Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Tiger Cubs" Review

"Tiger Cubs", with its high budget and quality of production as well as its cast ensemble, is easily the best series of the year hands down.

The series seemingly flies by with its straightforward plot and quick pace.  It has viewers hooked from beginning to end, without ever wavering in quality or consistency too much like typical TVB series do. From the first episode, it is clear the effort that was put into the series.   From the cinematic-like filming style, to the thrilling and well shot action sequences, to the wonderful ensemble of characters, "Tiger Cubs" is the most quality production of the year.

Cast and Characters

"Tiger Cubs" is easily most beloved for its young SDU boys, which consist of Oscar Leung, Him Law, Vincent Wong, William Chak, and Benjamin Yuen.

Oscar Leung receives the best character of his career with "Chong Chuk Yuen", as the role allowed him to shine and show his charisma and potential as a future leading actor.  Unlike his usual more rough and comic relief-type roles, Oscar is a gentlemanly, calm, mature, and sweet young man with a romantic side here, something we've never been able to see much of before.  Despite the age difference, he realistically portrays the brotherly friendship between him and Joe with ease as well as the sibling chemistry with Jessica.  And of course, his signature wink was adorable.

The fabulous acting by the young cast does not stop at Oscar though.  Him Law portrays the confident, cocky, rash, and impulsive "Yu Hok Lai" naturally and without a problem.  He matures and develops a close friendship with the team's technician So Man Keung (portrayed by Mandy Wong) as he helps her get over her fear of heights and achieve her goal of becoming the first female SDU member.  I can not deny he is one of the best actors of his generation and has what it takes to be a lead actor.

Vincent Wong delivers his most natural performance to date as "Yau Chun Hin".  In contrast to his best buddy Ah Lai, Hin Jai is humble and patient, but is insecure and lacks self esteem due to the pressure he feels from his family, which is full of heroic and accomplished cops.  Ah Hin was the character with the most potential, and I had looked forward to seeing him mature and become more confident as the series progressed.  Unfortunately, the script did not seem to have any intentions of focusing in on Vincent (notice he's the only one of the main SDU guys to not have any love interest), as he had the least screen time.  His character development was executed in a disappointingly abrupt and brief fashion.  Regardless, Vincent did wonderfully with what he was given.  In the early episodes, you could see the hesitation in his eyes as he started SDU training.    He also finally shed his habit of adding in English words and phrases to his lines.

No one had expected Hin Jai to be the one to die.  (Thanks to a prank by Jessica, who had "confessed" her character died early on during its airing.  This turned out to be a stunt by Jessica and Vincent to keep the actual ending under wraps.  Very clever, Jess...)  Hin died in such a tragic, graphic, and gruesome way.  Huge props to him for giving such a memorable performance in his last scene.  His death already had me in tears, and seeing the character try to utter one last smile to the world before he passed made my heart break.  Fantastic acting touch.  Previously, I already loved Vincent for his real life down to earth personality but thought his acting left much to be desired.  He shows he has what it takes to be a solid actor here, and I will be cheering for him all the way.  If a sequel does happen, I will greatly miss his presence.

Mandy Wong, like usual, delivers solidly and is perhaps the only female of the male dominated cast that is likable and interesting.  Christine Kuo gives what was hands down the weakest performance with her scattered Cantonese and English and bimbo-like character.  William Chak did well in the one episode he had the spotlight (the tour bus storyline), and I look forward to seeing more of him.

Although our lead actors perform adequately, they fail to shine and instead are overshadowed by the bright group of youngsters I mentioned above (excluding Christine).  Joe Ma, as our leading man, anchors the SDU team as their leader, but fails to leave an impression like the others.  He is likable as the hardworking "Chin Sir" who cared deeply for his subordinates.  As a character with not much of a dynamic though, he was easily outshined.

Jessica Hsuan portrays a different type of police officer here as the depressed and suicidal "Madam Chong".  While she delivers, it is hard to make this type of character likable as the depressed and suicidal state (understandably) of Madam Chong rid her of her personality and livelihood.  When she recovered though, she lost the only major dynamic she had.  However, as Joe and Jessica's relationship finally started to fall for each other, they did get some smiles out of me.  The scene where they are both sitting at the dining table stealing glances at each other was awkwardly adorable.

