Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Tiger Cubs" Review

"Tiger Cubs", with its high budget and quality of production as well as its cast ensemble, is easily the best series of the year hands down.

The series seemingly flies by with its straightforward plot and quick pace.  It has viewers hooked from beginning to end, without ever wavering in quality or consistency too much like typical TVB series do. From the first episode, it is clear the effort that was put into the series.   From the cinematic-like filming style, to the thrilling and well shot action sequences, to the wonderful ensemble of characters, "Tiger Cubs" is the most quality production of the year.

Cast and Characters

"Tiger Cubs" is easily most beloved for its young SDU boys, which consist of Oscar Leung, Him Law, Vincent Wong, William Chak, and Benjamin Yuen.

Oscar Leung receives the best character of his career with "Chong Chuk Yuen", as the role allowed him to shine and show his charisma and potential as a future leading actor.  Unlike his usual more rough and comic relief-type roles, Oscar is a gentlemanly, calm, mature, and sweet young man with a romantic side here, something we've never been able to see much of before.  Despite the age difference, he realistically portrays the brotherly friendship between him and Joe with ease as well as the sibling chemistry with Jessica.  And of course, his signature wink was adorable.

The fabulous acting by the young cast does not stop at Oscar though.  Him Law portrays the confident, cocky, rash, and impulsive "Yu Hok Lai" naturally and without a problem.  He matures and develops a close friendship with the team's technician So Man Keung (portrayed by Mandy Wong) as he helps her get over her fear of heights and achieve her goal of becoming the first female SDU member.  I can not deny he is one of the best actors of his generation and has what it takes to be a lead actor.

Vincent Wong delivers his most natural performance to date as "Yau Chun Hin".  In contrast to his best buddy Ah Lai, Hin Jai is humble and patient, but is insecure and lacks self esteem due to the pressure he feels from his family, which is full of heroic and accomplished cops.  Ah Hin was the character with the most potential, and I had looked forward to seeing him mature and become more confident as the series progressed.  Unfortunately, the script did not seem to have any intentions of focusing in on Vincent (notice he's the only one of the main SDU guys to not have any love interest), as he had the least screen time.  His character development was executed in a disappointingly abrupt and brief fashion.  Regardless, Vincent did wonderfully with what he was given.  In the early episodes, you could see the hesitation in his eyes as he started SDU training.    He also finally shed his habit of adding in English words and phrases to his lines.

No one had expected Hin Jai to be the one to die.  (Thanks to a prank by Jessica, who had "confessed" her character died early on during its airing.  This turned out to be a stunt by Jessica and Vincent to keep the actual ending under wraps.  Very clever, Jess...)  Hin died in such a tragic, graphic, and gruesome way.  Huge props to him for giving such a memorable performance in his last scene.  His death already had me in tears, and seeing the character try to utter one last smile to the world before he passed made my heart break.  Fantastic acting touch.  Previously, I already loved Vincent for his real life down to earth personality but thought his acting left much to be desired.  He shows he has what it takes to be a solid actor here, and I will be cheering for him all the way.  If a sequel does happen, I will greatly miss his presence.

Mandy Wong, like usual, delivers solidly and is perhaps the only female of the male dominated cast that is likable and interesting.  Christine Kuo gives what was hands down the weakest performance with her scattered Cantonese and English and bimbo-like character.  William Chak did well in the one episode he had the spotlight (the tour bus storyline), and I look forward to seeing more of him.

Although our lead actors perform adequately, they fail to shine and instead are overshadowed by the bright group of youngsters I mentioned above (excluding Christine).  Joe Ma, as our leading man, anchors the SDU team as their leader, but fails to leave an impression like the others.  He is likable as the hardworking "Chin Sir" who cared deeply for his subordinates.  As a character with not much of a dynamic though, he was easily outshined.

Jessica Hsuan portrays a different type of police officer here as the depressed and suicidal "Madam Chong".  While she delivers, it is hard to make this type of character likable as the depressed and suicidal state (understandably) of Madam Chong rid her of her personality and livelihood.  When she recovered though, she lost the only major dynamic she had.  However, as Joe and Jessica's relationship finally started to fall for each other, they did get some smiles out of me.  The scene where they are both sitting at the dining table stealing glances at each other was awkwardly adorable.

Other Notable Performances

This review would not be complete without mentioning the series' resident ultimate villains Kenneth Ma and JJ Jia, who made their debut in the first episode and returned in the last for a nail biting finale. Kenneth is chilling, frightening, and convincing as "To Tin Yau".  JJ Jia gives a decent performance as well.  However, they have already received endless praise for their roles, and I would like to mention others too.

Kenny Wong appeared in what was an underrated guest star role.  While I'm not usually fond of the actor, he gives a heartbreaking performance as the loving father forced into committing crime to get money for his sick son's surgery.  You could see the guilt in his eyes and that he genuinely did not wish to hurt anyone, especially in his last confrontational scene with Mandy.  Despite doing a bad thing, he sparked sympathy through the portrayal of all the emotions the character felt while doing it.  Jazz Lam was adorable, pitiful, and convincing as (autistic?) young boy whose life long dream is to be a cop and take care of his mom.  He is such a valuable and rare actor.

Lastly, a shout out to my favorite "underdog" artist, Patrick Tang.  He appeared in the series as a regular under Jessica's team.  Though "Ben" is Patrick's smallest role yet (I smell demotion), he makes the most out of the very minor but likable character.  It was nice to see Patrick in a more professional and mature role.  I loved the character's loyalty to Jessica as well as his subtle touches of humor.

The Series in General

The plot isn't one that sparks thinking or deep meaning, but the writing is above average for TVB's shoddy scripts these days.  The change in format was refreshing and proved to work well.  Since it clocked in with slightly longer episodes, but a shorter overall episode count at just 13, this made "Tiger Cubs" more consistent and less prone to cliches and filler material.  In fact, by the series' end, there is still a lot of potential for further development.  A majority of the scenes served a purpose, and unlike most TVB series today, doesn't stray from the point.  Additionally, the cinematic like filming style and high budget makes it look much more presentable, professional, and more attractive to look at.  It is the rare instance that they try something new and different and succeeded.  Quality isn't compensated, it's even better.  I appreciate how it still has the familiar feel of a TVB series, but attempts new things and actually executes it well.


  • The brotherhood, friendship, and chemistry between the characters.  The SDU team truly felt like a team, and I'll miss them!
  • The action sequences/climaxes.  The cases themselves were fine, but not overly intriguing.  However, the climaxes always had me sitting at the edge of my seat!
  • The finale.  Never has the finale of a TVB series had me so nervous, stressed, and thrilled!  My heart was probably pounding by the second half of the finale. 

You don't break what's not broken.  However, recent TVB series have indeed been broken - in other words they've mostly sucked.  "Tiger Cubs" takes a familiar formula but improves upon it with outstanding acting, cinematography, style, and action.  The script is no masterpiece, but it is through its execution that "Tiger Cubs" shines like a diamond.  

Rating: 4.5 stars