is usually a good reason why those “unwritten rules” are not officially
codified on paper. The specifics are rather awkwardly embarrassing, but the benefits
usually assure compliance. Rookie copper Yeh Ming Xian is not inclined to play
that game. He still has his idealism and his self-respect. Consequently, most
of his bent colleagues bitterly resent him, but his earnestness might bring Yang
“Brother Ming” Cheng back from the dark side in Cheng Wen-tang’s Maverick (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.
little bit of hazing is not so shocking, but several of Yeh’s seniors get
rather boorish about it. They clearly realize how bad he makes them look. The
die is probably cast during the first operation Yeh participates in. He thought
they were taking down a gambling den, but when they encounter “Black Money,”
the powerful city council president’s entitled son passed out in a pool of drugs
and cash, the cops decide they were just out for a scenic drive. Nothing to see
here, move along.
course, Yeh is not inclined to go along with their corruption. To make matters
worse, he turns up evidence linking the politician to a number of crimes as
part of his clerical archival work intended as punishment. Brother Ming better
understands the kind of people Yeh is antagonizing. He has assumed the loan shark
debts of his hostess girlfriend Ann’s deadbeat brother. Brother Ming has been
thoroughly compromised for years, but he might decide it is finally time to
cowboy up when he sees the consequences Yeh faces.
Maverick is sort of like a
Taiwanese Walking Tall or High Noon, except Yeh’s defiance is portrayed
in much more matter-of-fact, workaday terms. Rather than a crusade against
injustice, it is more about his refusal to debase himself and the slow
reawakening of Brother Ming’s principles. Yet, that sort of makes the film even
Sheng and Kaiser Chuang are both low-key understated brooders, but they still
make a terrific buddy-cop pairing. Chuang’s Brother Ming in particular has a
bit of that gritty, old school 1970s Sidney Lumet thing going on. He also
develops some shockingly poignant chemistry Jian Man-shu’s Ann. Their
world-weary relationship darned-near steals the picture. However, Yang Lie’s
sinister scenery chewing as the council president consistently pulls us back
into the crooked cop narrative.
Maverick is considered the
second of Cheng’s planned thematic trilogy addressing problematic criminal
justice, following up Tears. Frankly,
it is utterly baffling and altogether unjust that film did not screen more
widely in North America, because it is also a quiet knockout punch. Perhaps
when all three films are available they will reach some sort of critical mass.
Although Maverick is more upbeat, it
is just as smart as its predecessor. It should leave viewers eagerly
anticipating the third film. Highly recommended for fans of sophisticated
policiers, Maverick screens this
Sunday (7/26) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Cop Movies, NYAFF '16, Taiwanese Cinema