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From Tung-Shing Yee, the director of One Nite in Mongkok, comes a story about an undercover cop on a mission to expose a deadly drug cartel. Packed with plenty of raw action and one liners Protégé should meet the demands of those looking for an edgy yet stylish police thriller in the tradition of the best Hong Kong cinema is known for.
For more about Protege and the Protege Blu-ray release, see Protege Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 18, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Andy Lau, Daniel Wu, Louis Koo, Zhang Jingchu, Anita Yuen, Kai Chi Liu
Director: Derek Yee
» See full cast & crew
Protege Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 18, 2008
Raw, elegantly-subdued and flawlessly executed, Derek Yee's acidic cop-tale Protégé (2007) investigates the mechanics of narc-traffic in Asia. Tiptoeing between Hong-Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia, pic offers a glimpse at a system with secretive players, powerful warlords and helpless marionettes. The finale is somewhat predictable, but strong performances by Andy Lau and Daniel Wu will certainly impress fans of the genre.
Nick (Wu) has been working as an undercover agent for years. He has become drug lord Lin Quin's most trusted accomplice. The powerful man has practically adopted the young agent and even suggested that his daughter could be an excellent match for him.
In the building where Nick lives a divorced mother and her daughter ask for help; then, they become friends. After a series of encounters, Nick discovers that his new friend is also a drug-addict. He vows to help only to eventually lose her and remain her daughter's only hope for a better life.
In the meantime, a sick Lin Quin offers Nick to take over his business - the moment of truth has finally arrived. Nick contacts his superiors and embarks on a treacherous journey with more than a few unknowns.
With so many well received cop-thrillers Hong Kong produced during the last couple of years, (Infernal Affairs, Election, Exiled, Mad Detective, etc) it seems perfectly understandable why ambitious directors would want to follow the road others have already walked. Yee's latest is a perfect example of this rather expansive new trend as more and more HK studios appear willing to finance projects which only a few years ago would have ended up on the cutting floor.
Protégé is a straightforward film about the thin line undercover agents walk while trying to serve the law and earn the respect of their crime bosses at the same time. The concept of course is not new but in Protege there is certainly enough to entice the viewer. Realism, romance, and stylish cinematography contribute a great deal to what I believe is the perfect mix the genre necessitates.
Pic's greatest strength however is hardly related to its script. Rather it has to do with the notably nuanced performances by the leads who appear to have embraced their characters completely, thus, granting the film with a much needed dose of realism. Certainly, Lau, Wu, and the young Jing-Chu bring more finesse to Protégé than one could have anticipated from a script with few, if any, wow-moments.
On the technical side of things Protégé reveals a polished look and a surprisingly strong camera work. The emotional rollercoaster the main protagonists ride is successfully enhanced by rich in color visuals reflecting the dynamic progression of the story. Periods of relative calmness are quickly replaced by turbulent scenes permeating despair, pain, and loss fans of the genre will undoubtedly appreciate.
The strong but slightly too preachy finale leaves the viewer with a sense of emptiness even though the forces of good have triumphed over the forces of evil. It is almost as if Wee intentionally downplayed the positive outcome as to reiterate that anyone who gets exposed to drugs and their destructive power – whether as a user, dealer, or innocent bystander- is bound to lose something precious, something irreplaceable.
Protege Blu-ray, Video Quality
Deltamac present Protégé on Blu-ray with a strong 1080p transfer preserving the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The Hong Kong distribs have done a good job of complimenting the film with a nice and overall sharp print where detail is strong. This being said during the first half I noticed a few dust specks here and there which somehow found their way onto the print. The color scheme on the other hand is quite impressive as there are plenty of lush and vivid looking scenes where deeply saturated colors are overenhanced to symbolize the struggles of the main protagonists - these are captured on BR very well. Blacks vary dramatically. There are scenes where they appear solid and deep while elsewhere they are, intentionally, subdued. Once again, this has to do with the manner in which the film is composed and not with its actual encoding. Perhaps the only major complaint I have with this disc is the occasional heavy filtering of the image which particularly during daylight scenes with plenty of vibrant colors creates the allusion of out of hand edge-enhancement patterns some may find particularly annoying. Nevertheless this is a pleasing presentation which most definitely betters the earlier released DVD.
Protege Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Protégé arrives on on Blu-ray with a very proficient Cantonese DTS-HD Master 7.1 mix as well as a PCM 7.1 mix. In addition you will also find a Mandarin Dolby Digital EX 6.1 and Cantonese Dolby Digital EX 6.1 tracks. Now, this being said this disc is probably an excellent opportunity for you to see, or perhaps I shall say hear, whether or not you could detect a difference in the sound between a PCM 7.1 and DTS-HD Master 7.1 mixes. Specifically there is a scene during the second half of the film where a police raid takes place in a high-rise resulting in a short but impressive shootout. I spent quite a bit of time with it trying to decide what I liked better, the PCM or the DTS-HD Master. Needless to say both of those were top-notch, really, really powerful. This being said I am actually going to go on record here and urge you to listen to these mixes not during the loud shootout scenes but during the more subtle and quieter portions of the film where the ambient soundtrack is prevalent. You may find that there is "more" to hear here than during those loud and filled with noise scenes. Finally, this may not be a reference quality audio treatment but it is without a doubt one of the very best I've heard so far. Optional English, traditional Chinese, and simplified Chinese subtitles are provided.
Protege Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to the original theatrical trailer and a gallery of stills, this BD offers a selection of interviews with the following actors: Andy Lau, Zhang Jing Chu, Daniel Wu, Anita Yuen, and Louis Koo. Most of these are actually extremely short addressing the nature of the characters each of the actors plays. There is also a standard Making Of, which arrives in two versions, a shorter one and a longer version with a slightly extended middle section. The majority of the material provided here amounts to footage from the shooting process, as well as comments pertaining to the history behind Protégé.
Protege Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Well-acted and packing plenty of raw action, Protégé comes close to being the complete package. Some would disagree and argue that the script does not rival the depth and versatility of Infernal Affairs, but, in my opinion, everything else is practically here - stylish cinematography, good cast, and a gifted director. The Blu-ray disc on the other hand is very well produced, and will surely meet the expectations of even the most demanding amongst us. Highly Recommended.
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