Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Dead Wrong" Review



*Major spoilers ahead!

TVB seems to follow a pattern of producing a thriller drama once every few years, and in their first foray into the genre since 2014's "Black Heart White Soul," the cast and crew have outdone themselves. As it turns out, TVB is still capable of putting together a quality drama without unnecessary glitz and glamor.

"Dead Wrong" is an epic thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat through out all of the suspense and plot twists. The two-hour premiere is probably the best episode of television TVB has produced in years, playing out like a movie that was heart-pounding, gritty, and left me both thrilled yet stressed.

While not as thrilling and nerve-wracking after the adrenaline rush of the premiere, the series remains entertaining and well-written as our protagonist "Vincent" tries to acclimate to his job, family, and society in general again, all while finding out there is more to his kidnapping than he thought. Once it is revealed Kenny's character is the one responsible for Vincent being held hostage for 10 years in the last 8 episodes, the series is sure to be one you want to binge-watch until the very end due to the cliffhangers they keep leaving you on every episode.

Now was the kidnapping storyline realistic? Absolutely not. By the very end, we find out five major characters were involved in Vincent's kidnapping besides for the kidnappers themselves in some way, both intentionally and unintentionally. However, as I finished the drama and watched the flashbacks as well as reflected back to the beginning, I was impressed with how consistent the story was. If you look back, you realize hints had been dropped all along. For example, why was Cathy so worried when Vincent left for his business trip to Vietnam? Why were Cathy and Vincent's brother robbed immediately after leaving the bank with the ransom money? Why was Cathy always willing to go to such lengths, even risking losing her legal license, to help Vincent? In the end, everything fit together like one complicated, but well-thought out puzzle.

So yes, the storyline itself is unrealistic and far-fetched. But with TVB's natural tendency towards inconsistent and haphazard writing, it was very impressive and rewarding to see that everything checked out in the end. It felt like the writers had this road map in mind all along, instead of just writing the script as they came up with things regardless of whether it was consistent with what they had already written. This resulted in a satisfying pay off that resolved most, if not all, questions.

Aside from the suspense and mystery though, what also needs to be commended is the emotionally-charged aspect of this drama, which makes it all the more compelling and dramatic without being soapy. Vincent is of course the main subject of inner emotional turmoil, but almost every character has skeletons in their closet, with guilt and flaws they must live with. In contrast to other dramas, they are also all ultimately forced to face what they have done in some way. It is interesting to see how everything comes back to Vincent, and how the events of his kidnapping and 10 year imprisonment have made such a profound impact on these characters.

This brings us to the cast and characters themselves. While not the biggest name cast for an anniversary series, everyone performs well, but this is an example of a rare TVB scenario where a solid cast brings to life a phenomenal script, instead of the usual "amazing cast tries to make crap look good." As a result, no doubt certain cast members delivered, but this really was a series that deserved recognition for its script and writing before its cast.

Roger Kwok is strong as always, but as a veteran actor who has acted in his third thriller series in the last 8 years (after 2008's "Last One Standing" and 2014's "Black Heart White Soul"), his performance as "Vincent" does not offer anything new from his previous dramatic performances. This is not to underscore how talented and professional of an actor Roger is, but perhaps the people who strongly believed Roger deserved Best Actor again this year were too focused on the intensity of the two-hour premiere. He just knows how to nail these emotional characters who come to be driven by vengeance.

Joey Meng also gives another strong and emotional performance. I must say, I did not really care through out the series whether "Vincent" and "Cathy" got back together, but the build up to the finale where Vincent forgives Cathy for everything and Cathy lets him back into her life again is incredibly satisfying and sweet.

Despite playing a villain who turned out to be responsible for Vincent being held hostage as long as he was, Kenny Wong is mostly expressionless and stoic as usual, but it works in his favor here. However, he certainly has a memorable redemption and ending scene, showing how Ah Yan truly loved Cathy by choosing to commit suicide so that Cathy would not have to kill him, putting an end to Vincent's quest for revenge once and for all.

