[Review] “Dead Wrong” (By Funn)
Dead Wrong <致命復活>
TVB Drama 2016
Producer: Lam Chi Wah
Genre: Modern Drama
Number of Episodes: 28
“For a while it was almost impossible to even relate to anyone in this series. I couldn’t rank who I liked most but I could rank who I hated most”
No. of Episodes
Roger Kwok as Vincent Wai
Joey Meng as Cathy Yuen
Kenny Wong as Lam Ho Yan
Vincent Wong as Max Hong
Rebecca Zhu as Queen Yip
Stephanie Ho as Tracy Lam
KK Cheung as C.K. Kwan
Toby Chan as Ivy Yip
Zoie Tam as Emma Kwok
Stephen Wong as Calvin Hong
You know, I’m quite fascinated with how TVB is these days. They want to be different, they try to be different, they do different things but infuriatingly, everything different leads to the same old thing before they try to want and do different things. The changes are superficial, in the end they stick to the usual “die hard fans say winning but disillusioned fans say what winning” formula. Fact is ratings are generally down on all fronts. To be fair, tech savvy people these days just watch online, download torrent, they don’t hug the TV anymore, and they can record the shows to watch later, which I somehow feel does not count towards the ratings.
I have abandoned TVB for a long time or shall I say TVB abandoned us all by being stubbornly same old stuff. Then I read about Dead Wrong and it has Roger Kwok and some story about him being marooned on an island and he wanted revenge and I thought, well this time, TVB will get it right.
When it debuted, I watched, religiously all episodes and in the end, I can conclude that I like some parts of it, I dislike some parts of it, but overall, my emotional attachment to TVB does not make me say I love Dead Wrong because I don’t. On a deeper level of my emotional self, as I asked myself, “Funn, do you love this series?” and I will zenly say “If love is hate, I love it so”. No, I don’t hate it either. It’s just that it was just a series that went through the motions of a story that is not very well written and with some different stuff thrown into it to package it differently but open it up, lo and behold it’s same!
But let’s just go through the motions shall we?
Simply enough, it is a story of an arrogant man who was kidnapped and locked in a cave for 10 years until he escaped. Once he returned home, he realized his entire life has changed; wife has remarried her childhood friend, his kidnapping may or may not be due to his own fault and he obsessed over finding who did it. Meanwhile, his wife or rather ex wife had to cope with her true love returning and having to choose between 2 men who loved her deeply, an autistic son who barely recognized his own father, a friend who suffered from severe PTSD for the guilt of having escaped the kidnapping, etc etc.
Quite simply, a story about discovery, revenge, redemption, rebuilding lives, forgiveness and moving on. You can say this series covers the entire spectrum of that and more. Problem is it covers way too much and after a while it became very repetitive.
When I watched the first 10 episodes, I didn’t like anyone in this series save for only one guy; Max, the one with the PTSD. Everyone else was just either stupid, hateful, dumb, ignorant, arrogant, or for no other reason that just for being there. And that includes the overly silly character named Tracy. And typical for all TVB series, everyone seems to know everyone and almost everyone is either from HK or Vietnam. No other worlds exist. It shows off beautiful scenerY of Vietnam and at the same time shows Vietnam in a rather negative light until it is revealed there was some story behind certain behavior.
For a while it was almost impossible to even relate to anyone in this series. I couldn’t rank who I liked most but I could rank who I hated most; it was either the arrogant go getter opportunistic Emma or the autistic teenage son. I suppose the fact I hated them so much means they both did a great job because they were both very annoying. Now before you say “Funn, how dare you say the autistic son is annoying?” and I will say it has nothing to do with his autism but rather he was just generally unlikable. Ok, it was his autism I suppose.
But the good thing about this series is as time goes by, the other characters do evolve and most do become a better person, easier to relate. Such as Emma who met with a pitiful end that will surely make viewers wish that hadn’t happened. Even the autistic son suddenly became more independent and was in some way influential in Vincent (as in Roger Kwok’s character) becoming a better less angrier person. Tracy the silly girl actually become rather likable and cute when she stopped being silly. Max became stronger in saying no and has a personality rather than being controlled.
However the main characters seem to languish in being same old even if they have very good reason. Vincent had 10 years of pent up hate and anger issues and went between being too zen to too crazy. At some point series seem to suggest he was utterly on the road of insanity and then he wasn’t. Whilst the progression of Vincent is believable, it is the way that this series goes that just kills the effect.
