Director: Gordon Chan, Dante Lam
Writer: Gordon Chan, Chan Hing Kar
Producer: Gordon Chan, Dante Lam
Cast: Anthony Wong, Michael Wong, Stephanie Che Yuen Yuen, Kathy Chow, Sam Lee, Patrick Tam, Roy Cheung, Arthur Wong Ngok Tai, Raven Choi Yip San, Michael Lui
Running Time: 104 min.
Beast Cops, for me, was the best film out in 1998, just beating Milkyway’s fantastic and even more seedy The Longest Nite at the post.
Why? Well, the acting (from award winners Anthony Wong and Patrick Tam to the lesser roles of Roy Cheung and the excellent Stephanie Che, nominated for an award in this, her first film) is completely first rate. I would say that Anthony Wong has put in his best performance to date here, with some fantastic thespianism (ooh!) and anyone who’s seen Beast Cops knows what I mean when I mention the balcony scene with Stephanie Che. I think that some of the praise heaped on Michael Wong here is a bit overdone as he doesn’t really DO anything of note as an actor but he fitted the role like a glove and the character development is all done visually (he shoots to kill as an SDU, drives a Hummer, smokes cigars, solves things “The American Way” – shoot everyone). Sam Lee is great in his second film and an interesting note is Gordon Chan gave him time off so he could finally finish his electrician’s course in college. Kathy Chow offers great support in a breakout role that should get here away from the “girl next door” stereotype, but I fear it’s too late for the excellent Roy Cheung who was pigeonholed years ago unfortunately. Patrick Tam shows that he’s one to watch as he turns in a great performance as the youngblood who doesn’t give a damn.
And that brings me on to the next point of the film. On the surface, Beast Cops is corrupt cops and triads with a shake up that provides the action, but look deep and Beast Cops is unique. The comment on youth – no one cares about the kid Michael Wong just shot and arrested; everybody loves violence until it is used against them, the young triads pissing their pants and hiding under baskets as a drug-addled and blood soaked Anthony Wong storms around singing and holding his blade in the air. The use of Ecstacy and steroids by on duty cops who openly use whores and have evidence of other business out of work (Tung’s house, full of arcade machines, cornershop coolers and boxes of old stock) is shocking as it is the first time it has ever been shown to my knowledge and it gives a whole new meaning to the term “bent cop”. As a comment on HK’s seedy underworld, Gordon Chan and his team have done a great job.
Chan’s direction and screenplay are other big, big plusses. Chan is one of those unique directors who can have a film that is as deep as you want it to be, as throwaway as Young and Dangerous (albeit better) or deeper than classics like A Better Tomorrow. Chan never shouts at his players and knows what they are going to do, sitting down with them for a chat rather than giving them 30 seconds and multiple takes and so he gets the best from them and it is one reason why he is becoming one of my favourite directors. His style of filming makes the visual aspect very striking, with harsh lighting and small amounts of slow-mo that really enhance the film – the result being brutal yet almost anime style action that really gets you riveted to the screen. Chan makes the kind of movies I want to make and he is an inspiration. Beast Cops is never dull during even the most trivial of scenes because it looks so damn good. With a budget lower than that of the catering for your average Hollywood production, Chan has worked miracles.
The finale is the part of this movie that will be the most talked about in years to come, but with good reason. Chan’s aim here I believe was to make a dig at those Triad pictures that glorify the violence, as the blood flows at an amazing pace but it is never unbelievable and it would certainly discourage potential Triads from getting into knife fights. The visuals are fantastic and the look on Anthony Wong’s face as he charges toward Pushy Pin Wah immortalizes his performance – the rage is so believable. The morale of the combatants is also used by Chan, as he has the cocky Pushy Pin turn into Pussy Pin when Tung laughs while gripping the blade of his machete bare-handed. The final showdown is almost Kurosawa-like because of this. The next twist in the plot is never predictable in Beast Cops, as it goes against the norm so many times.
