a court case and his final act of sacrifice for Kris for the sake of justice.
Anyway, he escaped, but not before we have the essential Kris moment of self doubt about law and justice and essential Law Ba moment of preaching the goodness of law and the reason why we must believe in law for justice to prevail, except in his case, as Kris, I would have lost my faith in law itself because Kau Tai Wai did not get his comeuppance through, law, he got his through human intervention. Anyway Law Ba fought the conviction of murder by pleading self defence. Problem is where is self defence? The threat was against Kris’ mom who is miles away, is not against Law Ba himself. Provocation is the most ideal but provocation is not a defense to murder. So the only defence which I believe HK has if the system is still like the English system is diminished responsibility or in USA, the most commonly used temporary insanity. But of course, maybe I haven’t updated my knowledge of the HK criminal legal system or the writer feels self defence will work.
Does it matter?
The worst oversight is of course the Leong Bao case of shooting dead a crazed person who was threatening to kill another fellow police officer. No comments in that except one scene we see his partner quickly taking his own gun and placing it into the dead man’s hands and telling Leong Bao to say he had to shoot because crazed guy took partner’s gun is about to shoot. That would justify Leong Bao shooting that crazed guy except without that whole gun thing, Leong Bao already had reasons enough to shoot to disarm. The fact that he missed and actually killed the guy is of course an unfortunate fact. During interviews, they both corroborated with one another and said about the crazed guy taking the gun from partner and so Leong Bao felt threatened and then shoot. This is an important point because later partner confessed how he was bullying the crazed guy and forced the crazed guy to go crazy and almost kill the partner at which point Leong Bao arrived and shot crazed guy dead. And so Leong Bao’s shooting was justified. And yet, that important point was lost and no more was mentioned. I mean if Kris was so intent on finding the cause, wouldn’t that important point be something so important that Leong Bao himself may be sacked from the police force? And yet conveniently that point was not raised anymore and both officers I assume went back happily to the police force.
A very happy ending, to the point I thought perhaps they may all jump up into the air and shout LAW IS GREAT! Not THAT happy. I don’t like the ending. I don’t like indecisive Grace and poor George Mike Jr still without a girlfriend. Sum Sum will marry Ah Teng which to me is the best ending, except why can’t they end with a wedding? Like a wedding in the middle of Shum Shui Po street would have been awesome. Maybe that is for part 3 between Law Ba and Kris.I don’t like how easily the triangle love between Law Ba, Kris and Lynette is solved by her sudden confession that she is now seeing King Kong. I know King Kong is introduced to end up with her but in between his intro and they getting together, nothing in between suggests anything of that sort. For me the ending is like forced, super fast, rushed, superficial and just to end things. I love the 1st series’ ending with Law Ba going to jail. That was unexpected. You never send you hero to jail but that series did. This present series ended typically like all TVB series. Which suggests if there is a Ghetto Justice 3, maybe it is time to kill off Kris or maybe it will be Sum Sum so as to have something different for this series but the same damn thing for TVB series .
Now since with almost same set of characters we all grown to love in Ghetto Justice, surely Ghetto Justice 2 will be the same? Well, not quite.
The story begins 1 and half years later, when Law Ba is released in prison. If you expect a man to spend 1 and a half years in prison amongst murderers, kidnappers and rapists to be different, even slightly different upon release, at least a wee bit reflective, you’re reasonable to expect so. Unfortunately Law Ba remains the same as ever. Not one minute change, not even a new behaviour, he remains the same, as if that 1 and half years was spent in some holiday resort and I find that unbelievable. He didn’t become self reflective, in fact he is just the same. Or rather he did become different, in the sense he chases after Kris every time their relationship hits a snag, he runs to her every time there is some difficulty in their relationship, and first 2 episodes we see suggestions of a healthy sex life, and thereafter we see an unhealthy, unequal relationship where one does more for one than the other with questions of “does he love me? do I have to be more weaker so that I get his attention?” sort of nonsense. In the first place, I never quite get why Law Ba fell for Kris. In this sequel, Lynette is right to point out Kris did very little for Law Ba, after all Law Ba went to prison for her. But the love is irrational, what one does for another does not equal the feelings involved. But I don’t like watching Law Ba running after Kris like some darn puppy. It disgusts me. Law Ba should be that Law Ba in Ghetto Justice 1 in terms of temperament; he couldn’t care less. This is one change I don’t like. I’d rather he become more serious, shave a little, dress better.