As usual with any TVB series, there were too many things going on and for far too long. This series would have benefited from streamlining the story and stopping it at 12 episodes so that it just zoom into one guy and his ordeal. It would also benefit from actually filming more of the cave scenes instead of seeing the same snake eating, frog eating, suicidal scenes at least twice in each episode. The same goes for the scene of Ivy and her cryptic message about Vincent and their supposed love affair, which was the only scene between Ivy and her younger sister, Queenie. It was repeated ad infinitum. The only varied scenes were the wife looking for Vincent and some flashback of the orphanage but by the then, it feels like the story tries to hard to establish some emotional bridge to the villain in this series, Yan but just fails. Not that I like him; I find him very creepy but the series did not invest more time in establishing his creepiness and just tries too hard to establish him as some tragic secondary lead who loved the leading lady so much so as to justify everything he did. This series needed a villain and he was set up perfectly as one but TVB went nowhere with it.
I wanted more backstory earlier on. I wouldn’t mind if it takes more than 2 or 3 episodes to show how he ended up in a cave and what he went through and another few more episodes of his rescue and rehabilitation instead of just 1 or 2 episode which was not enough. I like the kidnapping scene, the brutality of it and seeing what happened to Ivy was so awful to watch for the right reason. I like how he reconnected with his wife and the trauma on his body with his super skinny CGI body but that was just for a few moment and then we are denied more access to that. When TVB could have manipulate our emotions more, they chose to abandon all that and just zoom straight to after recovery. And then for many useless episodes we are shown how he rebuild his career and actually went about working some cases which wasted time and moved away from the main story.And when I was starting to enjoy Vincent’s redemption all of a sudden it switched to total revenge and quite literally, 2 dudes trying to kill each other over a woman.
Over entire series, we are teased with who was the guy or girl responsible for Vincent’s … you know what? I got lost what was the question to that. Was it for his kidnapping? Imprisonment? Non rescue? What was Vincent angry about? Because one thing is for sure… or maybe not.. let’s see…
Vincent was in Vietnam to restructure a company and he caused a worker to be humiliated and fired and that worker in turn got angry enough to organize a kidnapping of Vincent for money.
Ok, that much we can agree right? Vincent did go overboard with that particular case. Later in the series we are told Vincent’s former mentor organized the protest to make Vincent suffer a bit, and though the mentor was criticizing Vincent with a lot of made up stuff that not even the most gossipy woman will do, his involvement wth Vincent’s subsequent 10 years capture was quite simply hiring the head worker to rouse things up.
So who ordered the kidnapping? Will get back to that.
After kidnapping, there was ransom money. The wife paid the ransom money in two bags, one was stolen. So we found out Vincent’s useless but ultimately harmless older brother together with a drug dealer/addict/loan shark plotted to steal the money. Again, the brother did not order the kidnapping, just took advantage of it by stealing some money.
By now Ivy was raped to death with viciousness, Vincent was captured and imprisoned and Max ran away. Wife reached the kidnappers and Yan practically killed everyone involved with the kidnapping and it was very obvious why. If you think it was Yan who ordered the kidnapping, wouldn’t blame you. That would have been an awesome twist. But no, he didn’t. He just made sure no one will ever find out where Vincent was, he himself didn’t know although he followed Vincent to Vietnam to take pictures of Vincent and Ivy having an affair.
Max in turn didn’t order the kidnapping. He just ran away, failing to rescue Vincent when he had a chance. No one in his family was involved.
Ivy’s sister was far too young to be involved in the kidnapping.
At least twice Vincent thought he was the reason for his own kidnapping; if he hadn’t been so hard on the workers during the restructuring, the main head honcho wouldn’t have kidnapped him. But after all that, finally we are told the wife who actually knew the rapist kidnapper militant whatever told that creep to do something about that Ivy woman because Ivy actually sent a photo message to the wife telling her of the affair. So the creep paid very special attention to Ivy in a very vicious way. BUT he wasn’t the one kidnapping Vincent right? The wife didn’t order for Vincent to be kidnapped. Somehow the head worker hooked up with the rapist creep but we are not told how. Perhaps he was the only mercenary for hire.
So in the end Vincent’s first instinct was right. He was kidnapped because he went too far and humiliated the head worker. But his delayed rescue was thanks to almost everybody in this series. I said if Vincent’s son was older or he had a dog, even they would be involved somehow.