Beast Cops is a movie that both nerdy movie buffs and stupid inbreds can get enjoyment from, even more so than Star Wars (more specifically The Empire Stikes Back) and that is a big stamp of approval from someone who has seen that certain film 20 odd times. It is a brilliant spectacle.
And as a bonus, is contains the immortal name Punk-Punk. I’m calling MY kids that.
Tequila’s Rating: 10/10 – A classic movie, one of the best of the nineties.
Early in the film, Anthony Wong’s character says “I am a…I’m a cop!” You’d never know this, however, as he doesn’t do anything in “Beast Cops” that’s even remotely cop-like. His partner, played by Sam Lee, is also very un-cop-like and not just because of his trademark frizzy ‘fro. Both enjoy the whores, drinking, smoking, gambling, protecting neighborhood triads, and generally being admitted lazy-asses throughout the entire film. Not that all police officers in real life are virtuous crime-fighters with huge hearts of gold. I’m sure they enjoy their vices too. In fact, living in L.A., I hear stories all the time about cops stealing cocaine from evidence lockers; cops beating the hell out of innocent teens simply for wearing baggy clothing and bandanas; and cops who spend a few too many of their overtime dollars in establishments like Deja Vu Showgirls. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with portraying unsavory policemen in a movie aptly titled “Beast Cops”. However, what irked me most about this film wasn’t the general do-nothingness of Lee’s and A. Wong’s characters, but rather the general do-nothingness of the usually heroic Michael Wong.
M. Wong, a favorite of mine despite his monotonous delivery and expressionless responses to both romantic advances and guns being held to his head is supposed to join forces with A. Wong and Lee to vanquish some local triads. He drives a menacing Hummer, wears cool outfits (Banana Republic?) and grimaces on cue. He is supposedly thrust into A. Wong’s life to whip the cop led astray into shape. However, despite the fact he drives a big-ass black Hum-Vee (a Hum-Vee in Hong Kong! How cool is that?!); despite the fact he can score the head whore simply by looking cool (the HEAD whore by simply looking COOL!); despite the fact it’s even Michael “I’m in Every HK SDU Movie” Wong, he inexplicably fails to bring the expected discipline and morale to A. Wong’s unit. And not because M. Wong is particularly wooden here, but because his character is severly under-written. Whose ass inexplicably gets kicked the most in “Beast Cops”? Michael Wong! And he’s ex-SDU! WTF?!
Anyway, maybe I’m getting too bent out of sByhape about how M. Wong’s character is portrayed in “Beast Cops”. Because despite this, “BC” is an enjoyable, refreshingly well-written film that includes some of the best dialogue I’ve ever heard in a HK film. All of the performances (even M. Wong’s) are commendable. The violence is kept to a minimum until the final third when all hell breaks loose and knives are frequently thrust into the exposed necks of many a victim. I won’t mention the ridiculous sub-plot involving a triad boss and his love of custard cups or the equally ridiculous collection of silly-monikered gangsters like Man-dick, Custard Thui, Big Fucking Brother and Pushy Pin.
Despite the film’s flaws, this is definitely a must-see for any fan of the HK “heroic bloodshed” genre. Hell, it’s a must-see for ANY fan of intense, well-acted, well-written detective tales. Recommended.
Alexander’s Rating: 8/10
Beast Cops: A breath of fresh air after being stuck in an overflowing port-a-potty all day.
Much of the film strives for in-your-face realism to the point where you feel like a fly on the wall observing real-life events. It’s not slick, it’s frank. The world in which it takes place bears a much stronger resemblance to the one in which we actually live than those presented by many other films, Hong Kong and otherwise.
No elaborate kung fu bouts…just people beating the shit out of each other. No dazzling swordplay…just people getting cut and stabbed from behind and bleeding into their shabby clothes. No storybook romance…just people exercising their genitals and spending time together out of loneliness, not affection. No condoms within easy reach when you need them…just…well, mustn’t give too much away.