Other Notable Performances

This review would not be complete without mentioning the series' resident ultimate villains Kenneth Ma and JJ Jia, who made their debut in the first episode and returned in the last for a nail biting finale. Kenneth is chilling, frightening, and convincing as "To Tin Yau".  JJ Jia gives a decent performance as well.  However, they have already received endless praise for their roles, and I would like to mention others too.

Kenny Wong appeared in what was an underrated guest star role.  While I'm not usually fond of the actor, he gives a heartbreaking performance as the loving father forced into committing crime to get money for his sick son's surgery.  You could see the guilt in his eyes and that he genuinely did not wish to hurt anyone, especially in his last confrontational scene with Mandy.  Despite doing a bad thing, he sparked sympathy through the portrayal of all the emotions the character felt while doing it.  Jazz Lam was adorable, pitiful, and convincing as (autistic?) young boy whose life long dream is to be a cop and take care of his mom.  He is such a valuable and rare actor.

Lastly, a shout out to my favorite "underdog" artist, Patrick Tang.  He appeared in the series as a regular under Jessica's team.  Though "Ben" is Patrick's smallest role yet (I smell demotion), he makes the most out of the very minor but likable character.  It was nice to see Patrick in a more professional and mature role.  I loved the character's loyalty to Jessica as well as his subtle touches of humor.

The Series in General

The plot isn't one that sparks thinking or deep meaning, but the writing is above average for TVB's shoddy scripts these days.  The change in format was refreshing and proved to work well.  Since it clocked in with slightly longer episodes, but a shorter overall episode count at just 13, this made "Tiger Cubs" more consistent and less prone to cliches and filler material.  In fact, by the series' end, there is still a lot of potential for further development.  A majority of the scenes served a purpose, and unlike most TVB series today, doesn't stray from the point.  Additionally, the cinematic like filming style and high budget makes it look much more presentable, professional, and more attractive to look at.  It is the rare instance that they try something new and different and succeeded.  Quality isn't compensated, it's even better.  I appreciate how it still has the familiar feel of a TVB series, but attempts new things and actually executes it well.


  • The brotherhood, friendship, and chemistry between the characters.  The SDU team truly felt like a team, and I'll miss them!
  • The action sequences/climaxes.  The cases themselves were fine, but not overly intriguing.  However, the climaxes always had me sitting at the edge of my seat!
  • The finale.  Never has the finale of a TVB series had me so nervous, stressed, and thrilled!  My heart was probably pounding by the second half of the finale. 

You don't break what's not broken.  However, recent TVB series have indeed been broken - in other words they've mostly sucked.  "Tiger Cubs" takes a familiar formula but improves upon it with outstanding acting, cinematography, style, and action.  The script is no masterpiece, but it is through its execution that "Tiger Cubs" shines like a diamond.  

Rating: 4.5 stars


  1. This is my absolute fav drama of the year for sure! I love the action and lack of romance. I'll admit it was a very good prank pulled by Jessica because I was waiting until the last minute to see how she would die, but she didn't. It was funny how Joe's love confession was interupted by the terrorists and Jessica was like "Always in the way..." My full review here:

    1. In general, I love action series but TVB's last few ones have been lackluster, so this was definitely a great surprise and treat. I like romance only as a backdrop/subplot, so I'm glad they didn't over do it. I still think they could've had a little more character development tho. That really was a good prank. After Vincent died, I was starting to suspect Jessica had messed with us, but I was still waiting out to the last minute worried she would die too! Haha. That was a cute/fun way to end the series. Work follows them everywhere. :P

      I read your review, and I must say I was also hoping to see Mandy become a SDU member. Instead, they fast forwarded to after she already joined. It will be interesting to see her on the team in a possible sequel tho!

    2. I beg for the sequel this cannot end like this the case is still unsolved at the end and it seems interesting!!!!!!!!!!

    3. Hopefully, our wishes for a sequel will come true. :)

  2. I 'breezed' through Tiger Cubs! Gosh, so refreshing, considering how painful it is to watch tvb serials in recent years. My sister's puzzled why i still watch every tvb serials when they are so hard to get through. Sigh, old habit dies hard and there's always this hope in my heart that this is one is going to be different. And yes, I got my wish! this one is indeed different! it's SO GOOD! and like you've said, it doesn't go off track after a while. it stayed strong and remained consistent till the end!