Which makes Vincent’s anger rather misguided. Vincent unleashed his anger on everyone, especially Yan. And when he found out his wife played what the series termed as the ultimate role but for me, just a role, he forgave her. Because the series wants a happy ending which feels seriously weird. I know it is ultimately about forgiveness but at that point, the story was so messed up.
Yan’s Unintended Creepiness
I believe TVB thought it was rather romantic for a guy to make sure his wife almost died of overdose of drugs and then to rescue her in a controlled environment so that to ensure the ex husband will leave her alone rather than tormented, much like how in K drama, when the guy screams at the girl and pushes her or she farts in front of him is like some ultimate expression of love.
Yan would have been a great villain, instead he was half baked villain, much like Vincent was half baked insane. I always find Yan creepy. I guessed he was a villain the moment he burst in and shot and killed everyone. The reason was because he wanted to punish Vincent for cheating on his wife. Never quite expressly said that he wanted the wife for himself, since he did walk away a long time ago. I never got the impression the wife chose Yan because she loved him; it was purely to thank him for him giving up a chance to be adopted for her and of course losing his leg in rescuing her from that rapist creep. Other than that, she stayed with him because she didn’t want Vincent and Yan end up killing one another, primarily for Vincent’s own good. Whilst I did like the ending for Yan which was the only way to go, I felt like it was far too convenient and a way to redeem Yan who was never fully depicted as a scary creepy stalker that he was for the entire show. If only he had been a possessive selfish crazy insane husband, that would have been different. I did like how he tormented Vincent with the calls; for a moment I thought Vincent imagined all that but nope, he really got those calls from Yan. I also like a hint of Yan’s viciousness when he almost let the son fall to his death. I mean this guy is a creep, how can this series justify all that as his love for Cathy?
I liked how she was a dependent wife who 10 years later became an independent woman with her career but infuriatingly ended up disbarred and back to a dependent wife to another man. Entire progression for her is regression. Then half the series she did nothing much. Frankly I can’t understand why she was disbarred in the first place. She didn’t pervert justice by lying; pretty much established that she told the truth.
Too Many Storylines
Basically, that’s the problem. Instead of just Vincent and his tale of redemption or revenge, we got Max and his problems with his brother, his problem with his problem, his problem with 2 women, etc etc. I have no problem with Max as a character but at times it felt like whose story is this? If it is Vincent, can we go back to Vincent? Why do I need to know Max’s problem with his father and brother? Why is everyone saying “Max has severe PTSD problems” BUT no one actually drag him to a psychiatrist or therapist? I like how he was having a lovely time with Tracy and when I want to see a progression, he lost his memory and went with Emma and even that didn’t last long because the series suddenly remember, hey this is about Vincent.
And we have a story about Emma as well. Do we need to know why she is such a stuck up bitch? Maybe to redeem her as a person which is successful in my opinion but again redirected attention away from the original focus. Her death was unnecessary as it didn’t help things but purely for dramatic reasons. It was by the way a very tragic death and you feel for Emma at this point, you like her, you are cheering for her because she was very upbeat and being very classy over the I-love-him-but-he-loves-another triangle love affair and then she died for unnecessary reason.
And some more later we have a story about Tracy going blind and this is seriously like 90s K drama series territory. But she is happily blind. And if that is not enough, we find out Max’s father isn’t his father, his younger hateful brother did some bad stuff which again make it as if HK is lawless and how Max had to persuade one shareholder to vote for him with Vincent as his advisor. All these boardroom stuff diverts attention away from even the other stories this series had going on and in the end easily resolved with the father not dying. I felt at this point poor Max; whole lot of problems piled onto his beefy shoulders and how much more can he take, all these emotional rollercoaster? How much more guilt? What about the fact that he ran over some dogs or starved some kittens accidentally? Will he finally jump off the building? Whilst I love the story of how he connected with Tracy, I hated the memory lapse thing and after. I wished the story just continues with his love story with Tracy without diversion. We don’t really need this much drama to show a good drama.
