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Review: Ghetto Justice (By Funn)

By on January 27, 2012

Review: Ghetto Justice (By Funn) thumbnail

Ghetto Justice <怒火街頭>
TVB 2011

Producer: Terry Tong Kei-Ming
Genre: Legal Drama

Cast of Characters
Kevin Cheng – L.A. Law (aka Law Ba)
Myolie Wu – Wong Si Fu/ Kris
Sam Lee – Ting Ka Fu,
Jazz Lam – George Mai
Joyce Tang – Mrs. Leung
Eddie Kwan – But Chik
Sharon Chan – Jing Jing

Funn’s Note: The following is a brief review based on the episodic thoughts written by myself and could be read here in Jaynestars.com or at point2e.com (http://ghettojustice.blogspot.com/). As always, spoilers alert.

Basically all my anticipation, all my excitement at my MOST anticipated series ever was right on point. I wasn’t disappointed. I can point out this is not the greatest series ever, nor does it have the best acting performances, but story wise, and the characters are all engaging enough to merit this to be one of the best of 2011 and will be a cult as well as a popular classic.

Ghetto Justice has the makings of a very watchable series with repeat value; a keeper except if you really want my honest unflinching opinion: Myolie Wu quite nearly derailed this series with her inconsistent performance. I find her a capable actress; I used to love her, but over time, she has degenerated into a rather formulaic actress. Not as formulaic as Jessica Hester Hsuan or Kenix Kwok where I can predict what they will do next but formulaic as in someone who acts with mathematical precision: 1 plus 1 is 2. Nothing exciting, nothing beyond that. Competent, but in the end an actress who acts. I do not find her immersed in the role of Wong Si Fu who is quite well written to begin with. I find her too obvious in her body language: anticipating, calculating, like she was expecting something and something as expected did happened. 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. I knew she was acting. She didn’t become Wong Si Fu. She was Myolie through and through. She used to be able to capture the essence of a character and become that character but nowadays, I find her absolutely lacking. I expected more from her and so yes I was very disappointed with her. But amongst her many performances in 2011, this is considered her best and if she should win any awards, it should have been for this.

Kevin Cheng is another anomaly. He is generally a weak actor who has more charisma off camera than in front of the camera. He is a serious person and it shows on screen. I have never seen him livelier than in those production clips of Bu Bu Jing Xin, coming out of his shell. Why he succeeds in this series is partially that the character of Law Ba is well written. And he suits the casualness of Law Ba even if I never bought into his uncouth Law Ba. He was devilishly handsome as Law Lik Ah and supremely cute as Law Ba. But how was his acting you asked? Quite simply, competent. But a better actor would have made Law Ba into an even more memorable one. The truth is Kevin Cheng is just not that great an actor. I find him weakest in court room scenes where the drama is happening. He is best out of court room and being the cute, nosy guy. That sort of happy go lucky type. Luckily, Law Ba is rarely in court anyway so we see less of Kevin’s weakness. Why he is now so popular is in part due to this character, not the other way around. Any actor as Law Ba who is competent and cute enough would have scored a golden goose with this character. I can imagine quite a few in this role which would made Law Ba grittier but I do agree, none can come close to as handsome as Kevin and a certain embedded quality of gentleman in however uncouth Law Ba was.

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. Not quite the same as Myolie; whenever I see Kris, I see Myolie. Whenever I see Teng, I see Teng. That is the difference between these 2.

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 and the highlight of his performance was his trial case in Mrs. Leung’s assault case. He was convincing.

Eddie Kwan had so little scenes but you know, I enjoyed his every scene. His Butt Chik has little to do than to be the best friend next to the best friend but he did very well, and is very cute to watch. He has some of the best lines, apart from Kevin of course.

Of all the female performances, Joyce Tang was to me the best. Her best scenes were those involving her horrible husband: those tearful eyes, the frustration, and the pain. I never quite liked her in the past, never in those Armed Reaction series but I must admit, she matured as an actress in the role of Mrs. Leung even if her lines are the same lines repeated again and again. Sharon Chan also did well, even though I find her character exceedingly unreal.

Of all the guest performances, two stood out. One is Claire Yiu for her scary Mrs. Ma performance although more could have been done for that story. The other is Savio Tsang for his sympathetic Yam Ho Tin, the way he cried in the court, very convincing stuff. And of course the veteran Chan Wing Chun.

Of all the “nameless” actors, my heart is with Yeung Shui Lun for that Ko Wing Leung case because he was badass with his objections! Never seen such a persistent prosecutor who did not bang on the table; I thought he was pretty convincing as a prosecutor although Kwong Chor Fai looked more like a prosecutor than him.

