Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The Fixer" Review

My feelings toward "The Fixer" can best be summed up as ambivalent. "The Fixer" starts off with probably one of the most promising premises so far this year, but greatly suffers from poor direction and pacing.

I went into the series thinking it'd be reminiscent of "Catch Me Now," one of my all-time favorites, with its gray characters, refreshing ensemble, and blend of action and comedy. I was quickly disappointed because the team here is a far cry from the Robin Hood-like gang of "Catch Me Now," who do good deeds albeit through illegal or questionable means. Although Chin Ka Lok's team does not simply accept money from anyone who needs their help, his monologue in the finale saying that he had come to the realization he had not been helping people solve problems all this time, but helping them to avoid responsibility, rings very true.

Although this made me not actively root for the team as much, I was able to put these misguided expectations aside after a few episodes and instead find its real problems elsewhere.

"The Fixer" had great potential to be an entertaining and compelling action drama, but mostly fails in its first half by being roughly 75% draggy family drama and with maybe a 25% focus on the problem solving. I normally like or am indifferent to Gigi Wong, but her character here is a waste of screen time. This is not the actress' fault, but the scriptwriters for dragging her arc out so long and making the huge mistake of focusing on her and the brother's estrangement. Although I cannot say I know much about Alzheimer's, it drove me up the wall and just seemed too convenient that Gigi could recognize her youngest child as a grown up, married woman, yet thought her middle son was a child still in elementary school.

The series picks up after Tracy Chu's character makes her entrance and completes the team. It gradually eases off of Gigi, and in the last five or so episodes it's all a whirlwind of major events. Throughout the series, I was either slouching in my chair bored from the family drama, or staring at the screen trying to process all that was happening. In the end, this is my biggest complaint. The writers spent half the series going in the wrong direction with trite flashbacks and sob stories and offering us minimal insight into the characters (other than Chin Ka Lok and Benjamin Yuen's).

While it does not boast any big names, "The Fixer" does benefit from a fun and unlikely ensemble.

Unfortunately, the series was unable to utilize it more. Chin Ka Lok and Mandy Wong are given the meaty characters with a past, and Tracy and Timmy Hung are mostly relegated to being responsible for comic relief, and we never get to learn too much about them. This is a shame, because although Mandy is a solid actress as usual, her character simply wasn't compelling as the female lead despite her dark past since she spent the majority of her time looking cool and detached.

However, she and Chin Ka Lok surprisingly pulled off chemistry despite the age difference and physical incompatibility. Whether it was their intimate moments or just subtle body language with each other, they appeared very at ease and natural together. Although I am still not a fan of these onscreen pairings with significant age differences, in this situation it worked just fine because both Mandy and Chin Ka Lok are capable actors, while in other pairings there is always a weak link (typically the newbie female who has to be perched up by an experienced actor).

This is the first time I've seen Tracy, and I must say, she has probably already become my favorite newer actress and I hope TVB continues to promote her. From her first scene, she lights up the screen and is very lively, a welcome contrast to Mandy's character. There were several times I actually became annoyed with "Duck Duck," particularly whenever she disrespected Benjamin by being rude or just plain childish, but overall she was a lot of fun. Tracy is natural, possesses charisma and affability, and did well with all the physical comedy she was given, something that puts her at an advantage over many other TVB actresses.

I've always been confused by Timmy's place in TVB, as he seems to just film series whenever he feels like it. With that said, I always enjoy him whenever he does pop up because he seems like such a fun and easy going guy, and this vibe usually transfers onscreen to his typically comical characters, as it did here. He and Tracy certainly fulfilled the task of providing comic relief, both individually and together.

Benjamin is an actor who I've always found affable but can also be unreliable. He tends to cross the fine line between portraying a serious and aloof character well and being wooden. He fares much better here, where we get to see two different sides of him: the "stone face" sergeant, and the warm, dorky side he only reveals to his mom and Rebecca Zhu. He is adequate in his work scenes, but very endearing and entertaining in these warmer scenes where he actually gets to crack a smile. My favorite scene is when he texts Rebecca, intently stares at his phone until she replies, then is so excited when she replies that his phone falls out of his hands when he tries to pick it up.

There are some TVB actresses who look the part and can portray a police madam very well, and then there are those who just look like they're trying too hard. Rebecca is definitely not Linda in "Tiger Cubs 2" bad, but in her first appearance she comes off incredibly forced in her attempt to act professional and dominating. Her performance becomes much better as her character starts to befriend her subordinates, and as a result does not have to look so intimidating. Although I've always been indifferent to Rebecca, I loved her scenes with Benjamin. The two were just so sweet and dorky together.


There was great potential and the cast ensemble is a pretty refreshing one to watch. Yet, this potential does not get fulfilled and instead we got very inconsistent pacing and one bumpy ride. The series virtually wastes half the episodes it was allotted by making the dumb decision to focus on Chin Ka Lok and Benjamin's estranged relationship and Gigi's Alzheimer's. Even the cases themselves were not too interesting. There were just so many problems with the direction (or rather, directions) the script writers took. And yet, there were also many entertaining moments. "The Fixer" ultimately is not a series without its strengths, but has many more flaws that could have been avoided. However, in some ways, it is still much better than many of the other series this year. As a result, I am left still feeling ambivalent instead of mostly positive or negative towards it.

Rating: 3 stars