Vincent’s Yo-Yo Hatred and Redemption
One second he feels he is the guilty one, next when he thought he wasn’t, all hell broke lose. The first act was his entirely. Then back to step 1 and then all hell broke lose. That was Yan’s fault; he drugged Vincent to lose his inhibition and that was when finally he did something I wished someone did much earlier; yell at his stupid brother and his hateful wife and also his disloyal son. Disloyal because the son doesn’t seem to pledge any loyalty to either fathers in his life. And then back to step 2, as in being much calmer but then continue to unleash hell against Yan and finally he settled down to act 1; he feels in some way it was his fault and decided to forgive Cathy. Vincent swings everywhere and imagine a lesser actor in this role; what a disaster it would have been. In some ways, I wished, and hoped Dead Wrong would not be a story about revenge but an absolute story about redemption and rebuilding of life. It was fun seeing him trying to kill Yan and manipulate others into helping him through guilt but I really liked those times when he spent his effort in helping others heal their rifts in business, like the story about the ramen shop and 2 warring sons. I want this about Vincent having spent 10 years in hell now wants to make life better and not keep going back to that sewer cave and draw whatever the hell he was drawing (can never see, and my TV had bright settings). It felt like when it was in the right direction, the series went haywire again. The yo-yo emotional coaster ride is not a compliment; it just shows how misdirected this story was when all it needed was focus.
Amp Up the Sex
Vincent has 3 major kissing scenes, two bed scenes. One with Ivy, one with Cathy and one with Queenie. All 3 were extended in a way for TVB rather risque scenes. Frankly of all 3 the only one who seems like they kiss well together was Vincent and Cathy. Someone watching this series with me asked whether these scenes were necessary; if this series had focus and lesser episodes, I will say not necessary because we will be too busy following Vincent through his journey from hell to civilization. But since it was 28 episodes, you need filler and in TVB today, it would seem in their mind to win ratings, just amp up the sex. None of these kissing scenes were really ever romantic or necessary or even needed at all to drive home any point. Neither were they sexual or sensual or sexy at all. They serve no purpose other than to show, to fill in and to amp up the sex. I am not complaining though because I’d rather kissing scenes than another repeat of Ivy’s conversation with Queenie or Vincent eating that frog/snake/drink from rain scenes. But it would be nice if TVB just give us a good story and a well plotted story.
Amp Up the Sexual Assault
I lost count how many times earlier on Cathy was assaulted sexually. Ivy was raped to death, that we know. It was graphic; we are not shown the rape, but we are shown the aftermath and it was graphic and tragic. However terrible the woman was, no one should suffer that sort of fate. Cathy herself was at least almost raped twice.
Unintentionally Funny Scene
That was the revelation where Cathy was in the room where Ivy was raped to death and the rapist was her “brother” from orphanage. Then Yan broke in and all 3 from orphanage was in the room and neither knew either’s involvement and connection to Cathy. I laughed at that scene. What a small world. Poor Yan never knew it was in the end Cathy who asked the rapist brother to get rid of Ivy and Cathy didn’t know Yan was following Vincent and Ivy’s affair. And it was strange that suddenly we have a scene where Cathy was crying in the car with rapist brother in HK when Ivy sent her her selfie with Vincent on the bed because there were no other scenes as to why she was meeting with the brother, why he was in HK, etc etc. It felt like they just inserted the scene to create a connection for Cathy to be the ultimate boss.
One Unchanging Thing…
At least one thing was consistent; the women’s hair. Except for Tracy who actually has human hair where it looks different sometimes, even in death Emma’s hair was perfectly made up. But no one wins that award except for Cathy that even in bed or wearing a hat, her hair is forever one side tuck behind her ear and the other covering half her face. No wind could change that look, no amount of being pushed, pulled could do so. It is as bad as in the past where the female character would hold onto their bags even when at home being pushed or pulled or whatever. Oh come on, mess up her hair please!
And by the way, 10 years after putting on the ribbon on the wishing tree, the ribbon is still there. So few make wishes in Vietnam?
Roger Kwok gave one hell of a performance here and he was robbed of his Best Actor gong in the yearly TVB Awards. Whatever my sentiments about this series, Roger was superb and a lesser actor would make me wish I could kill Vincent myself for his stubbornness. There was 1 scene that Roger did so well, I thought he would have already won with that scene; the one where he realized he got the wrong guy for his revenge plot and he expressed his guilt. Those lines etched on his face showed a man so torn by his actions, the acting was just superb. Another scene would be when his son nonchalantly said he knew his father was the clown in disguise, Roger cried with joy. The restrain in that scene was lovely to watch. I also love his outbursts at his family. Roger gives me an impression that he doesn’t have a temper but in this series, he had to unleash, then leash then unleash again and again. Whilst the series went haywire, his performance was always controlled and measured. Superb performance. My only criticism is he need not lose so much weight, after all his Vincent supposedly recovered in Vietnam so he didn’t need the gaunt look.