Of all the cases, “The Prosecutor vs Tai Ng Ting’s” 2nd case was the most emotionally satisfying as the judge scolded Mrs. Leung’s husband. Many loved Ko Wing Leung’s case; I can understand why but for me the most real case, the most satisfying in terms of legal aspect as well as the moral question is Mrs. Ma’s case. That woman is scary and I wished more had been done to show that aspect. That case could have go on for 20 episodes frankly. There were many issues which could have been addressed.

For the sequel what I really want to see is more interesting out of this world cases AND at the same time one case which does not end in two episodes. I mean a court case can go on for some time, so I would love to see a case which goes on from ep 1 till the end and at the same time other smaller cases which ends in 2 episodes or 3 episodes. I have had it with personalized deaths, since things don’t have to be personal to be personal. You know what I mean?

All in all, Ghetto Justice is a highly enjoyable series that can be at times rather simplistic and casual, yet sometimes highly debatable and emotional. I certainly enjoyed it for what it is worth. I rather like the memorable ending. I mean which series will end with the hero ending up in jail? This one did and it was appropriate. I highly recommend this if you haven’t seen this!

  

This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com. Please visit Funn’s blog.

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  • Readers' Comments (23)

    1. Jayne says:

      Funn,
      I watched only sporadic episodes of “Ghetto Justice,” but I agree with your assessment of the acting performances based on what I saw.

      Kevin was competent as Law Ba. Like Jazz Lam, Kevin played against the type of characters he usually portrays. The element of surprise in what his character will do next, coupled with Kevin’s easy charm and chemistry with his 3 guy friends and light flirtation with Myolie worked well. He had charisma as Law Ba, nevermind whether he was convincing scratching his butt, picking his nose, or wearing dirty laundry most of the show.

      I also agree that Myolie was too deliberate in her body language as Kris Wong. She was trying hard to step away from past ditzy romantic comedy roles (e.g. War of In-Laws) by playing the feisty lawyer. She has played many rash characters in the past and thus her body language less controlled. In “Ghetto Justice,” she is a more calculative person and frankly, she had too many smug smiles, indicating her confidence and calculation. If you comment that Shek Sau had the pained, arrogant look in “Ghetto Justice,” Myolie looked smug quite often as well.

      I like Sam Lee’s performance as well. I hope to see him in more TVB comedies. He has the makings of a very interesting character actor. With his “everyday man” looks, he would portray such roles very well. I remember watching him in a film in which he plays against type, as a sauve heir with women falling all over him. He is effortlessly funny, in a deadpan way. Most film actors that transition over to TV series have very natural body language in their performances and subtley without looking like they are trying too hard. I was excited by Sam’s performance and hope to see more of him.

      Overall, I think “Ghetto Justice” succeeds because of its refreshing characterizations. Part of the enjoyment in watching the series is that all the characters came from very different backgrounds; there is an element of surprise in each of their backgrounds, making you want to watch more to find out their stories: (1) why Law Ba left behind a successful law career; (2) why Myolie is such an ambitious person; (3) why Sam walked out of his wealthy family; (4) Jazz’s relationship with his father; (5) why Joyce’s husband lef; (6) why Sharon became a prostitute, etc.

      Each character had an interesting story to tell. Not only do we have one odd-couple pairings, we have 3 in this series. There is something to keep you watching and frankly, it’s not the legal cases. As you noted, the usual 2 episodes spent on the cases are not enough. Nothing too gripping here. The cases only serve to strengthen the characterizations.

      I think what made the original installment so interesting is that you need to have watched halfway through the series before you learn more about each characters background. I’m afraid the element of surprise will be gone in “Ghetto Justice 2.”

      • Funn Lim says:

        I think GJ isn’t much about surprises but the explanation of how one became the way they were. GJ II I hope will concentrate more on cases and the eccentricities of the various characters. I would say it is more character based than scenario based. Much like how Life would have been if there was a season 3 if NBC didn’t cancel and rushed season 2 because it is about a character and what he did or what he didn’t do. Problem is I really don’t think GJ is that original or as excellent as some made it out to be. I mean it was entertaining, it was fun, it was great but is it THAT different? Towards the end the series morphed into the usual TVB fare but the characters, they were really something. It has the making of something great, and GJ II can make it or break it.

        • Larry 3 says:

          Ghetto Justice II unfortunately will be 20 episodes and it maybe the same length of the cases. So, it maybe subject to change.

    2. someone says:

      The series did not surprise me at all. Kevin Cheing’s acting was normal as usual, yeah, he showed his butt *_* but what so special about it? Talented people hide from the world because of the past is not new. However, I did enjoy its entertainment aspect.