I like Kevin Cheng. After all I won the “Why I like Kevin Cheng” essay contest and got a Ghetto Justice DVD as evidence. I do like him, I do!! Why the !! you ask? Because you can like someone and still dislike some aspect of that someone, and it just happens that I dislike his acting ability aspect. He has improved as an actor but he is still mediocre. Many will say Law Ba is his signature career defining role. I don’t agree. Any good or even not so good actor would have done reasonably well in Ghetto Justice as Law Ba because this character is someone interesting, someone any competent mediocre actor at the minimum could have done well. His signature career defining role is the 8th Prince in Bu Bu Jing Xin and another less capable or not so suitable actor would not have brought out the many character specific traits that Kevin did and it was indeed his best acting thus far.
My problem with Kevin Cheng as Law Ba is like I wrote earlier, the fact that there is hardly any change. And irritatingly, whilst in the 1st series his scruffy look suits his character, even gave him personality, in this sequel, his scruffy look is just a look. His hand movements is too much, in fact much too much if you understand what I mean. Generally, his court scenes is still terrible but then TVB is never good any any logical legal arguments or any good depiction of a good legal argument in court. His Law Ba spent more time running after either Kris or Lynette in this series than doing proper work for people of Shum Shui Po. The cases may be more or less the same number, but the attention to the cases are much lesser. And his worst moment has to be when he is with Kris, acting lovey dovey in front of poor suffering Lynette when he knows very well Lynette has suffered and still feel strongly for him. Maybe it was intentional, maybe to show us that jerk side of Law Ba and indeed, Law Ba looked like a first class jerk in those scenes, but I doubt it was ever intentional. So all I can deduce is the insensitivity of the script and the poor understanding of the scene at hand by Kevin.
Performance wise, same as in Ghetto Justice but look deeper, many things are different, many things are unreasonably unchanging that it is annoying to watch. Frankly I still stand by my statement; I like Kevin Cheng but he is a mediocre actor at best even if he is a very handsome mediocre actor.
That being said, Kevin was at his best in this series as Law Lik Ah, that arrogant guy he was before he found his conscience and became Law Ba. There were just a few scenes where we see Law Ba as Law Lik Ah thru the eyes of Lynette and I can understand why Lynette fell for him deeply. He was irresistible, that bad boy image that somehow Kevin conveyed well. Maybe for Ghetto Justice 3, why not do a prequel and show Law Ba as Law Lik Ah and how he terrorises the legal world with his superb legal arguments eh? Because Law Ba is at his most interesting as Law Lik Ah. He can perhaps cross over to the sequel of The Other Truth, him as the hot shot arrogant confident lawyer and Ruco Chan as the easy going but darn competent lawyer. That would make for an interesting series.
Never quite liked her in the 1st series, disliked her even more in the sequel with her childish demands of being chased after. How old is she? Because such juvenile behaviour. And the character swings like a pendulum; argues with Law Ba one day, next day miraculously patched up. Maybe I missed an episode somewhere. And I understand the need for her character to prove her love for Law Ba, hence her admission of guilt in murdering one really evil character that deserves to die anyway. But that last episode was just a complete waste of time because this is a series about lawyers fighting injustice, and here we have a scene which is anything BUT about lawyers and injustice. It was just silly.
Myolie Wu has become a worse and worse actress as time goes by, but it was only recently I realise she didn’t become worse and worse, she just stopped improving. And it is evident here as Kris Wong. In the first series she overacts, here lesser but unfortunately her expressions are either stressed out or cocky. Cocky whenever she is teasing or being teased, stressed out whenever she is angry about something. Frankly nothing new, nothing exceptional, nothing remarkable. Even her amazing haircut from 1st series did not make an appearance and so her performance like her image in this series is just bland. Worst is of course the writing for Kris is repetitive, unconnected, bland. Her court scenes are the worst. Same problems as in the 1st series. In fact in the 1st series I wrote;
I find her strangely annoying even though she can act but somehow I feel her acting is rather… pretending acting rather than my heart is in it sort of acting. There is no fluidity, nothing natural. I find her court scenes the worst; there is no elegance in her portrayal. She did the arrogance parts well but in the end even as the arrogant Wong Si Fu she was rather obvious; meaning I knew she was acting.
Same here. No change.
Still the same, except for falling with a prostitute, now it is a masseur which is an upgrade in status. But he does always end up with the nicest girls and his love story with Sum Sum is to me the most touching, like it was in the 1st series. However in terms of emotional level, Ah Teng probably is one that went through some emotional stuff. 1st series, his girlfriend got murdered. In this series, his mom died before he can say goodbye. His eagerness to help others does not extend to his own family until it is too late.
