When Protégé was first announced, it was apparently a remake of the 2000 Steven Soderbergh film Traffic. Now that is has finally come around it is quite clear that it’s not at all a remake. Traffic is however an obvious inspiration behind the clear anti-drug theme in Protégé. There is a far more straight forward story being told in this film. It stars Daniel Wu as an undercover narcotics officer named Nick, who had made his way, not only into the world of a notorious heroin dealer Lin Quin (Andy Lau), but he has gained his trust so much that he has earned his way up the ranks and into position as Quins Protégé. Where Traffic had a much larger scale to its plot, with many different characters and perspectives, Protégé is told in a traditional flashback style. The film opens with Wu’s character lying on couch, in a Police Uniform, asking himself why people use drugs. Then we are taken right into the story.
It appears as though the idea of being involved in the world of drug trafficking does not affect Nick at all. He does not use them himself, but even though he is involved for the right reasons, he has still been forced to have a hand in much of the work Quins crew has undertaken during his time. That is until he meets his neighbour Jane (Zhang) and her young daughter. Jane is a serious heroin addict who claims she started using drugs to show her Junkie husband (Louis Koo) that it’s easy to drop the habit. Unfortunately she was not aware of the seriousness of using heroin.Now she is just as much a Junkie, and is hardly able to even feed her poor daughter, and to make things worse her husband has returned into her life. Now Nick can see firsthand how drugs can truly shatter someone’s life.
Protégé has a lot going for it, including a very strong cast of characters. Daniel Wu is on top of his game, outdoing even his brilliant work in One Nite in Mongkok. Andy Lau is his usual self; he just cannot look bad on screen. Even if he looks 15 years older them he is. Louis Koo’s character does take some time to get use to. He comes off almost clown-like and goofy at first, and almost appears that he might be bringing some comic relief to the film. From the way he talks, and the disgusting gingivitis plagued mouth of his. To the way he walks, and the fact he is carrying a guitar case that is actually filled with his various drug paraphernalia. However, the comical aspect wears off quite fast as we learn just how evil and dangerous he really is, as he would go to shocking lengths to support his habits.
As I stated earlier the plot is pretty straight forward. It usually helps when a film is told though one characters perspective. It’s just a simple story, with a few fairly complex characters with problems of their own. All of which play a key role in Nicks story. In the end it is evident that Protégé is not a Remake of Traffic, in fact is has very little to do with the 2000 film. It stands up on its own feet quite well. Perhaps the hype of being a Traffic remake helped it? None the less it’s a phenomenal film, one with something to say. One we all should listen to.
A Film by Derek Yee