      I liked Sam and his relationship with the prostitude Sharon, the the unable-to-speak lawyer with the housewife but the relations between two leading actor and actress was not funny, exciting, …it was like nothing. Well Law gave up his life for her but Korean artists did this kind of sad scene much better.

      Myolie tried to be funny when doing her “face”, laughts, and walking style. All of these we saw series from series. Well, while having sex she acted like so enjoyable and wild (she ruined Law Ba’s Back) – the only funy scene her ^_°

      The ending was a joke. Why did not use Forensic Heroes team to find the old man’s crime? Instead of doing none-needed-trap?

    3. moses says:

      Hello Jayne ,Why so many review on this drama?
      What so special about this drama ?
      one review on this serial is Enough already ,why waste space?

      • someone says:

        Personally, here are my answers:

        1. Nothing special, still a TVB series – family entertainment. Acting is still same-same but lot of people see it a heavenly jump of Kevin: he was like very good at acting then he has become king of acting.

        2. Well, people love it so they like to talk about it
        Today a web page means nothing, even with images.

      • Nicole says:

        This is a popular series, so many people have watched it and thus want to review it.
        If you think one review on this series is enough, then just read one? Other people may want to read different interpretation from others.

      • lychii04 says:

        There weren’t that many reviews from my knowledge. It has been Funn Lim’s through and through but she reviewed it episodically then this is a whole-series review

      • Larry 3 says:

        It was twenty episode critique series. Wish it was all in one, but that is not my decision.

      • Amy says:

        Different ppl possesses different opinions.

    4. Jasmine says:

      Some of the cases were direct carbon copies of the cases in the Korean drama that aired in 2008 (I think) called ‘Partner’. Quite sad really although I liked Kevin as Lawba a lot when the series aired.

    5. Bridget says:

      Great review as usual, Funn! I think this was the only 2011 TVB series that I actually enjoyed.

    6. Canto says:

      A nicer TVB series than most others. Worth watching.

      Kevin has given a good performance. Memorable role for him. His crazy, devil may care, easygoing attitude worked, as did his brillance as a lawyer.

      For me, Kevin and Sharon, were the stand out actors. Kevin was really good, very memorable, and Sharon, was the first time I was moved by Sharon’s portrayal of a character.

      I was surprised that TVB allowed a prostitute character to occupy screen time as a good character.

      Sharon was gorgeous, her figure and you felt sorry for her when she had to deal with all the nasty bits of the role.

      Joyce was also great as a housewife with frizzy hair. For someone relatively young and unmarried as Joyce, to “uglify” herself by playing that role, she managed to make her housewife seemed at once motherly, caring, naggy, ignorant, silly, funny and yet likeable.

    7. Hannah says:

      yep best series of 2011 and i really like casts :)

    8. Larry 3 says:

      I agree with this review. I really wish there more scenes with Eddie Kwan in this series. Most…Actually everyone did really well in this series.

      I keep pointing this out, this should be a model of a perfect TVB series.

      • Fox says:

        Wow, a big surprise to know your perfection standard isn’t too heavenly high. This series is quite good (except the cases as they are borrowed and give me an uneasy feeling when watching as I know who did that) but model of a perfect TVB series, isn’t it too big word?

        • Larry 3 says:

          Ghetto Justice is my favorite TVB series in 2011 out beat most of crappy series in 2011. If the story is good, If the actors are good, If the cases are good, If the work together, then its great series. Unfortunately, the ratings in Hong Kong did not put this series as a highly tv ratings, too bad.

        • Fox says:

          I just thought that your standard is very high. I know GJ is your fave and I agree that GJ is your fave. But you said: “this should be a model of a perfect TVB series”, which I found is too big word.

        • Larry 3 says:

          Too big word?

          You want a ice cream?

        • Fox says:

          Oh, just because you put yourself like too high and suddenly fall down.

    9. P. Tan says:

      Larry 3, I do tend to agree with you when you said that if the story, acting, cases and I would include the script too are good then the series should and in this case, is good. Of course nobody can be perfect in his or her acting, but the total effect is important. Also, you may enjoy the acting of some more than others which is subjective. So, on the whole, the series, especially Kevin’s portrayal of Law Ba, has gained the praises of most people who just can’t wait for Ghetto Justice2.

    10. claimine says:

      For those who would like to know more indepth the job of a HK social worker, goto http://stevenma-fanblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/steven-doing-social-works-at-at-tvb8.html

      where Steven in 2005 星想事成 (Realizing Celebrity’s Dream)tv program did a special report on it.

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