Same old, same old which is good except Ah Teng in this sequel is more relaxed, ready to smile and seems more contented, less persistent but still committed to his cause. Sam Lee is a wonderful actor and I have no further comments except to repeat what I wrote in my blog for the 1st series and interestingly, same comments apply here.
Sam Lee was impressive in his straight talking way. He plays Teng so straightforward, nothing complicated and it takes a truly good actor to do just that. Some tends to inject too much into a character, some tends not to at all but Sam Lee did it in the right doses. He is believable as the no nonsense righteous Teng, and was perhaps the most consistent actor in this series from ep 1 until the last. At times I felt he was not enough; I felt like he didn’t display enough emotionally but then I realised that is Sam Lee’s style of acting; no frills, he is what you see he is.
Poor guy who is the most gentlemanly, the nicest dude and yet he can’t get himself a girlfriend. What is wrong with the writers? Give him Grace for god’s sake!
Same comments from my 1st series’ observation applies here.
Jazz Lam impressed me the most because he was the most against type. I was so used to see him as uncouth characters, it took me a few episodes to see him as George, the ever gentleman and polite guy. After a few episodes I was convinced Jazz was George. The way he spoke, his manner of speaking, everything was that of a gentleman. A definite against type sort of casting and one which reaped the most reward. I absolutely enjoyed his performance. He was convincing.
To add to the above, he injects humour into his Mike George Jr and in here also some fear as he became a judge which is realistic except for that one scene where he self congratulated himself on a verdict well delivered which I thought was egoistical considering the verdict was wrong.
A simpleton. Whilst Butt Chik was more flirtatious type, Leong Bao is more traditional. He is a cop except he does very little cop work.
Raymond Cho is a competent actor who looks young for his age. He is able to bring to Leong Bao a certain innocence and you can sense Leong Bao is a very traditional old fashioned sort of guy, with the way he talks, the way he dress. There is consistency in his performance and I like his Leong Bao even if when it comes to love he is a bit devious.
A young legal assistant working for the legal centre at Shum Shui Po. Not much is known of her, except she likes to smile.
I was told this is Crystal Li’s very first acting performance or something like that. I confess, I don’t know who she is. She is pretty, cute, with an easy charming smile. But her performance is frivolous. To me there is nothing serious, nothing substantive. Given this is her 1st performance, and given she has probably the most observer type character who is not involved in anything major in this series, it was a competent performance. But her constant smiles and her unconvincing way of speaking her lines can be irritating after a while. Frankly I don’t remember much about her except I like her suits.
Probably one of the most pitiful female character for this sequel. The troubles she went through for Law Ba, the love she has for him, I pity her. This is one character that I was hoping would be a villain, as in the 3rd party between Law Ba and Kris. One scene had her faced to faced with Kris and challenging Kris for Law Ba’s affection and I was cheering because FINALLY, something for Lynette to do but next episode, nothing. It was as if the writer just doesn’t know what to do with Lynette. When she should have been the ultimate bitch wife or rather perhaps the strong competition, she was reduced to an observer, standing there, looking at Law Ba, hoping, wishing, praying… for something. Nothing much more is done to this potentially interesting character. And I actually like Lynette. She understood what love is as opposed to Kris whose pride and ego wins the day all the time.
Christine Kuo is not new, she is raw and perhaps one of the most maligned actress today. You want my honest opinion?
Her acting sucks. True. She looks like Aimee Chan, another hated actress for good reason. True. But she also looks a tad like Lee San San, another actress I personally hate for very good reason. Her Cantonese sucks. Very true. But King Kong’s Cantonese is worse, and I don’t hear any complaints. Her English is not perfect, it is accented. True. But I disagree with others who say they can’t understand a single word she is saying, in English. Really? Because I can and her English is better than all the TVB actresses who says “KREARRRR” rather than “Clear”.
She is pretty. She is feminine. And she is one of those actresses in TVB who looks healthy weight wise. She looks like a woman, with all the curves at all the right places which is a welcomed change to the usual skinny ones. So her acting sucks. That I agree. But I also agree with the producers there is something about her that makes me look at her twice, but as long as I don’t concentrate on her, I won’t find too much faults. I know she has faults. Her worst moments are those screaming, angry, dramatic moments. Even Kevin Cheng can’t do those scenes well. Her rawness is evident in those scenes. Her better moments are those where she looked longingly at Kevin Cheng. Her best moment is when she was standing face to face with Myolie, acting tough, pronouncing war over Kevin. Seriously, that was her best, marred by her bad Cantonese but looks wise, she was fierce. Her Lynette is feminine, nice, decisive and it is a credit to Christine Kuo she is able to show all that. A pity the writing didn’t go beyond that; why not just make her go all out for Law Ba? That would have been so much better.
