THE LEAKER (aka THE LEAKERS) (2018) review

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2018 will have been a quiet kind of year for Herman Yau; The Leaker is one of only two films he’ll have had in theaters (the other being comedy A Home with a View, starring Louis Koo and Francis Ng, and out in December). Still, he’s already got two films in the can for 2019, with two more already planned, so no cause for alarm. The Leaker starts with the outbreak in Malaysia of a new and deadly disease carried by mosquitoes. The only available cure is an experimental drug manufactured by Amanah, a powerful pharmaceutical company. But when the elder son of Amanah’s CEO Teo Jit Sin (Kent Cheng) is found murdered, and his second son is kidnapped by a shady organisation claiming to have incriminating information to leak about Teo Jit Sin, Malaysian detective Lee Weng-kan (Julian Cheung) must team up with journalist Carly Yuen (Charmaine Sheh) and Hong Kong cop Wong Dai Wai (Francis Ng) to uncover the truth.

For its first thirty minutes, The Leaker is a real slog, bombarding the audience with information is the least engaging ways: TV reports, press conferences, stilted conversations (a lot of phonetic English is spoken), and worst of all, on-screen internet searches. It takes Francis Ng’s belated appearance int he film to jazz things up a bit, but that’s only because his character gets involved in a reasonably exciting car chase, and because the veteran actor gives a performance so nonchalant and unfocused, he throws flash tantrums and reacts to tragic news or to his wife asking for divorce with a series of bored grimaces, like a kid stuck in detention. It’s an amusingly random performance, that generates very little spark with a very bland Julian Cheung (clearly there because Louis Koo was busy shooting ten other films), or with a one-note Charmaine Sheh.

Though dressed up as a complex tale of corruption, whistle-blowing and journalistic dilemmas, the film is actually a very simple affair, with twists one can see coming from kilometers away, and poor attempts at fleshing out the main players. Indeed, no less than three different characters are given long-suffering wives, with dull squabbling scenes padding out the runtime: pity Michelle Wai, Chrissie Chau and Halina Tam, who are only required to frown sadly.  Only Kent Cheng leaves a mark, excellent in a role that represents the script’s only success in generating thought-provoking ambiguity.

Long Story Short: A limp and predictable thriller. **

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