Friday, July 22, 2016
"Presumed Accidents" Review
*Warning: This review includes major spoilers about the series' plot twists and ending.
There are two lens for which I could evaluate "Presumed Accidents" under: my usual objective one, and the one that has only thoroughly enjoyed (and finished!) two series this year ("Fashion War" and surprisingly, "My Dangerous Mafia Retirement Plan" for those curious).
In the context of the terrible series TVB has been churning out this year, "Presumed Accidents" is one of the better series of the year. It has a solid leading man in Lawrence Ng, a good supporting cast full of veterans and newer faces, and mixes elements of drama, action, and suspense. However, if I look at it objectively, this so-called "crime thriller" still fell flat for me.
"Presumed Accidents" suffers the most from its incoherence, initially taking the form of a procedural drama for three quarters of the series and zoning in on various cases of insurance fraud. While these cases were usually over the top and unrealistic, some of them were still entertaining to watch.
However, maybe because I've grown tired of the procedural format these days, but my interest in these cases started to drop towards the middle of the series. I was starting to feel like these characters and the story had stalled.
Then in one episode, the writers decided to throw us a huge plot twist (more like half a dozen of them) and reveal a boatload of shocking and mind boggling information at once. The series then returns to its procedural format as Sisley Choi's character tries to grapple with this new bizarre information, before abandoning the cases for a serialized story line with suspense to finish off the last third of the series.
As shocked as I was by the supernatural twist in Lawrence's character, I was more disappointed in its execution, which is what ended up causing me to dislike it. Although the way in which Lawrence becomes immortal is pretty crazy (apparently all it takes is a pill now, everyone!), even less explanation and exploration is put towards developing this important characteristic of his. It felt so shoehorned in that this whole story line probably could have been cut from the series to make it a typical procedural drama with little consequence other than trimming down its episode count. We do not know if there are more people like Lawrence or what he intends on doing with his life when his children inevitably die. His true identity is exposed at the end of the series, and all that comes out of it is that Lawrence up and leaves.
What left me feeling most uncomfortable though is the revelation that Lawrence is Sisley's biological father. Although I started to suspect it shortly before it was revealed, I kept denying it to myself since I thought there was no way TVB would ever go in such a direction. Boy, was I wrong. This plot twist would have been less cringe worthy if the writers hadn't spent so many episodes setting up Lawrence as being obviously romantically interested in Sisley. Perhaps we were supposed to believe that this is what the circumstances appeared to be from Sisley's eyes, which I will choose to believe to make it less disturbing, but it was nevertheless very creepy thinking back to the two's early interactions after finding out their true relationship.
Cast and Characters
With these criticisms out in the open, it is still worth noting that the cast performs adequately, or well.
Lawrence possesses a very calm and gentlemanly demeanor as George, and is enjoyable to watch despite all of the flaws of his character.
Sisley does not show any regressions in her acting here, but I wouldn't say she improved
much either. The actress seems to be well-aware of the criticisms of her high-pitched voice and as a result, like in "Fashion War," she tries very hard to speak her lines in a deeper register. While she is clearly working on her voice control, this understandably usually hinders her ability to act more naturally, and her emotional scenes are still raw.
Although Lawrence is a whooping 27 years older than Sisley, the maturity of Sisley's character allowed the scenes between the two in the early part of the series to be natural and not cringe worthy. This is a big pleasant surprise, as this pairing was what I dreaded most going into this series, but of course the writers had to ruin it later on.
Surprisingly, Sisley struggled more in sparking chemistry with Lai Lok Yi, who looks much more physically compatible with her. While Lok Yi has little problems in being natural while showing physical affection towards Sisley, she looks stiff and uncomfortable in these scenes. This reminds me of Fala, who in her time at TVB was able to create a fun and enjoyable chemistry with many of her male costars, but unable to be natural in more romantic or physical scenes.
I was probably looking most forward to this series to finally see Lok Yi in another role after three years as "John Ma." Unfortunately, his character is mostly a snooze fest through out most of the series, only serving as the man Sisley's Eunice goes to after realizing the man she was interested in was her father. Oops. However, he turns it around in the last few episodes of the series as a chilling villain when his true character becomes apparent to the others. While the script provides next to no transition from portraying Mantus as a seemingly calm and friendly character hiding a dark past to an aggressive and angry psychopath, Lok Yi does incredibly well with what he is given. He succeeded in scaring me with his performance in the last stretch of the series, acting as a villain who was quiet but seemed ready to burst at any minute, and is the first villain in a while to actually spark some fear in me. I saw no signs of the playful, clever, but kindhearted "John Ma" in this performance, and that's what Lok Yi so badly needed as he transitions back into dramas. Here's to hoping his next character is even better.
Joyce Tang and Raymond Cho provide comic relief and deliver as always, but were disposable to the overall story line, though Raymond becomes more significant to the main plot towards the end. There was no use in spending so much time on Joyce's messy divorce, but I did enjoy the scenes she and Raymond shared together.
Rounding out the supporting cast were relatively fresh faces Winki Lai and Snow Suen.
how much more mature she looked here and how naturally she stepped into the role despite the usual student characters she plays. She's quickly becoming one of my favorite new actresses and while I had reservations of her playing more major characters outside of the student, I have more confidence in her now and looking forward to seeing her more.
Snow was very likable as the upbeat, positive, and happy I.I. Although the character annoyed me at times with how often she'd suddenly show up at Eunice's house while Eunice wasn't home, Snow's positive energy and smiles were infectious. It was sad to see her character go.
"Presumed Accidents" isn't without its merits or entertainment value. It has a good cast and mixes different elements including drama, comedy, action, and towards the end, suspense. It's enjoyable, but suffers from its disjointedness and inconsistencies in pacing. Is it one of the better series this year? Sure, but that isn't saying much. I wanted to like "Presumed Accidents" more, but by the halfway point, I felt over it. Luckily, the last third was able to hook me back in, and I would have liked the rest of the series to have had a similar serialized, thrilling format.
Rating: 3.5 stars