But yes I agree, she is a bad actress. But she isn’t really the worst like some comments I have read which I find increasingly unreasonable. I find some others worse than her, and they’re supposed to be veterans. But there is something about Christine Kuo; that X factor. If she improves on her Cantonese, or her acting, I believe she will go places. In fact her best spoken scenes were with King Kong where they conversed in Mandarin. She sounded natural, she looked natural. Maybe she should go to China (where she will 100% be dubbed) or Taiwan (where she speaks better Mandarin than most Taiwanese actresses with their lazy intonations which is annoying). Anyway she does look convincing as a doctor. She is in fact one of the few pretty actresses that looks convincing as someone modern, professional and with a brain. Just because her Cantonese isn’t good doesn’t mean she doesn’t look smart.
But yes I agree, she is a bad actress. But bad actress can always improve, a question is whether improve to become better or mediocre or greater.
Chin Sum Sum
A really nice girl who is decisive and knows what she wants. Her best moment had to be how she took charge of Teng’s mother’s funeral when the father and son were too distraught. Strength in character, charm in her personality. I doubt she will have any haters.
I first saw JJ Jia in L’Escargot and I thought she may be mousy, but she had potential. I also remember she was hammered for her performance there. Then I saw the dance series which I never quite got the title and I thought she was smashingly beautiful, again she was mousy but she had plenty of potential. I always thought she had potential. She looks young for her age, she is pretty and she has a face suitable for modern series as a pretty girl and in ancient series as a very beautiful ancient girl. In this series, her acting has improved leaps and bounds and I feel she is probably the best actress in this series itself. Her Sum Sum is a nice girl, very sincere, and for once I believed JJ Jia is slowly throwing away that nervousness in her voice that she used to have; that trembling voice that shows she has fears, reservations and in this series she is more fluid, more natural in her body language. Her Cantonese has improved and though she plays a girl from Mainland China, believe me, when I was in HK, some native HK-er speaks worse Cantonese than her. A joy to watch.
Elena Kong who personified the cold unfeeling lawyer who actually has a lot of feelings that she can’t show. A pity her character did not appear later on.
KK Cheung’s performance is negligible because his character rarely appears and if he does, almost a cliche with the way he plays with his gold chain in court which of course to TVB means confidence and arrogance but to me shows bad lawyer-ship. It shows he doesn’t care to the judge which is a bad move. So to me this is an inconsistent performance. And he didn’t get his chance at redemption from bad guy to good guy, when Lynette was in a coma. I mean there should be a scene of him rushing to Lynette’s side and expressing regret for being Kau Tai Wai’s lawyer and then reconciling with Law Ba or something. That scene was missing.
Stephen Hyunh is back as Victor but not much to do except to walk around and appear next to Kris to annoy Law Ba. Frankly I see he has improved in his acting performance, less rigid and dialogue speaking more fluid than in 1st series but unfortunately still nothing much to do.
Evergreen Mak should have been the villain to close the series, except he died prematurely. His character is explosively evil, intimidating and seriously a wolf in sheep’s skin so to speak. I love his performance as the angry manipulative evil Kau Tai Wai, but I hated his ending. He should have been prosecuted in court for what he did, it would have been a great 1 episode of court case, etc but TVB chickened out of writing an actual good legal argument and case and so just decided to have Law Ba literally knocked him out. What a waste of a good character.
If you have watched the 1st series, you can skip this. It adds nothing to the 1st series. You can in fact watch it independently from the 1st series but why watch a poorer version when the 1st series is the version to watch? I find the sequel insincere, I find the story absolutely lacking, I find the editing poor, I find the cases not utilised to their full potential, I find the characters repetitive, I find the ending a bad ending and I find the overall series like a half baked cake that could have been delicious except the chef was so eager to present it, he didn’t bother to bake it properly.
All in all, a sequel that is meant to milk the series rather than to complement it or to continue it. Like the last episode where Kris laments there is no justice in law, I as a viewer shall moan that there is no justice to us viewers by dishing out this poor excuse of a sequel. But like Law Ba says, trust in the law, so I shall continue to place my undeserved trust in TVB for at least coming out with something coherent, something entertaining.
There were times I wanted to stop watching this series. I continued because I recorded the episodes and since I have watched a huge bulk of it, might as well finished it. I was entertained, some times but the sequel left me feeling like what I said before; meant to milk the series rather than to complement it or to continue it.
Take my advice, if you’ve seen the 1st series, avoid this sequel unless you really have nothing else to watch. If you haven’t watched the 1st series, better invest your time and money in the 1st series.
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.