Addictive viewing
By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-16 08:17

From beautiful opium poppy flowers to lethal, life-destroying drugs, the complete life cycle of opium is unveiled in the new movie Protg by writer/director Yee Tung-shing and producer Peter Chan.Addictive viewing

They spent a great deal of time and effort carefully researching the dark underworld of the drug, from the traffickers and drug users to policemen, so as to portray them as realistically as possible in this movie, before they finally decided to make it earlier last year.

"I was shocked when I read the statistics from the UN that in a world population of 6 billion, there are 200 million drug addicts, indicating there is one in 30," explained the director. "After reading that I became determined to bring out the truth and show people the impact drugs have on the world, letting people know the dangers and to be alert."

Before starting filming, Yee got in contact with drug users and those active in drug circles. He said he expected audiences to be shocked by the film. "It's really terrible how such a beautiful flower can result in such a nightmare," said Yee.

In the gritty thriller, Nick (Daniel Wu), an undercover cop in a police anti-drug team, has been following drug tycoon Kwan (Andy Lau, pictured below) for eight years. The two have developed a close mentor/pupil relationship but Kwan still remains secretive, never revealing any significant details of his operations where the drugs are stored or manufactured, or even the identity of other employees. That is until the day that Kwan decides to retire, and one by one his secrets are revealed.

Addictive viewingAndy Lau (A World Without Thieves, 2004, House of Flying Daggers, 2005) plays a drug lord married with two children and another on the way to his wife (Anita Yuen). Though he is a good father, husband and friend on the surface, he is evil inside. Lau dyed his hair grey for the role to give his character a look of evil. Under the director's guidance, he acted out a realistic process of drugs manufacturing. "If the audience ends up hating my character, I'll feel like I've done a good job," he said.

Koo Tin-lok (Rob-B-Hood, 2006) plays a drug addicted villain whose wife Fan, played by rising star Zhang Jingchu (pictured inset and below, Seven Swords, 2005), tries the drug in order to show her husband that giving up is possible if one is strong-minded. But she fails. She leaves the home and meets Daniel Wu (The Banquet, 2006), who falls in love with her.

The movie was shot in Thailand. Yee said he wanted to show people the danger of drugs. "Taking soft drugs is popular among today's young," he said. "Most dangerously, one out 10 people who use soft drugs have been shown to move on to harder substances." Though the theme of the movie is far from the Spring Festival's joyous atmosphere, with the A-star list and the impressive story, Protg is expected to do well at the box office.

(China Daily 02/14/2007 page7)