    I love that it's very fast paced, with a new crime story almost every episode. the action scenes were great too. and for a change from previous tvb crime series, this one started off with Kenneth story and went back to it in the finale. i had thought as per previous tvb style, the finale was gonna be about Jessica's dead fiancé case since from the beginning, the show felt like it was leading towards that as the finale. so for me, that dead fiancé's case was sort of a anti-climax for me as i was expecting it to be the huge finale. however, ending the show with the kenneth's case was a surprise and the finale didn't disappoint. so all's good. :)

    Yep, agree Kenneth did a great job. i actually much prefer Kenneth as a villain than the main lead. i hate him giving his sad puppy face whenever he acted as a good guy. haha. oh, so the girl's name is JJ Jia. I thought she's not just good in this show, but good in all shows where she's supposed to act as a villain.

    oscar leung impressed me SO MUCH here! i wasn't as impressed with him in L'escargot cos he was always acting in gangsterish or loserly characters. but this one, he was smart, charismatic, mature, cool..... and he pulled it off so effortlessly!

    on the contrary i'm not so impressed with vincent wong as usual. thought he still has some amateur's awkwardness in his acting. his finale died-on-the-cross scene was great though.

    regarding Jessica and Joe's romance, somehow, it just felt that the two characters getting together isn't realistic. felt like they would be so bored with each other together. i mean, in real life, it usually takes 2 different personality that complements each other to get together, e.g. one talkative and one quiet, one impatient with one patient person etc etc... or maybe the scenes that had them together felt awkward and boring. like they have nothing in common to talk about because cases and work. maybe cos it's only 13 eps and the focus is more on cases. but somehow, i felt Jessica's character to be more flat & single dimensional than Joe's.

    My rating: 4.5/5 too! :D

    1. Haha, I don't see how you can still watch every TVB drama either. I watch like 5 a year nowadays. Yes, for once a series stayed strong and consistent til the end!

      Yeah, I liked how they went back to Kenneth's story as opposed to just leaving it where it was in the first episode. That would've been wasted potential - something TVB usually loves to commit. I'm really glad Jessica's dead fiance's case wasn't the finale either, as it would've been very anti-climatic, especially because it involved mostly her and the others did not have much involvement in the case's climax. The finale had me at the edge of my seat and nervous the whole time, lol.

      Lol, yeah. I like Kenneth, but he has a tendency to let his puppy dog face show through his expressions. I've never disliked watching JJ. Despite her lack of fluency in Cantonese, her acting's not that bad, and she was decent acting alongside Kenneth.

      Hehe, yay for you finally becoming impressed with Oscar! :D His best character yet, hands down. His typical typecast of crude/gangster like roles did not show at all here.

      There is still some awkwardness, but at the same time, I feel like the character Yau Chun Hin was also a little awkward to a certain point. He was especially unsure and hesitant the first few episodes.

      What did you think of Him Law?

      Funny, despite Jessica having more of a backstory than Joe, I also felt she was more flat than his character. I enjoyed watching Joe working with his SDU team, and he really did seem like a leader and big brother to them. Their love story left much to be desired from me, but yes, the series did not put emphasis on romance so I found it acceptable.

      Best and most refreshing TVB series in the last few years. :D

  3. i've always liked Him Law (his personal life aside! haha) and consider that he is leading actor material. in this show itself, he has met my expectations, not exceeded it, so not exactly impressed. but it's good casting and he did well. ;)

    you know, before this i kept mixing up Katy Kung and JJ Jia!!! Don't ask me why! but now i can tell them apart! haha. i don't mind both actresses.

    1. Yeah, I think Him is leading actor material too. I minded his personal life at first, but as long as he stays out of trouble from now on and matures, I can move on from that. He's been a decent actor with promise and potential since he started. I can definitely see him as lead. I hope to see Edwin lead first tho, then Him. :)

      Haha, I used to think the two look similar too. They're both decent actresses, tho I find Katy a lot more natural and one of the best new young actresses. I really liked her in Be Home for Dinner.