TVB is back again, with another “blockbuster” following the success of My Unfair Lady (不懂撒嬌的女人) — sort of, since both were technically pre-produced as always with HK dramas. Vincent Wong is definitely in for his second heyday (if heydays do technically exist with TVB), but his role as Hope Man/文申俠 the blind lawyer is quite a performance.
|No. of Episodes||28|
|Directed by||June 20th, 2017 (iQiyi)
June 24th, 2017 (TVB Jade)
I was at the half-way mark with this drama when I wrote this post back in the end of July — weird if you pick up that the original release was back in June, but TVB was messing with people and separated this drama into 2 seasons for no reason — seriously. It was nothing like 2 separate seasons. They just cut off the story after episode 14 to air some other stuff and draw out the promotional window.
Nevertheless, the much anticipated resumption of this legal drama has continued. This drama revolves around Hope Man (Vincent Wong) who became blind due to a traffic accident with his father at the age of 6. Years later, he successfully becomes a lawyer despite his father’s abandonment and heartbreak after his girlfriend (Yanice Dai, played by Tracy Chu) leaves him suddenly for the States. Due to his prickly personality and tendency to be quite antisocial, he does come across as a cold and materialistic kinda fella, but he has a strong sense of justice and fights for the disadvantaged, valuing truth above material benefits. Due to his visual impairment, his other senses have become honed to the point where you question whether he has superpowers. He relies on these abilities to help fight for the needy in the court.
He’s not alone, because by his side he has trusty side kicks Deanie “Dino” Chiu Ching-mui/趙正妹 (Sisley Choi) and Gogo Kuk Yat-ha/谷一夏 (Owen Cheung). Deanie’s nickname literally translates to “Mad Woman/Sis” as she has an overwhelmingly heroic spirit due to her family’s mafia background — to the point where she comes off as insane sometimes. However, she is a good person with a strong sense of loyalty and justice, who runs her family-owned bar called Pledge while working as Hope Man’s law clerk. She also harbors unrequited feelings for Hope Man. Deanie may be tough, but she also has a complex about her physical appearance, as she has a protruding overbite and a huge scar on her forehead due to an incident when she took a blow for her father as a teenager. That mafia-related attack not only “ruined” Deanie’s face, but also took her mother’s life, forcing her father to realize that the mafia should no longer be his business.
Gogo is an ex-police detective turned private investigator who bears a grudge against T.Y. Dai Dak-yan/戴德仁 (Pal Sinn). Mr. Dai is a corrupt businessman who has no sense of morals, and drove Gogo to an unfair demotion and likely the accident that took Gogo’s leg and forced him to quit as a detective just to cover up his crimes. The persistent Gogo meets Hope Man and becomes his roommate and comrade to take down T.Y. and fight for the disadvantaged.
The title of this drama is literally “Overstepping the Boundary/Line.” I think the character that best gets this point across is Cherry “Never” Wong Lai-fan/王勵凡 (Ali Lee), a high court judge who is nowhere near your stereotypical image of a judge. She loves bars, clubbing, and breaking rules, but don’t worry — she has a strong sense of justice and morals. Her tendency to challenge the conservative nature of the legal system leads her to Hope Man’s gang, as she fights alongside him to challenge the legal system tainted by the conservative power of the rich and ignoble mighty.
Given that awkward little season one vs season two trick that TVB tried to pull, I am struggling a little bit to piece together what the heck happened in the drama a month ago, but TVB plots are fairly predictable, and I have enough experience when it comes to Asian soap operas, so — here goes nothing.
Plotwise, the writer has done a good job in paving out the story that allows the complex characters to unfold themselves. We started off mysteriously, with out blind hero wandering the streets with gadgets for the blind on a rainy day. When he and another blind man get a ticket for jaywalking, they show up in court to receive their sentence (usually a fine). However, lo and behold — Hope Man is a lawyer and he manages to turn the tables as he points out that the pedestrian fixtures within the city do not fully accommodate the needs of the disabled. In fact, such flaws are so egregious that it would have killed both him and the other blind man, who are currently standing in court to receive, thankfully, a sentence, rather than a funeral rite held in their memory.
As time goes on, Hope Man continues to fight for the weak. However, he is a prickly man who is concerned about money. Before he commits himself to be a hero, he puts on quite a show of his prickly demeanor, before his soft heart is forcibly brought out by his side kicks; Deanie & Gogo.
So far, the major drama has been about the Dai family. One of the cases involved T.Y. Dai’s son, who abducted a girl working for a beer retail. Dai Junior is technically not a bad person, but has developed this fettish of abducting girls to abuse in his little “torture chamber/danger” due to his father’s excessive control and derisive pressure to follow the blueprint T.Y. has for his children. With this case, Hope Man finds out that Gogo harbors a huge grudge for T.Y., as Mr. Dai is no gentleman. Five years ago, Mr. Dai orchestrated a freak explosion to eliminate the annoying Gogo who insisted on getting Mr. Dai to pay for his evil deeds. As a result, Gogo lost a leg, and had to quit being a police officer, even after an unfair demotion courtesy of Mr. Dai. Eventually, Hope Man and his gang convince Dai Junior to confess and free himself from his father’s cage.
