Review: Law Disorder (TVB, 2016)

Law Disorder (律政強人)

Genre: Legal Drama/ Office Politics
Length: 28 episodes
Producer: Marco Law

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Cast

Alex Fong as Cheung Keung
Liu Kai Chi as KC Lau
Ali Lee as Cheuk Yi Chung aka Hazel
Mandy Wong as Fong Ning aka Martha
Raymond Cho as Duncun
Florence Kwok as Patricia aka “Pat Jeh”
Kelly Cheung as Poon Hei Man aka Libby
Matthew Ho as Nick Chau

and Lau Dan, Ram Chiang, Griselda Yeung, Becky Lee, Chung King Fai, etc.

The Review

The story takes place inside the office of Donald and Co., one of the largest and most reputable law firms in Hong Kong. Liu Kai Chi who plays KC Lau is the most influential and capable Managing Partner in the firm while Raymond and Mandy plays his sidekicks and senior partners. The brilliant but money-oriented Alex joins the team as as senior partner upon Lau Don’s recruitment. Seeing Alex as a threat to his dictatorship and influence within the firm because of his abilities to win every case, he takes every opportunity to take him down, throw him out — even to the extent of using his health as a bait to lure Alex.

Although the drama was overall engaging and juicy, I still question to what extent is it really a ‘legal’ drama. I mean, other than the fact that almost every cast member was a lawyer at one point. Being a lawyer is simply a title and most of them see their profession as merely a trampoline to something greater like money, influence, or power. Justice matters, but in reality, money matters even more. Like Alex says, “I just got let go yesterday, I need to eat too.”

Law Disorder portrays a more realistic and mature side of what the legal profession really is: and justice isn’t always black and white, but rather about finding the best deal for the client without having to take the case to court. 

The series may focus a lot on office politics, but I found that Law Disorder probably portrays what lawyers do on a daily basis more accurate than other more “entertaining” TVB series like Survivor’s Law or Ghetto Justice do, for example. The cast spends less time acting as unpaid investigators and more time doing work that a lawyer actually gets paid to do: negotiation, influencing, researching facts and events to support their inferences, and collecting evidence that favors them. Instead of spending time seeking out the truth (which isn’t always black and white and one party is almost never 100% correct), they deal with and maximize what they have at hand to gain the biggest leverage for both themselves and their client. The lawyers in Law Disorder care a great deal about reputation, clean-cut hem lines, and holding a latte in one hand is a part of their lifestyle.

After 28 episodes and whether or not Law Disorder has real substance or is a bit pretentious is still debatable. The final showdown between Alex and Liu Kai Chi, which is also the only case that they brought to court in the entire series, was not anti-climatic. At the same time, the seasoned professionals here also lacked character development. They barely evolved in any way though many of their relationships has it’s highs and lows, ups and downs, depending on which side offers more benefits, insurance, or monetary value.

Character development here is existent and there is some reflection on some levels, but the characters remain quite static throughout and any type of development occurs more in titles than in reality. You can see this as Ali goes from being an associate attorney to Chairman (and for real the last time) and both Alex and Mandy going from Senior Partners to Managing Partners at the end. Despite their selfishness sometimes, flaws and less idealistic nature than Ali’s, they know that their mindset and methods is the best medium that drives both revenue for the company and monetary for their own pockets.

I really applaud this series for having focus and not deviating for what it stands for. The genre, style, or script remains cohesive overall. In this case, it really is a ‘legal’ drama because it never loses it’s focus and suddenly decide to talk about romance, family, or friendship.

It doesn’t focus much on friendship or trust and the other values that we love, but you’ll appreciate the small moments of friendship between Mandy, Ali, and Kelly. Or the times Kelly believed in Matthew, who plays Nick. Every time Mandy betrays Liu Kai Chi by giving tips and guiding Alex towards the right route also makes you wonder why she would betray the only sifu she respected for money. Aren’t relationships more valuable? The script never explicitly tells you why, but the small moments show you that reality isn’t always black and white. You just have to trust your own judgment when it’s time to make a decision on the spot.

Characterization and Performances

Alex Fong.

“Sometimes in law, you don’t win by being the first person to get to the finish line. If you can get the best deal for your client, that’s good enough already.”

