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8 best Lau Ching-Wan's law enforcement roles in movies


Date Posted: 08 March 2019


Lau Ching-Wan and Karena Lam in a scene from Alan Mak's latest ICAC thriller, "Integrity".

Lau Ching-Wan is a name that needs no introduction. A Hong Kong screen veteran who has appeared in over 100 movies in different acting capacities from a cameo to a leading role, Lau Ching-Wan's road to stardom has certainly come a long way since his early TVB days back in the 80s.


He was also one of the TVB actors who made a successful transition from television to movies and although he has explored different kinds of roles throughout his career, one of his most recognisable roles is playing a law enforcement character.

We have handpicked eight of Lau Ching-Wan's best performances as a law enforcement character according to its year of release.

1) Ho Chi-Yung / Cat in "The Most Wanted" (1994)

A scene from "The Most Wanted" (1994).

1994 was a banner year for then-30-year-old Lau Ching-Wan, who finally shot to stardom after earning not one but two Best Actor nominations for "C'est La Vie, Mon Chéri" and "Thou Shalt Not Swear" (both released in 1993) at the 14th Hong Kong Film Awards. One of the movies that he appeared in during that particular year was "The Most Wanted", a crime drama in which Lau Ching-Wan plays Ho Chi-Yung a.k.a. Cat, an undercover cop tasked by his superior (Lee Kwok-Lun) to infiltrate a gang of notorious robbers with the help of his friend Sap (Bowie Lam, who had co-starred alongside Lau Ching-Wan in TVB's "The Greed Of Man" back in 1992). However, things went sideways when a robbery exposed Cat's identity and turned him into the HK Police Force's most wanted criminal. The movie is basically a formulaic crime drama about the ugly side of being an undercover cop, and yet, "The Most Wanted" remains surprisingly watchable, thanks to Lau Ching-Wan's engaging performance as the conflicted undercover cop living on the edge.

2) Inspector Lau Chun-Hoi in "Loving You" (1995)

Lau Ching-Wan and Carmen Lee in "Loving You" (1995).

Just so you know, the Cantonese title for Johnnie To's cop drama "Loving You" is literally translated as "Tasteless Detective". Which, of course, it was named as such since it refers to Lau Ching-Wan's character who suffers a severe brain injury after getting a bullet in the head, causing him to lose all sense of smell and taste. "Loving You" is basically a Hong Kong remake of the Harrison Ford-starring "Regarding Henry", complete with all the sappy melodramatic moments and yes... montage music. Still, the movie works because of Lau Ching-Wan's perfectly typecast role as a hot-tempered police inspector. He sells his role well enough to offset most of the movie's shortcomings. Although an uneven effort, Johnnie To managed to secure a Best Director nomination at the 15th Hong Kong Film Awards but lost to Ann Hui in "Summer Snow".

3) Sergeant Bill Chu in "Big Bullet" (1996)

Lau Ching-Wan as Sergeant Bill Chu in "Big Bullet" (1996).

Lau Ching-Wan continues his hot streak in playing a "hot-tempered/relentless law enforcer" character in "Big Bullet", arguably one of the finest HK action movies ever made in the 90s by Benny Chan (1990's "A Moment Of Romance"). He brings enough roguish charisma to his lead role as Sergeant Bill Chu, who ends up being transferred to the Emergency Unit (E.U.) after assaulting a superior officer. Then one day, he and the rest of his team (among them are Jordan Chan, Cheung Tat-Ming and Theresa Lee) find themselves in a big case trying to track down a gang of vicious criminals led by Yu Rongguang's Professor and Anthony Wong's Bird. The story is basically a standard-issue "cops vs. robbers" crime drama, and yet, it delivers its promise as a solid action genre with well-staged shootouts and car chases while the ensemble cast is just as engaging. Lau Ching-Wan himself earned a Best Actor nomination at the 16th Hong Kong Film Awards and believe it or not, the movie itself scored a total of nine nominations including Best Film and Best Director (both lost to Peter Chan's "Comrades: Almost A Love Story").

4) Inspector Baau Wai-Hung in "Full Alert" (1997)

A scene from "Full Alert".

A year after he scored a hit and even earned a Best Actor nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his hotheaded performance in "Big Bullet", Lau Ching-Wan did it again in another gritty cop drama, "Full Alert". Sure, he didn't win that elusive award, but his performance as the short-tempered Inspector Baau Wai- Hung is simply unforgettable - the kind of role he's born to play. Not to mention his character fits well within the grim and pessimistic viewpoint of Ringo Lam's signature filmmaking style, best known for his seminal genre works including "City On Fire" and "Prison On Fire". Thanks to Lam's solid direction as well as his engaging script which he co-wrote alongside Sammy Lau Wing-Kin, the movie effectively presents a moral grey area where nothing is as obvious as black and white between Lau Ching-Wan's Inspector Baau Wai-Hung and Francis Ng's main antagonist role as Mak Kwan. "Full Alert" is also notable for its thrilling car chase sequence, which was actually shot in guerilla style without a permit.