Sometimes the impression Beast Cops gives is more like that of a documentary than a drama, and not just because the actors sometimes turn towards the camera and speak directly to the audience. It’s also because, in a good number of scenes, the camera holds still and there’s no music…thus, the performers don’t have all the additional perks that cinema typically provides in order to get the point across. Nothing is rammed down the viewer’s throat; instead, we’re given a chance to look in on these cops, as if through a one-way mirror, during some of their most private moments, instead of just the glamorous, heroic parts of their lives where they save the day, get the girl, and walk off into a nauseatingly cheerful sunset.
Michael Wong, not as flat as usual, is a consummate cop who drives a Hummer (in the days before the Suburban Yuppie Mommies of the world started switching over to them, having decided that their SUVs just didn’t hog enough of the road). Anthony Wong is more charismatic as a less admirable character, a cop who freely indulges in Hong Kong’s seedy night life. Also, Kathy Chow is quite good as the emotionally unstable Yo Yo, a woman who dresses like those 13-year old sluts who get sent to boot camp on daytime talk shows, and Sam Lee and Roy Cheung fill their smaller roles nicely.
While not categorically an action movie, Beast Cops has a share of adrenaline-charged sequences that don’t hold anything back. The most memorable part of the movie by far is when Anthony Wong attacks the treacherous young gangster Pushy Pin in an alcohol-fueled frenzy…he gets stabbed and bludgeoned and shot and beaten around like a human pinball but he absolutely refuses to fall over and die like he ought to because his thirst for blood is just that damn strong.
Whether you’re tired of straightforward, balls-out HK action flicks or not, Beast Cops is well worth 110 minutes of your time.
Numskull’s Rating: 8/10
By Vic Nguyen
Sweeping the 1998 Hong Kong film awards this past year (including best picture and best screenplay), the Special Administrative Region’s films in 1998 have never been better than Beast Cops. This latest work from Gordan Chan Kar-seung and his protege Dante Lam is an immensely entertaining character study, layered with shining performances, bouncy camera-work, and an intelligent script with heavy doses of wit and humor.
*SPOILER WARNING* The films plot centralizes around a decorated cop named Michael Cheung (Michael Wong Man-tuk). Cheung has been appointed to the anti-triad division of the force, and subsequently moves in with his cohorts, Tung and Sam (Anthony Wong Chau-sang and Sam Lee). Sam is the slacker-type who drives around in a scooter, and prides himself as the “ladies man”. Tung is a pleasure seeker who’s quick mouth makes himself popular with his aquaintances. This feature makes himself especially popular with a local triad group, with whom he’s working for. As Tung shows Michael around the various hangouts littered in Hong Kong, he brings him to a popular triad spot, where Michael meets, and eventually falls for Yo Yo (Kathy Chow), a hooker who has been left behind by the local dai go who promised to run away with her. This dai go, or big brother (Roy Cheung), who is a friend of Tung’s, had fled to China in order to escape an unintentional murder rap. As big brother is gone, his sai lo, a young, arrogant triad named Pushy Pin, takes it upon himself to over. Pushy Pin has his own type of infatuation with Yo Yo, and unsurprisingly, is furious to hear of Michael and Yo Yo’s relationship. He attempts to have Michael “bumped off”, but his efforts falter. This is where the film takes a sharp turn in the other direction when big brother returns, only to be killed by Pushy Pin himself. Every single twist and turn ultimately leads up to the over-the-top conclusion, where it pits everyone, more particularly Tung and Pushy Pin, in a no-holds-barred knife and fist fight. *END SPOILERS*
As mentioned before, the main reason that drives Beast Cops ahead from the rest as one of the best of 98 is because of it’s script, which was jointly written by Chan Hing-kai (A Better Tomorrow, Hitman) and Gordon Chan. The screenplay manages to blend drama and violent action with scenes of hilarious, and often dark comedy. The film even takes a documentary turn, in which the actors speak to the camera, therefore breaking the fine line between them and the viewer. Hell, even the typical romantic subplot doesn’t drag the film down (like so many other Hong Kong movies, ala Black Mask), in fact, it provides a good chunk of the humor (a particularly memorable scene features Wong desperately searching for a substitute for condoms).
