Friday, August 7, 2009

痞子英雄 - Black And White

痞子英雄 (Black and White) is a Taiwanese Police Drama starring Vic Zhou, Mark Chao, Ivy Chen and Janine Chang.

The series runs 24 episodes. During its initial 12 week broadcast run in Taiwan, April to June 2009, two episodes were broadcast each week. Because of this, you'll notice a "previously on" for all the odd numbered Actions (episodes) and a "preview" for all the even numbered Actions. The episodes were typically 45-50 minutes long. I've been looking forward to this series since April, had a first thoughts post, and found it was airing here in Los Angeles on LA 18.

The main drivers of this series were also behind Mars and The Hospital (白色巨塔). You'll notice quite a few familiar faces from all those series. If you wanted to go even further back, you'll notice Meteor Garden folks in bit roles in Black And White as well.

If you've seen Mars and The Hospital, you'll know that they represented the highest production value for Taiwanese Dramas during their year of release. In this case, I haven't seen any drama out of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China that can match the production value of Black And White for 2009. I don't watch Korean and Japanese dramas, so I cannot compare. In any case, the production value is very high. The story is intense and characters pop up left and right and you need a chart to make sense of it all.

Black And White is a series about 2 cops. Vic Zhou plays the "Black" cop named Chen. Mark Chao plays the "White" cop name Wu.

Chen's nick name is "Pi Zi/痞子", which I think translates to "rascal". Pi Zi can also mean riffraff or ruffian. But the way I see it from the series, Chen is more of a rascal.

Wu's name is "Ying Xiong/英雄", which literally translates to "hero". You'll noice Wu's car has "HERO" engraved on it.

You put their names together and you get the Chinese name of the series, 痞子英雄. As for the English translation, it's the contrasting cop styles of the two. Chen is willing to bend the rules to get to a goal and doesn't ask if its right or wrong. Thus, you give Chen the "black" label. Wu on the other hand, is a hard nosed cop who plays it strictly by the rules. On Wu ends, there's only black and white. Wu has chosen to stand completely on the white side and everyone better get out of his way.

My brief review is going to be only high level and superficial. I will try not to spoil anything for you.

First Quarter (Episodes 1-6)
Introduces all the main characters. Which include all the supporting staff of the 2 Kaohsiung police divisions. The 2 divisions are separated into North and South. Our main protagonist are officers in the South division in the detectives department. The support staff include the department head, the division head, forensics department, and hi-tech department.

During these first few episodes, you get a glimpse of the "character" of Chen and Wu. And the female interest are introduced. Janine Chang as Lan Xi Ying is part of the forensics department and is super close friends with Wu. Ivy Chen plays Chen Lin, the daughter of the head of the biggest triad in the area, San Lian Hui. Ivy Chen is a rocket in a bottle type character.

It's also during this time that you'll see that they play Chen to the womanizer side and introduce the Pi Zi for which he is nicknamed. Wu's a cop that wants to bust any and everyone willing to break the law.

The main arc resolves around the pursuit of the people responsible for "Dreamer". Dreamer is a hallucinogen that makes you very very happy.

Second Quarter (Episodes 7-12)
Things start to get interesting here. Chen's background is further explored and the female love interest start to complicate work and everyday life. A special person to one of our heroes is introduced.

Third Quarter (Episodes 13-18)
Another special person to one of our heroes is introduced. Sonia Sui as Lei Mu Sha is it and she lights up the screen. The series takes a very dark tone at this point.

Fourth Quarter (Episodes 19-24)
Conspiracy? Check! Mysteries revealed? Check! Surprise development? Check!

As if the first 3 quarters didn't turn your head, these last episodes introduces as much as it resolves issues.

If you want the epitome of Taiwan's high production value on TV in 2009, look no further than Black And White. It was a wild ride and i was glad to be on it for the roughly 2.5 weeks it took me to finish it.

I am definitely looking forward to the movie now. Set for release in the summer of 2010. Let's go Taiwan, let's support these type of endeavors.

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