5) Inspector Ho Sheung-Sang in "Running Out Of Time 1 & 2" (1999, 2001)

A scene from "Running Out Of Time" (1999).

If you are fans of either Lau Ching-Wan or Andy Lau's movies, chances are you would agree that "Running Out Of Time" is among their most entertaining performances ever in their respective acting careers. Thanks to Johnnie To's sublime direction, he brings the best out of these two equally charismatic HK screen veterans. Besides, it's hard to resist these two great actors engaged in a thrilling cat-and-mouse game between a police negotiator (Lau Ching-Wan's Inspector Ho Sheung-Sang) and a crafty thief (Andy Lau's Mr. Cheung). The movie is both witty and entertaining and even though some of the comedy moments tend to get overly cheesy, "Running Out Of Time" is still ranked as one of the best genre movies of its kind ever seen in the 90s.


Lau Ching-Wan and Ekin Cheng playing a game of cat-and-mouse
in "Running Out Of Time 2" (2001).

Whereas the first movie was a solid hit, the same cannot be said with the lacklustre sequel of "Running Out Of Time 2". It is way over-the-top, while Ekin Cheng is clearly no Andy Lau, even though he manages to bring some devil-may-care charisma to his antagonist role nicknamed "The Thief". The sequel may pale in comparison with the superior 1999 original but "Running Out Of Time 2", but it is partially saved by Lau Ching-Wan, who reprised his role as Inspector Ho.

6) Bun in "Mad Detective" (2007)

Lau Ching-Wan plays the eccentric titular role in "Mad Detective" (2007).

Lau Ching-Wan plays the eponymous titular role in Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's crime drama "Mad Detective" - a different kind of law enforcement character that doesn't spell "hotheaded" or "short-tempered". Instead, Lau Ching-Wan's Bun is more of an eccentric detective whose investigation methods are particularly unorthodox. For instance, you would go as far as zipping himself into a suitcase and get shoved down the staircase to get the experience of how is it feels like to become such a victim. He nails the quirky role well enough - a solid result that earned him a Best Actor nomination at the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards, even though he unfortunately lost to Jet Li in "The Warlords".

7) Johnny Leung in "Overheard" (2009)

(L-R) Louis Koo, Lau Ching-Wan and Daniel Wu in a scene from "Overheard" (2009).

Here is another solid cop role from Lau Ching-Wan, who led the all-star ensemble cast including Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Zhang Jingchu) in "Overheard". Here, he plays the leader of the three-member Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB) unit alongside Louis Koo's Yeung and Daniel Wu's Lam to spy on a shady trading firm using high-tech surveillance equipment. Thanks to Alan Mak and Felix Chong's layered screenplay who also share co-directing credits in this movie, Lau Ching-Wan's character is more than just a by-the-book CIB leader but also a flawed human who wrestles with guilt for having an affair with his superior/best friend's (Alex Fong Chung-Sun) wife Mandy (Zhang Jingchu). It was the kind of emotionally-conflicted role that earned Lau Ching-Wan yet another Best Actor nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards, even though he lost it to Simon Yam in "Echoes Of The Rainbow".

8) Ma Ho-Tin in "The White Storm" (2013)

A scene from "The White Storm" (2013).

"The White Storm" sees Lau Ching-Wan reunite with director Benny Chan, where both famously collaborated in "Big Bullet" back in 1996. A fitting tribute to the once-popular "heroic bloodshed" subgenre made famous by John Woo and Tsui Hark in the mid-80s (among them of course was "A Better Tomorrow"), the movie involved a team of Narcotics Bureau (NB) officers led by Ma Ho-Tin (Lau Ching-Wan) who worked alongside his lifelong friends including fellow colleague Wai (Nick Cheung) and undercover Chow (Louis Koo) to risk their lives on a mission in Thailand to pursue the notorious drug lord nicknamed Eight-Faced Buddha (Lo Hoi-Pang, sporting an exaggerated Einstein-like hairstyle). If you have seen enough "heroic bloodshed" cinema back in the 80s and 90s, you probably know where is this going. You can accuse the movie for being nothing more than a nostalgia-heavy action movie that got trapped in a bygone era, but it is also hard to deny that Benny Chan did a tremendous job in executing his movie with a strong sense of visual flair. The action is top-notch, while the three main stars share terrific chemistry as lifelong friends who have subsequently grown apart following a particular life-and-death situation. Lau Ching-Wan delivers a typically engaging performance as the guilt-ridden Ma Ho-Tin, which earned him a Best Actor nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards but lost to Nick Cheung in "Unbeatable".

Writer: Casey Chong



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