As mentioned in plenty of other reviews, the title Beast Cops, often misguides the viewer, leading them to believe that the film is a hardcore action film, in the tradition of other Gordon Chan Kar-seung efforts, like the Option series (which also stars Michael Wong). Instead, they are treated to a character study, leaving very little room for over-the-top action. Instead, realism sets in, and once again, they take the documentary turn, as a handheld camera bounces around shooting all the carnage that surrounds it. Of course, those gore hungry fans who are disappointed in the limited action sequences that Beast Cops offers will definitely not be disappointed in the gore factor. The film’s action, especially the finale, features plenty of brutal stabbings and shootings, in the tradition of Hong Kong cinema. The finale is a prime example, as Tung is literally drenched in blood by the end, although I might gripe that it gets a bit too over-the-top, with derivative, music video music in the tradition of hacks like Brett Ratner (not to say that Gordon Chan is at the same level as Ratner, Chan is eons ahead when it comes to talented filmmaking)
Whew! While citing the superb script and how not to view Beast Cops for the action, I forgot to mention my single favorite element to the film, the powerful and superb performances. Wait a minute, powerful and superb performances and Michael Wong don’t go together. Wong, who is undoubtebly the most criticized actor in HK cinema history, breaks that typecast by delivering the best performance of his entire career. His use of the English dialogue to get around the tougher Cantonese phrases is used to a minimum here, and he manages to stand out during his key sequences. But as much as he stands out, he cannot, even on his best day, make himself stand out when the great Anthony Wong Chau-sang is on screen. Wong, who appears a bit bloated in this film (due to the fact of an illness he is recovering from), is the strongest out of the ensemble cast. His lines are delivered with his characteristic wit and sarcasm. His dramatic scenes are also well handled, making this an all around jaw dropping performance. Add this to one of the many awards Wong has received for best actor. The actor who plays Pushy Pin (I forgot his name), is also impressive, and earned the film another award, a Best Newcomer trophy at the ceremonies this year. Sam Lee, whose appearence is reduced to a small role, gets some funny scenes, and basically provides some of the comic relief the film contains. Kathy Chow is very effective as Yo Yo, while Roy Cheung for once doesn’t play an irritating bad ass (from his work with Ringo Lam), and settles down to deliver a restrained and impressive performance. To sum it all up, none of the cast disappoints the least bit.
With 1998 long past, in my opinion, nothing in Hong Kong has ever topped Beast Cops. Although Milkyway film companies The Longest Nite comes close, it’s tiny subtitles have taken the enjoyment factor out of me. Beast Cops is a pleasant change of pace in a cinematic community where Hollywood films are currently dominating the territories own box office receipts. With Hong Kong’s decline in the quality of films, Beast Cops (and virtually every Milky Way production) is a step in the right direction. Ever since I read the first wave of reviews for the film, I have been anxiously awaiting the day when I finally saw it. Let’s just say I share the enthusiasm contained in most of the reviews, and that the wait was well worth it.
(Note: The sources that I viewed this film under were the Megastar VCD and it’s far superior DVD (duh). Although the VCD is LBX with readable subs and a trailer, the DVD blows it away in every aspect, and is well worth the extra money. The picture is sharp, with slim to nil artifacts. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is intense and mindblowing, and is far from the screwjobs that the company has released previously. Extras on the disc include trailers for Gordon Chan’s other works (Stephen Chiau’s starring vehicle King of Beggars, Michael Wong’s First Option, Dante Lam’s directorial debut Option Zero, and the Beast Cops trailer are featured), with a music video montage for other Media Asia releases, and some behind the scenes footage, activated when you view each individuals bio. Chapters are included, but are sparse, including only 9. Optional languages include Cantonese, Mandarin, and an English dub that is horrible to hear, and makes the film seem cartoonish. You can activate multiple remastered subs, which include English. )
Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9/10