Review: The Menu

What and who determines the boundaries of ethics in journalism? Hong Kong action drama ‘The Menu’ explores the cutthroat and competitive news business in the country and even in the world. 

Hong Kong is known for their paparazzi news teams that will go all out, through all means and ways to be the first to publish their stories, even if they are through unethical and sometimes, even illegal methods. But where do we draw the line in the field of getting a newsworthy story? 

The Menu is a movie spin-off from the popular HKTV series about the fast-evolving ecosystem of Hong Kong’s media industry. The digital age has intensified the way we receive and digest news - for the better and worse. 

Directed by Ben Fong who also helmed the TV series and stars Ng Man-tat, Gregory Wong, Catherine Chau and Kate Yeung. Set in a hostage crisis at a TV station where reporters of Smart Post and Flash Post fight for clicks and readership. 

Around two-thirds of the film revolves around the hostage situation in the TV station where Tam, a father of a murdered daughter seeks revenge on the now successful entrepreneur Ko Yin-Yan, who evaded the sentence by bribing a key witness. And because of Hong Kong’s law of ‘double jeopardy’ that forbids the prosecution to press the same charge against the same person again, Ko is practically a free man despite his despicable acts. 

Covering the story from Smart Post are interim editor-in-chief Fong Ying (Catherine Chau), photojournalist Mallory (Kate Yeung) and Lo Ka-Fai (Gregory Wong). Despite uncovering new leads and scoring exclusive interviews within the TV station, competitor Flash Post seems to beat them at it. Wanting to keep the entire process of gathering information and publishing the news via ethical means, this resulted in them losing the ‘first to post’ battle with Flash Post. After hours of negotiation with Tam, he finally surrenders to the police. 

The Menu’s unscrupulousness of news gathering may be dramatised for the big screen, but it does, to a certain extent, reflect the current state we are in. Be it as a contributor in the media industry or part of the general public that receives the news through our own social media channels, it is important to ‘get the whole story’. The film’s proposition of how social media could create a social movement is not unrealistic, considering how much these platforms lead to a surprise and often real-life campaigns happening in our everyday lives, especially in today’s world.

What gels the story together is not the somewhat slipshod narrative that haphazardly concludes the heist situation, but the end credits featuring real-life photos of journalists and photographers crossing the line in the name of journalism.

The Menu feels like a tribute to the world of journalism, yet acting as a wake-up call to the dirty dealings of the fourth estate.  - Flora