Vincent Wong also gave a mature measured performance of a PTSD Max who refused to say yes to Roger’s Vincent. I thought Max was the ultimate good guy in this series and Vincent clearly portrayed him as someone torn between guilt and doing what’s right. Whilst I don’t like the story of Max being persistently angry at his father, I like the small scenes of flirtation between Vincent and Stephanie. These two have lovely chemistry when Stephanie isn’t talking like a little girl with her high pitched voice. I wished there would be a romance drama starring these two! Superb performance by Vincent who should have gotten Best Supporting Actor or at least the silver gong.
Kenny Wong is a wooden actor and this series suits that woodenness because I feel Yan is the ultimate creep. A pity the series refuses to go fully that way. His acting performance is either zen or worried and only separated by that tiny crease between his eyes. That man’s facial expression never goes beyond being wooden. By all accounts it was not a good performance because he was not a good actor. Also a missed opportunity; when he was hanging upside down whilst being tortured, his shirt should be off. Now that would be amping up the sex but I suppose TVB is allergic to nice bodies.
Joey Meng basically plays Cathy as a saint even when she was supposedly the ultimate boss, she didn’t mean to be so. I like that part because to make her vengeful and all is just not right. She gave a credible performance as a wife torn between 2 men, not always due to love but again due to loyalty and guilt. No questions though; her Cathy loved Vincent.
Rebecca Zhu was terrible in the beginning, as wooden as Kenny was except she got to kiss Roger Kwok. It didn’t help when she was mostly dressed in stiff looking ensemble. However her Queenie is at times stoic, at times naive and mostly likable.
Stephanie Ho is a strange actress. At first glance you get very annoyed with her but as times go by, you will eventually like her. One scene I thought she even looked so very pretty. I love her chemistry with Vincent Wong. She can be cute but she can also play the supporting girlfriend well. However she should seriously tone down the girly girl voice thing. You have to get past that before you can appreciate her simplicity in her performance. Nothing complicated.
Zoie Tam as Emma was I shall say superb for the fact that I hated Emma so much. She was arrogant and brash and attention grabbing bitch and Zoie portrayed all that well. She reminded me of a young Myolie Wu except I hope she won’t go downhill from now onwards. I don’t know nor do I care if she had stuff done to her face, but I thought she had a unique look that is pretty in my opinion. She looks strong as a modern woman but I suspect she will look exceptionally pretty in a ancient costume setting. I wish TVB would do some wuxia series; I kinda can see her as a heroine in those series.
All other secondary actors did their characters justice, with special mention to KK Cheung and Tyson Chak, both were effective. And let’s not forget Koo Ming Wah who gave a wonderful performance as the inept but in the end concerned loving brother and Cadmus Chan (got the name from Wikipedia) as the autistic son. In fact I was very impressed with Cadmus Chan and frankly I have no idea who he is and although I hated his character, kudos to him for a job well done.
And I have two more names I must mention; Stephen Wong has been quietly working with secondary characters these days. He has gotten darker, grown more handsome and I feel has stepped up his acting as well. He did his character well in this series, a pity in the end his character was just written off to whereever he may be. And to me the best veteran actress in TVB who TVB must honour soon which would be the nameless grandma who in this series played the spunky maid to the rich man and what attitude she had! My memories of this series may have failed me but I do remember how I loved the way she slammed the door or scolded the old man. A natural acting talent and I wished I knew her name. TVB please give her an award!
I wished it was more redemption than revenge, I wish it was 10 episodes shorter, I wish there were more scenes of the imprisonment, I wished there were more scenes of Vincent’s recovery and I wished it didn’t have so many other storylines to divert attention unnecessarily. Story wise, Dead Wrong got it all wrong but watch it for the performances especially if you are a fan of Roger Kwok and Vincent Wong; now in these two this series got it dead right.
For TVB, it is very difficult for me to even recommend you to watch anything so I will say watch this when there’s nothing worthy to pay attention to.
This review is written by Funn Lim, a Contributor at JayneStars.com and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.