Hong Kong Cinema

Cop on a Mission

  • Made: 2001
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 0 PAL
  • Release Date: Feb 21, 2005
  • Company: Tai Seng UK
  • Length: 105 mins
  • Picture: 1.85:1 Letterboxed Widescreen
  • Sound: Dolby 5.1 Cantonese (Mandarin + Vietnamese)
  • Language: English Subtitles
  • Extras: Trailers, Commentary, Bios, Filmographies, Artwork
  • Classification: 18


Marco Mak


Daniel Wu, Eric Tsang, Suki Kwan, David Lee, Frankie Ng, Ng An Ya, Richard Cheung, Karel Wong, Tony Ho, Samuel Kwok

Cop on a Mission marks the debut release for Tai Seng's new UK distribution label. The logic behind this release is self-evident. The film boasts the ever-dependent Eric Tsang after his recent international success in Internal Affairs and continued exposure in the 'Lucky Stars' movies recently released Hong Kong Legends. Cop on a Mission also features the increasingly impressive Daniel Wu who was previously introduced to UK audiences in films such as Purple Storm, Gen-X-Cops and 2000 AD, with recent performances alongside Jackie Chan in 80 Days Around the World, New Police Story and Twins Effect II.

The film took a modest HK $4.4m in revenue in March 2001 for rookie director Marco Mak, who had only recently entered the realm of directing after many prosperous years as Tsui Hark's editor. This was the first time that Daniel Wu and Marco Mak had worked together but they produced the sexploitation thriller Peeping Tom a year later. Suki Kwan featured as the female lead, but her career never managed to escape the 'attractive but unremarkable' tag with regular credits in Wong Jing comedies.


The plot is borrowed from the Scorsese / Coppola archives of gangster movies. This is the undercover cop who decides he wants to be a mobster story. Daniel Wu plays Mike who is assigned to undercover work, and Eric Tsang (believe it or not!) plays the triad boss, Tin. Mike first defeats Boss Tin in the video arcade, but soon tries to defeat him in the underworld. He even starts to ignore the laws of triad society as he lusts after his Boss's lady, Pauline (Suki Kwan). This leads to a steamy, sinister romance whilst Mike's girlfriend goes through the weary 'I don't know who you are anymore' motions. The direction of the story holds no surprises as you are shown Mike's fate at the beginning of the film (a la Carlito's Way etc). Predictable - yes, but is that such a bad thing?


There are two things that make Cop on a Mission a worthwhile movie; the production and the performances. The production succeeds through its no-nonsense and gritty values. Marco Mak's experience as an editor no doubt stood him in good stead for this production. It was produced on a relatively small budget and shot in under a month. The film moves along with a healthy pace, there is no room for sentiment or slush, just a focused and slick tale of Mike's decline. The film lacks the dazzle of Chris Doyle's cinematography or the high tempo action of a John Woo movie but then it would have only ever been a poor imitation.


Eric Tsang puts in a memorable 'larger than life' performance, his character partly inspired by De Niro's Corleone in Godfather II. He has since taken things to a new level by his performances in Infernal Affairs but this is a creditable effort which displays his amazing versatility (anything from buffoon to king-pin). Although Cop on a Mission is an important precursor to Tsang's later successes, it is even more so for Daniel Wu. After a successful but unremarkable career to date, Wu decided to move outside the comfort bubble of Canto-pop cinema. He was criticised by critics and fans alike for his role as Mike, which contains some decidedly dicey moments for a mainstream actor (apart from the bloody killing of his partner he also has a 'solo' shower scene!). Although Asian cinema has always pushed back the boundaries of film-making, it can also just as puritanical as Hollywood when it comes to their heart-throb heroes. Daniel Wu took one big step away from pretty boy pretender and one big step towards a creditable lead. This has also been reflected in the roles he has been offered since, the rom-coms still remain but he also gets to play characters of substance and depth.


This disc is a creditable effort from Tai Seng UK . It meets the minimum acceptable standard for an Asian release in my humble opinion: original language, unedited content and a widescreen print. To add to these basic requirements it offers a 5.1 DD audio track (plus tracks in Mandarin and Vietnamese), an audio commentary (Frank Djeng), biographies / filmographies, artwork and trailers. It is worth mentioning that the print is in good quality as would be expected, but it is a non-anamorphic letterboxed presentation. Overall the signs are promising, as this disc can hold its own against the middleweight distributors in Asian movies (Artsmagic, Tartan, Prism etc).


Cop on a Mission marks a turning point for Wu as an actor, he came to a crossroads and wisely chose to avoid the well-trodden path of teen fandom for a career at least partly off the beaten track. This film will never be a genre classic but it serves as an important reminder that a good story avoids unnecessary trappings and filler. By taking a well-worn plot and stripping away anything but the basics, Marco Mak has delivered a decent film - a juicy steak without any garnish.