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'White Dragon' is a Gritty Thriller That Showcases the Beauty of Hong Kong
February 8, 2019  | By David Hinckley

Professor Jonah Mulray’s story in White Dragon begins with your basic unspeakable tragedy. He’s pulled out of his classroom in London to hear that his wife has been killed in a car crash in Hong Kong.

If that’s all there were to the story, of course, it wouldn’t become an eight-episode TV drama like White Dragon, a British production that was titled Strangers in the U.K. and renamed for its American debut Friday on Amazon Prime.

For the introductory scenes, Mulray (John Simm, top right) seems just understandably numb. When the police in Hong Kong behave evasively, with a hint of a chill, he starts to wonder if he’s being walled off from part of the story.

Still, the details appear simple. His wife Megan (Dervla Kirwan) was backing up to take a detour away from a closed road when a huge truck slammed into the side of her car, apparently killing her on impact.

And that would be that, just your basic unspeakable tragedy, except two unexpected things soon happen.

First, Jonah learns that he was not Megan’s only husband. Where he and she had been married for the past three years, she had also been married for the past 20 years to Hong Kong policeman David Chen (Anthony Wong, top left).

Jonah’s introductory meeting with Anthony, not surprisingly, becomes an improvised mashup of anger, revelation and awkward pauses.

Then, as if Jonah needed more complications in his day, he’s punched in the face by a man who steals his laptop and passport.   

To straighten things out, at least with his passport, Jonah enlists the help of a sympathetic woman at the British embassy, Sally Porter (Emilia Fox). As she fixes him up with temporary travel documents, he decides to stick around Hong Kong for a little while to see if he can figure out what was really going on for these three years when he thought he was happily married.

Among other things, he’s thinking he really should have visited Megan during her frequent business trips to Hong Kong. He didn’t, so he’s playing catchup now, and it turns out there’s way more than he could have imagined to catch up with.

Sample: Wong and Megan had a daughter, Lau (Katie Leung), who has grown up into a fiery social activist. This complicates her father’s life in general and particularly complicates it now, since her protest group’s current target is Xiaodong Xo (Kenneth Tsang), an uber-rich corporate sleaze who is campaigning to become Hong Kong’s new leader.

If you’re thinking this seemingly local situation will soon tie back to Professor Jonah Mulray, then you may qualify to be a television screenwriter.

White Dragon is a political and crime mystery thriller that delivers a good dose of tension and danger. Simm plays Mulray beautifully, as a sympathetic character who has flaws that include a temper and periodic lapses in impulse control.

It takes a couple of episodes for viewers to get a sense of how deep the ominous behavior and its lethal implications run. Once that’s clear, the pace picks up. In the meantime, the gorgeous cityscapes and claustrophobic back alleys of Hong Kong are sufficiently photogenic to make White Dragon double as an enticing travelogue. Just be sure to hang onto your passport.

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