Review: “Tiger Cubs” (By Bridget)
Tiger Cubs <飛虎>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2012
Producer: Lam Chi Wah
Genre: Action, Police Procedural Drama
Number of episodes: 13 (1.5 hours each)
Joe Ma as Chin Hon To
Jessica Hsuen as Chong Cheuk Wah
Oscar Leung as Chong Cheuk Yeun
Him Law as Yu Hok Lai
Vincent Wong as Yau Chun Hin
Mandy Wong as So Man Keung
Christine Kuo as Ting Wai Wai
Rare style, decent action, and a who’s-who introduction to the up and coming siu sangs of TVB make this series one to look out for.
Style, style, and more style. Apparently $1 million HKD was spent on each episode and it shows. The action scenes look real, the equipment looks expensive, and the men look built (mostly). What the series doesn’t have is a thoughtful plot, complex emotions, or particularly interesting characters. Watch it for what it is, and you may be pleasantly surprised, especially considering the quality of TVB’s output these days. As for me, I will take what I can get.
The acting isn’t half-bad, either. But I will start with the misses since that list is shorter and I’m tired of ending my reviews of bad notes… for now. You know those scenes that are unintentionally funny because the actor is so bad? That’s how I felt every time the ghost of Madam’s Z fiance makes an appearance. Who is this guy!? His acting is nothing short of lousy. I actually burst out laughing every time he appeared, which doesn’t help the fact that his character was central to the conflict and plot with Madam Zhuang.
Sigh, Jessica Hsuan as Madam. Given probably what is the most interesting character of the series – and she just looks annoyed. Or maybe it’s bored. I watched the cast do an interview pre-finale and Jessica was so lively and charismatic in that interview. It’s so strange that she’s not able to translate that into her performances. In Tiger Cubs, it’s not until the last few episodes where her character faces her demons that Jessica actually starts acting. In those moments I saw glimmers of her Quin from Detective Investigation Files IV (which is my favourite Jessica performance to-date). She does look good with Joe Ma, though. Who else could do this role? I was thinking Crystal Tin – she looks tough, capable and convincing as a detective, and she can also act.
I finally know who Christine Kuo is after watching this series. And she is just as terrible as everyone says. However, most of the popular and promoted actresses today started out being just as awful and some of them never stopped being awful. Christine Kuo is a newbie, so maybe it’s too early to stick a knife in her premature career. Although I will say I mistook her for Aimee Chan when she first appeared – similar facial features (especially their eyes and smile), body types, and even voice and distracting accent. And yes – same level of acting skills a.k.a. none. Her pairing with Joe Ma also borders on creepy due to their obvious age difference, and it was a relief when they broke them up early on in the series.
I have a soft spot for Vincent Wong ever since his surprising turn in Gun Metal Grey. Here he towers over everyone (with the exception of Joe Ma), including Oscar Leung and Him Law. I think he is one of those diamonds in the rough, since he is tall, handsome, charismatic, can act and can do both ancient and modern dramas. It’s a rare package in TVB. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s something about his acting that shines with sincerity. You want to believe in his character. His best moments in this series were early on with his character’s self-esteem issues, and it was a pleasant surprise when Hin chose a career in the SDU when he discovered that was his passion (and not just because he comes from a family of elite police officers). His death scene, though, was the most memorable, and Vincent displayed some serious acting chops in that scene. I was expecting at least one member of the squad to die (I thought it would actually be Ma Da), but I nearly cried when it turned out to be Hin.
Him Law did well as the hot-headed, confident Lai. His character contrasts well good friend Hin, although their friendship could have been explored more. I was expecting that the writers would use the distinction between the two characters (one with low self-esteem, the other super-confident) to throw a wench into their friendship, but that potential wasn’t realized. However, I was surprised that they left his love line with Mandy Wong’s Keung open at the end of the series.
Thank you, God for having Joe Ma speak minimal English in here (I’m convinced there’s an evil TVB professor somewhere who tells their actors that the way to pronounce “clear” is “KRREEAR!”). The good thing about casting Joe in this series is that he really does look like he belongs in SDU (he used to be a police officer before the biz) and there are enough people in the series that there is no need to focus on him. He doesn’t have enough charisma or acting chops to carry a series on his own, although he is believable physically as a SDU leader. He has decent chemistry with Jess and the rest of the young guys but by himself, he is ordinary. There is nothing compelling here in his performance.
Mandy Wong gives me the impression that she is someone who takes life too seriously, which works for the character of Keung. It seems that she has been paired with either with Oscar Leung or Him Law since bursting onto the TVB scene and her chemistry with both is good. I barely recognized Benjamin Yuen with his buzz haircut but he makes the most of his scenes here.
Oscar Leung’s Yuen and his sibling relationship with Jessica’s Madam was one of the highlights of the series. Oscar’s interpretation of the capable, principled, but relaxed Yuen – such as the winks which I suspect might be Oscar’s own addition — was fun to watch even if he looks like one of the smallest guys on the squad. In fact, Christine Kuo is too tall for him although I was happy to see them paired up at the end.
Dominic Lam was fine as Leung Sir but he tends to act with his eyebrows and looks constantly angry. Like Mandy, it works for his character in here but I’m not sure what he would be able to do outside of an angry or intimidating character.
What I liked about this series compared to the usual format of TVB’s crime dramas is how each episode introduces and resolves a case. It also helps that the supporting cast is comprised from some above-average cameos, ranging from against-type (Kenneth Ma in a shaved head and fake tattoo – and he convinces to a certain extent), to surprisingly effective (Natalie Tong), to predictably reliable (Pierre Ngo, Yoyo Chen, Elena Kong). Even Patrick Tang – who I’ve never liked – is quite Okay here as Madam Z’s subordinate.
The series also boasts some killer production values, mounting big explosions, fast car chases, and realistic SDU training scenes with plenty of flair. In today’s TVB world where style and substance are too much to ask for, sometimes we just need to be happy with the former. And for that, Tiger Cubs fits the bill.
This review was written by Bridget, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com. Visit Bridget’s blog!