In “White Dragon,” new to Amazon Prime Video on Friday, the hero is a London college lecturer named Jonah Mulray. Since the present is a darkish, difficult, tortured-family thriller set in Hong Kong, his title can’t assist however recall to mind the neo-noir touchstone “Chinatown” and its doomed Mulwrays.
The connection lurks in the again of your thoughts, the place you suppose, no, they will’t actually be asking for the comparability. But then in the fifth of the mini-series’s eight episodes, one other character tells Jonah he must mood his expectations of a solution to the thriller (his spouse’s homicide) as a result of, in spite of everything, “This is Hong Kong.” She doesn’t say, “Forget it, Jonah,” however we get the purpose.
“White Dragon,” proven on ITV in Britain final 12 months with the supremely uninteresting however much less Orientalist title “Strangers,” isn’t any “Chinatown.” But it has its deserves: the minor however distinct pleasures of location filming in Hong Kong, and the extra critical attraction of compelling casting.
The present’s emotional core is acquainted — the arc of Jonah and David Chen, a disgraced ex-cop, from antagonists to reluctant buddies — but it surely’s made contemporary by the pairing of the British actor John Simm (“Life on Mars,” “State of Play”) and the Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong (“Hard-Boiled,” “Infernal Affairs”), among the many most reliable and interesting performers in their respective industries.
It’s a slight spoiler to disclose how their characters come collectively; if you need the shock, watch the primary 15 minutes earlier than studying additional.
All proper then: Summoned to Hong Kong when his spouse dies in an auto accident, Jonah encounters David on the police station and discovers that they had been each married to the identical lady, an actual property govt who break up her time between continents and husbands.
Making the spouse the wrongdoer in a two-families situation is a pleasant departure from the norm. But the remainder of the story is a typical little-guy-against-the-big-machine conspiracy thriller, because the husbands attempt to show their spouse was murdered and find the wrongdoer among the many varied unsavory candidates: triad bosses, British diplomats, corrupt cops and the front-runner in the race for chief govt of Hong Kong.
“White Dragon” comes from the prolific British producers Harry and Jack Williams (“The Missing,” “Liar”), and like their different dramas — and far of the peak-TV panorama — it has a fluidity of execution that’s not the identical as having an precise model. It’s by no means fairly as enjoyable or romantic appropriately, and the characters’ phrases and actions are likely to run counter to frequent sense.
(And regardless of apparent good intentions in the prominence given to Asian characters and performers, the answer of the thriller manages to bolster the previous twin stereotype of Asian males as both sexless or sinister.)
The present does its job as gritty tourist-noir, although, with the director Paul Andrew Williams laying on the neon and the susurrating site visitors and taking us to websites acquainted to followers of Hong Kong’s wealthy cinematic historical past: the Lantau Island Buddha, Repulse Bay, Macau, the pier of the Jumbo floating restaurant, a silo-like atrium on the Lai Tak Suen housing blocks.
And Jonah and David are good firm. Simm, the cerebral Everyman, is ideal in the function — he concurrently will get throughout Jonah’s righteousness and his sense of guilt at being a righteous, entitled jerk. Wong is barely stiff together with his dialogue in a largely English-speaking half, however he’s nonetheless splendidly expressive; his sidelong glances and numb stares bear the entire weight of the world. (Katie Leung, continuing her admirable post-Harry Potter work, matches them as David’s bitter daughter.) They’re an excellent pair of nosy fellows, and as a bonus for sensitive viewers, no one’s nose is slashed.