Vincent Wong further shows how much he has improved and matured as an actor over the years by portraying "Max," who is haunted by memories of his kidnapping and ridden with guilt for not saving Vincent when he had the opportunity to. Perhaps if there was anything inconsequential to the overall plot though, was the love triangle between him, Stephanie Ho and Zoie Tam, but I am glad they kept it mature with Zoie's "Emma" realizing Max was in love with Stephanie's "Tracy" and stepping away. Steph is always good at these cutesy comic relief roles, but I was really hoping she would have more  to do here, since she is quite good in her few dramatic scenes. The writers did much better with writing the friendship between Roger, Vincent, and Tyson Chak's characters, and the actors also had much easier and fun chemistry.

Finally, Rebecca Zhu plays a more mature character here, as shown by her sharp short do and elegant clothes. The actress remains boring and uncharismatic, but the lengths Max and her character "Queenie" were willing to go to to keep Vincent from going down the wrong path was touching, if not a little concerning. Perhaps one plot hole that is still left at the conclusion of the series though, is why Queenie does not show a reaction when it is revealed Cathy indirectly caused her older sister Ivy's death.

If there is one major complaint I had about a character and the series though, is how never at any point in the series does Vincent go to or is asked by someone to go to see a psychologist, even though he clearly and understandably has many underlying emotional issues. I realize mental health is a more taboo subject in Asia, but the guy was underground, trapped, and alone without a regular supply of food and water for ten years. It would have made sense for him to at least see someone for a few sessions for help assimilating into society again, if not for his post traumatic stress, anger, and the other myriad of issues he was suffering from. Everyone makes many references to Max's PTSD and we see how it manifests itself through somatic symptoms. Yet, everything is somehow all fine and mighty with Vincent, and can be resolved with one scene with his child in the finale. But I'm also a psychology major who just took a clinical psychology course, so now I'm just digressing.

Overall, "Dead Wrong" is an all-around strong series with a great plot and direction, a large dosage of suspense and thrill, and some great performances by the cast. However, you can tell there was even more thought and resources put toward this series than others, from the better editing, to the gorgeous location filming in Vietnam that was actually relevant to the plot, to Stephanie's sub theme song playing at all the right moments to intensify the emotion of the scene. The series even makes use of better background music to amplify key moments, such as the powerful scene in the finale where Vincent's son goes up to him in the underground sewer and draws a picture of their family, reminding Vincent of what really matters.

Without a doubt, "Dead Wrong" is TVB's best series in years, and deserved better ratings and "Best Drama" at this year's anniversary awards, but unfortunately lost to the more buzzed about "A Fist Within Four Walls." However, "Dead Wrong" is absolutely the true critical hit that will still hold up many years from now.

Rating: 5 stars 

2 comments:

  1. Wow! 5 stars! For me, I'm a fan of thrillers like this. To be honest, i couldn't stop when i began watching it. Think I finished the series in just a few days.

    I loved every bit, except that I didn't like how they made all so normal, yes with a bit of pent up emotions here and there which he 'released' in the underground tunnel. i completely agree with what you said about nobody considered that Vincent needed psychological help when he was freed after such a long time. True, PTSD would have been a very real and logical possibility for Vincent. However, he was written to function so well and so normally most of the time, that his PTSD didn't seem serious.

    But then quite suddenly, he became full on scarily vengeful on Kenny, to the point of destroying the rest of his life by landing himself in jail for killing the one responsible. This I didn't like. The sudden change of his character from before where he was shown to be eager & determined on building his new life. It's not so consistent. But then, I can understand his hate for ah yan since ah yan continued to hurt him even after Vincent had lost everything after 10 yrs of torture. Thus Vincent can hate ah yan enough to throw again the rest of his life in jail just to give ah yan what he deserved.

    An episode later, ie within a short time, he also found out his wife was the 'originator' of his ordeal, yet he can forgive and rebuild his life with her so easily? I can only explain this by his great love for Cathy. So again, this is not completely illogical.

    But.... hm... I don't like TVB's way of always twisting a person's character to fit their plot lines rather than develop their characters more naturally through the plot. To exaggerate a bit, they make their characters change like psychos in every drama towards the end. Haha.

    Acting wise, no one else in tvb can do Vincent better than roger kwok. And no one else can do ah yan better than Kenny. Perfect casting for these 2! Agree with you too that both Joey and Vincent did well for their roles here too. Basically this series has very good casting! Love!

    My rating: 4.7 stars.

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