Reserved and subtle in his expressions, but a brilliant lawyer who dominates the Hong Kong law scene, he was recruited by the Chairman (Lau Dan) of Donald and Co. in hopes of eventually replacing Liu Kai Chi, who has been building great influence at the company over the last 15 years. As someone who cares less about power and influence and more about money, Alex eventually tangles himself more with the politics of the firm, including maintaining Ali’s position as the new Chairman when Lau Dan was found guilty of fraud.

Alex has a knack for pulling surprises, not pulling his win card until the last minute, and leveraging the media to expose a false reality that’ll benefit his client.

Alex delivered as the reserved lawyer with subtle expressions and a “devil may care” attitude. I only wish that if Ruco took on the role, the series would even be more juicy. And yes, this is because I’m quite indifferent about Alex as an actor. I always have been. 4.5/5

Liu Kai Chi.

“I don’t mind releasing the company into the hands of my enemy as long as he is a smart one.”

As the Managing Partner of Donald and Co., he commands great influence as he brings in the majority of revenue for shareholders. Liu Kai Chi desires influence and his every move is to maintain and increase his influence from Managing Partner to Chairman of the Board. Even in his final match with Alex and losing the title of Chairman and Managing Partner, his appetite for influence remains unwavering. Some would expect him to reflect on his losses, but his persistence is unmatched even after he is kicked out of Donald and Co.

We know little of why KC Lau is who he is. He knows how the game of leverage is played and plays it well. I suppose the only saving grace about KC is he isn’t a hypocrite and is brave enough to speak up about getting what he wants. But seriously, the dude is crazy. Haha.

We don’t see much of Liu Kai Chi anymore so with his limited time with TVB, he and his performance is a good enough reason to watch this series already. While I found his style of acting to be exaggerated, dramatic, and sometimes stressful to watch, I have to give it to him for being consistently evil for over 28 episodes. He had to put so much energy into his role compared to Alex’s reserved personality and subtle expressions. Definitely the most memorable villain of the year. 5/5

Ali Lee.

“So besides winning and money, we don’t care about justice?”

Ali plays Hazel and the only daughter of the Chairman of Donald and Co. Unlike the majority of the more seasoned lawyers in Donald and Co., Ali is known as “the sheep” amongst them. Her vision of becoming a lawyer is purely for justice. Her definition of justice is winning the case. In between her black and white thinking, she learns from Alex the real meaning of being lawyer: it’s not about being the first to get to the finish line, but if you can get the best deal for your own client, that’s good enough already.

It’s ironic how Ali starred as the villainess who excelled at corporate politics and backstabbing in Fashion War, but she suddenly became the sheep amongst the tigers in Law Disorder. Nevertheless, her performance was fine, but neither outstanding nor memorable. Her sharp eyes and clean appearance makes her a more convincing antagonist than protagonist — and this is a compliment. Ali’s expressions to any event here were limited to being “this is unbelievable” or “are you serious?” most of the time — and it’s not like you can blame her thinking if you have watched the series already. Haha. 3.5/5

Mandy Wong.

“If you want to win, use Cheung Keung’s mindset and ask yourself, what will he do if he was in your situation?”

Equally smart and capable, Mandy was originally Alex’s apprentice. Because she betrayed Alex for money, he failed her one month before her 2-year apprenticeship period completed. Mandy joined Donald and Co. where she was promoted to be senior partner after only two years. Like Alex and unlike her best friend Ali, she finds importance and security in money and is rather practical and level-headed when it comes to finding the best medium for her clients.

Despite betraying Alex, she has always wanted to make it up to him as he was the only lawyer she saw as a her sifu. Thus, she saves Alex on many occasions when Liu Kai Chi wants to to trip him up.

Mandy’s Fang Ning is probably one of her more memorable roles since her L’Escargot days. Though totally different, I’ve always been a bigger fan of her “cool exterior” and professional roles than her housewife ones. 5/5

Overall Evaluation

Despite still being a little ambivalent about the series and not having a complete opinion about it, I love how fresh the storytelling, filming style, and just series aesthetic in general. It’s really a “professional” series and it’s fun when all the players are somewhat competent in the game so it’s not like child’s play. It’s the closest to the American TV show, Suits, you can find from TVB.

How ironic is it that two of TVB’s most cohesive and focused series comes from the office politics genre? It must be easier to get inspiration and ideas when the company itself is going through something similar, huh?

The Verdict

Definitely worth a try unless you know you don’t like this genre. Good plot and even better characters. Because of the endless backstabbing from Liu Kai Chi, I found the series a bit draggy at some points, but because it moves at a fast pace, it’s best to marathon it in 4-5 sittings.