Face of a Foster Father-Inspector Wong from Infernal Affairs, Colour of the Truth



In 1998, Andrew Lau teamed up with Manfred Wong to make The Stormriders, the story of "Rise with Wind and Cloud; fall with Wind and Cloud". To realize his ambition, Lord Conquer (Sonny Chiba) kills the fathers of Wind and Cloud and becomes their mentor so that he can use their supernatural powers to conquer the world. When Wind and Cloud finally defeat Lord Conquer, Wind stops Cloud from killing their mentor because he is the one who raised them and simply let him remain in his own delusionary "hell on earth".

In 2002/3, teaming up with Mak Siu-fai and Felix Chong, Andrew Lau presents another variation of the "cause of the rise, cause of the fall" theme in Infernal Affairs I and II. In his attempt to clean up Tsimshatsui, Wong Chi-shing (Anthony Wong) instigates others to kill Yan's father and restates Yan as his subordinate so that he can help him accomplish his mission. After his plan fails, Wong just wants to repay the wrong he has done Yan. Living in his own "hell on earth" for years, Wong finally repays Yan with his fall from the rooftop.

Both narratives are about "killing off the father and taking over the son". The difference lies in the recognition of the guilt involved. The death of daughter Charity does not wake up Lord Conquer's conscience, but the death of brethren Luk jolts up Wong.

If the 1998 version is about committing the sin of following the father's murderer as foster father and that history can only be settled by awakening the natural father's family sword with the blood of a descendant, then the 2002/3 version allows a chance for a new understanding of this foster father. Although the foster father is condemned by his original sin, his fall from the rooftop still grieves his foster son. Afterall, the British-Chinese bloodline of Anthony Wong has journeyed one step closer to the truth than Sonny Chiba's Japanese bloodline.

Perhaps the "Face/Off" mirror effect of Infernal Affairs has finally been found. On each side of the mirror stands a man who must come to terms with his double loyalty. While Ming (Andy Lau) has chosen to take the side that will lead to a bright future, Yan (Tony Leung) still possesses feelings for Wong Chi-shing by picking the rooftop as the meeting place with Ming. Unwilling to give up the memory of his foster father, Yan is destined to die to allow Ming to fulfill his choice.

Not to be left out is another variation of this "killing off the father and taking over the son" in Colour of the Truth, another Infernal Affairs inspiration. Here, making use of Anthony Wong's own bloodline, he is given a British father. Although Wong Keung (Anthony Wong) kills 7-Up (Lau Ching-wan), it is revealed to be an accident. Wong suffers no guilty conscience and is spared the punishment of "hell on earth". He looks after Cola (Raymond Wong) and knows his every name change and exam result by heart, "You are my brethren's son and I have the duty to see that you go on the right path." Cola's final choice, "My father was not a good cop, but I am." As the first post-SARS aftershock film, Colour of the Truth recognizes the son's right of choice. He gives his thanks to his foster father, and repudiates his natural father.

When inventing Inspector Wong's past, why did Infernal Affairs II and Colour of the Truth resort to the same story pattern? Because Inspector Wong is Anthony Wong. The passage of time has raised his professional reputation and career status, allowing him to become the mentor of the EMG stable. It has also mellowed down his ideals and rebelliousness, transforming him into the godfather of the Cola commercial. The Inspector Wong lying on the taxi top tugs at the audience's collective heartstring because the audience cannot believe in the sudden death of a charismatic cop and mentor. But is this all the audience see, or is there a projection of the actor's rock-n-roll music and Herman Yau films, provoking the yearn for a father figure with the ideals of a son still intact? Or more, do his runaway British father of yesterday and his own son Wong Yat-yat of today remind the audience of something uniquely Hong Kong?

Inspector Wong, the elite professional with Britain in his blood, may very well represent a generation of Hong Kong people who cannot wipe out its memory of a colonial past. By seeing Inspector Wong as a father and a mentor, the next generation may have also revealed its lament over something good that has passed. After the success of Inspector Wong and the Cola commercial, magazine photos have started to concentrate on capturing the western facial features of Anthony Wong. For ten years, no one cared about his bloodline even though he mentioned it in almost every interview. And suddenly it is there. When one starts lamenting over something that has passed, one does not go searching for it in the obvious places, like Michael Wong. One starts digging into where it used to be hidden. In a way, this Inspector (Anthony) Wong of the 00s has replaced that Inspector (Michael) Wong of the 90s and made 1998's Beast Cops the passing of the baton.

By Athena Tsui

For Chinese version, please click here.

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