Beast Cops (1998)

April 24, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Directors: Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Dante Lam Chiu-Yin
Script: Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Steve Chan Hing-Kai
Producer: Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, John Chong-Ching

Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Michael Wong Man Tak, Kathy Chow Hoi-Mei, Roy Cheung Yiu-Yeung, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Sam Lee Chan-Sam

Cantonese: Ye Sau Ying Ging
Mandarin: Ye Shou Xing Jing
Country: Hong Kong

Language: Cantonese
Running Time: 104 min

Anthony Wong is grunge-cop Tung; Sam Lee his partner Sam; Michael wong is straight-laced Cheung, their new boss. Thrown together in a rough Hong Kong neighbourhood, it’s order vs. chaos. Whose style will win over whom is the issue, to be decided largely through a series of late night/early morning conversations, as they hang out, do drugs, and date in a string of bars, dens, and dives. The Gordon Chan formula triumphs: narrative closure is assured by an exercise of expert knowledge allied with a professionalized monopoly of force. It is precisely in this way that a “safely” liberal, middle-class police state reasserts control of a world that seems frightening. To see the alternative, a world that, though unsettlingly out-of-control, contains a sense of freedom without limits, you’ll have to watch Patrick Yau’s ferocious The Longest Nite (for pessimism), or Fruit Chan’s sublime Made in Hong Hong (for poetry).

—Shelly Kracier

“Beast Cops is a great, inventive variant on both cop/action flicks and the engagingly unfocused ensemble dramas of Altman, Tarantino, Wong and Hal Hartley.”

–Jonathan Marshall, Siren/Chinatown Video, Heroic Cinema review

“This viciously exciting and brutal action thriller stuns with its ferocity.”

–Almar Haflidason, BBCI Film Reviews

“Director Gordon Chan on his latest film, leading ladies and why he hates Jim Carrey.”

–Stephen Short interviews Gordon Chan for Time Asia

“[Gordon] Chan makes some very interesting, unprecedented moves: he rejects the high polish, the finished look of his recent techno-cop films (the series that includes Final Option (1994), First Option (1996), Option Zero (1997, as producer), and Armageddon (1997), and substitutes something much more raw. For Beast Cops, he, co-director Dante Lam, and cinematographer Tony Cheung adopt the Hong Kong film industry’s small-budget “”indie”” look of the moment: a gritty, intense, casually shot feel that depends on a jittery, swoopy, hyperactive hand held camera, expressive lighting effects, and saturated colours. It’s a style (whose current popularity might be derived from its assimilation into the last huge commercial success of Hong Kong cinema, Young and Dangerous (1996)) that has well served several fine recent Hong Kong films: the standouts include Too Many Ways to Be Number One (1997), Made in Hong Kong (1997), and The Longest Nite (1998). In their bravura display of formal invention and their uncompromisingly bleak critical attitude, these three works are eviscerating an old world, laying the groundwork for a new. Their radical sensibility fits hand in glove with their radical style.”

–Shelly Kraicer, Chinese Cinema

“Rather than glamorise life in the triads the film portrays a life that is far from easy and quite desperate, even for those at the top. Roy Cheung and Patrick Tam certainly don’t seem to be having that good a time of it with Tam reaching boiling point in the final reel. Filmed at a a time when the Hong Kong film industry was at its lowest ebb and most under attack from piracy, the budget for ‘Beast Cops’ was a conservative $10MHK. However this in no way detracts from the film’s style and the film features excellent camerawork and editing, especially during the action scenes. For the first half the film plays almost like a documentary with its gritty street level view of life in Hong Kong. This feeling of realism is emphasised when the key characters address the camera directly; a nice touch and a good way to get across the motivation behind them. The action scenes are graphically violent making this view of gang life anything other than glamorous but the scenes still maintain a sense of drama and never become senseless unwatchable gore.”

–John Richards, Hong Kong Movie Page

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