Of course, this can’t be the end for a drama, right? Right. It’s been 12 years, but Hope Man still yearns for his first love, who just happens to be Yanice Dai, Mr. Dai’s daughter. 12 years ago, Yanice left without a word (but did leave a recording breaking off contact) for the States. It was later revealed that her wonderful Daddy threatened to ruin Hope Man’s career, as Hope Man was aspiring to become a lawyer. Unable to bear the fault of standing in the way of Hope Man’s survival (basically) and her father’s control, she left for the states. Don’t worry though, because she isn’t that little princess — instead of majoring in Business Admin as her father wished, she secretly applied to Harvard Med school and became a doctor instead. In those 12 years, she has not been able to forget Hope Man, but she eventually starts dating Aiden, and even accepting his proposal after 11 years of courtship. She returns to Hong Kong to visit Aiden, whose family runs a major investment bank, but bumps into Hope Man and her father. On the day of her wedding, Gogo finds out that Yanice’s wedding is impure — it’s a political ploy complete with a 5 billion dollar under the table investment into Dai’s company. Although Aiden does not know of this, Yanice decides to call off the wedding because not only did her father turn her wedding into a business deal, but also pretended to have cancer and even abducted Hope Man and left him stranded on a deserted island just to make sure the transaction would see to the other end. Yanice is forced to sign the papers, but runs away right after. Obviously, Hope Man gets rescued, and ends up taking on Yanice’s case to revoke the validity of her marriage.
The main struggle of this drama will certainly be about Hope Man’s gang against Mr. Dai, the big bad wolf. Each character will face trials along the way, but Gogo’s story was quite a surprise. I actually did not expect him to have lost a leg, and I applaud TVB for managing to surprise me.
While Romeo & Juliet storylines are not really my thing, I am still curious whether Hope Man will end up with his Juliet; Yanice, or passions aflame; Never, or his long-time loyal sidekick; Deanie.
I’m not an expert, but if there is bad acting, I should be able to recognize it. I can’t really brand someone as exceptional, because when it comes to acting, the script/character plays a major role also in determining whether the performance will be stellar or mediocre. For example, with My Unfair Lady, Vincent Wong’s performance has caught so much attention not only because of his skills (which I admit, are there), but also because Saving was such a loveable character — more like pitiful.
Here, Vincent has quite a stage for him, as he is playing a blind man. Back in 2014, Roger Kwok won Best Actor as a villainous wheelchair-bound barrister (wow, legal drama again?). In 2017, we have blind barrister who definitely has a chance at Best Actor. Overall, I would say that Wong’s portrayal of a blind man is quite convincing, because he is attentive to the details. However, he does wear sunglasses most of the time in the drama, so of course I can’t see everything (him neither), but ya know — he’s pretty good at his job (as an actor).
As for Owen Cheung, who is playing Gogo — his role just might be a breakout role. A rough guy with a rough background (demotion, amputation, etc.), Gogo’s presence screams reckless and determined. Owen is also quite attentive to detail, because when he delivers his lines, I can see that he does pay attention to the intonation and diction. Gogo in the drama is the flirty type, with Never Wong being the target, but he is also innocent as he gets used by Never time and time again as a shield/escape route. Due to his character’s reputation as a tough guy, he can’t outright be the sad little forlorn puppy, but when he brushes off those frequent “betrayals,” Cheung manages to naturally sprinkle in just the right-sized pinch of disappointment that Gogo feels.
Sisley Choi is a Miss HK first runner up, okay? However, in the drama she has to wear a set of fake teeth to achieve a severe overbite and special effects makeup to get a huge scar and appear hideous for 28 episodes. From what I can tell, since TVB sucks at dubbing correctly, Choi’s diction must be pretty good, even with the fake teeth as there is no sign of dubbing (TVB used to dub over lines a lot probably because they were too cheap to invest in proper boom mikes for filming). While I do feel bad for her character’s failures in romance in the drama, I admire her spunk. Choi delivers Deanie’s refreshing character quite well, not afraid to be unlady-like and ugly (I think she’s more cool than ugly). While Choi has always shown this side of her for her dramas, I still would like to applaud her — she probably never had a character that needed an orthodontist so badly.
Overall, this drama is not tacky, nor overly “TVB” (if you dabbled in a couple of TVB dramas, YOU WILL KNOW what I’m talking about). The drama is subtle enough that you won’t find it to be an exaggeration, but obvious enough so that you do feel the suspense. The key highlight to this drama is probably — you guessed it— Vincent Wong’s portrayal of a blind barrister. Pay attention to his detail-oriented acting, because it’s proof that he is having a second hey-day.