Beast Cops
MEGA STAR
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Dante Lam & Gordon Chan
Year:
1998
Run Time:
110mins
Producer: Mega Star
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, Mandarin 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
Removable Chinese (S+T), English, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Thai, Spanish.
W/S Subtitles:
No
Ratio:
1.85:1 Non Anamorphic
Region:
Dual-Layer NTSC 0
Genre:
Heroic Bloodshed / Drama - IIB
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MOVIE
8/10

Crooked Officer Tung (Anthony Wong) is a man with few redeeming features - a cop who spends his days and nights moving from bordello to gambling house, accepting Triad bribes, whilst doing little in the way of Police work.
His comfortable lifestyle is soon shattered by the arrival of Mike (Michael Wong), an ex-S.D.U member, whose uncompromising stance towards Triads and criminals lands both himself and Tung in hot water.
Soon realising that events have spun out of his control, Tung decides that he can no longer live his life as a "kept Officer", and aims for a bloody redemption.

Anthony Wong had been suffering from glandular inflammation during filming, and his bloated features come as a bit of a shock to begin with, but in a strange way match his character perfectly.
Wongs exceptional portrayal of Tung is by turns captivating and saddening; you witness a man who's got so far into the Triad lifestyle, he can't see a way out.
The bravura performance he gives in the films finale is alone worthy of an Oscar, but it's the consistency of his portrayal that really impresses, with every action and decision in keeping with his character's personality.

For me though, the star of the show was Ah Wah / "Pushy-Pin, played by Patrick Tam Yiu-Man.
This superb young actor steals every scene and gives an unexpected depth and humanity to his character, which left me hating and pitying him in equal measure.
Ah Wah is a lot like Tung in many ways - a man who's out of his league, but sees no means of escape, and feels it's more difficult to turn back than continue forwards.
His character, and many others, add texture to the movie, raising it far above your average "Cops 'n' Triads" flick.

Unfortunately, every silver-lining has a cloud, and in this case it's Michael Wong...
Whilst he's far better than in any of his previous roles, his painfully poor Cantonese delivery produced a reaction in this reviewer akin to someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard.
Each time he appeared, the atmosphere and fluidity of the scene dropped several notches, and the fact that he plays a major role means his presence soon begins to irritate.
The only way I can explain this further is to liken it to listening to someone playing the piano beautifully, who then intermittently hits the wrong note.

Other than that negative point, the rest of the production is magnificent, with the remaining cast, especially Roy Cheung, providing sterling performances.

The one element which stands out above all others is the films brutality, something which the film title intimates.
Although not an action movie, the few moments of violence are frighteningly realistic and rarely foreseeable, making you feel just as vulnerable as the participants.
The films conclusion alone is one of the most tense and bloody finales I've seen in a long while, and the use of unconventional direction and editing heighten the atmosphere incredibly.

READ THE DVD COMPARISON HERE

PICTURE
7/10

Being a Dual-Layer disc I expected this transfer to be nigh-on perfect, but unfortunately it wasn't.
I was particularly disappointed with the artifacting, which although very mild, was still present throughout. Had the black levels been closer to black than dark grey, the artifacting would have been all but unnoticeable, but the transfer's slightly over-bright appearance make this impossible.

For such a recent film, 1998, the print's in fine shape with only a handful of noticeable marks and scratches. However, the beautiful lighting used in the production is somewhat lacking in vibrancy and whilst far from bland, it should have been better.
Detail levels are very good, adding a very nice crispness to the visuals, with close-ups also revealing wrinkles and stubble perfectly - except on the women!

I'm amazed how basic problems such as compression artifacts and black levels are still evident on this disc, while many of Universe's single-layer releases handle these elements perfectly.
Not a poor transfer, but one which betrays its dual-layer roots.

SOUND
9/10

Filmed in synch-sound 5.1 Dolby Digital, the audio of this release is excellent for the most part. There are a few scenes when the centre speaker's volume seems to drop, but this is fleeting and only occurs in a small number of instances.
The soundtrack was obviously of particular importance to the Directors, as it fits the mood of the film perfectly. The Pulp Fiction-esque arrangement which accompanies Tungs final battle brilliantly heightens the atmosphere, and adds polish to its presentation.
The surrounds are used frequently, with music often bouncing left to right across the speakers.
One aspect which I particularly enjoyed were the opening credits, which combined music and sound effects very cleverly, in order to grab your attention.

The English dub has been included, but it's awful (as most are), and should be avoided unless you're unable to read the subs. However, to anyone who dislikes subtitles, the English dub is a good example of how much better films are when viewed in their original language.

SUBTITLES
9/10

Occasionally the odd spelling mistake rears its ugly head, but other than that the subs are of a very high standard. Thankfully, and rightly, they're completely different from the English dubs dialogue, negating any worries of dub-titling.

MENUS
7/10

A polished presentation from Mega Star, as usual, with clear menus and well-composed layouts.

EXTRAS
6/10

I was disappointed that Sam Lee and Patrick Tam weren't included in the biographies section, although the information provided for Gordon Chan, Dante Lam, Michael Wong, Anthony Wong, Kathy Chau and Roy Cheung is very well written.
Although not strictly an extra, a nice bonus are the snippets of out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage which precede each Actor biography.

Other than the 9 animated chapter-stops, the only other extras are the Theatrical trailer and trailers for King Of Beggars, Option Zero and First Option, plus the incredibly tedious and dated Media Asia promo reel - surely it's time for them to construct a new one?

PACKAGING
8/10

A very smart cover design, with an excellent front image and a montage of screen-shots on the reverse.
The vibrancy of the images which adorn the box are testament to the film's cinematography, and also a reminder of the transfers shortcomings.

CONCLUSION
8/10

This excellent film, with its uncompromising style, climactic ending and many superb performances is a breath of fresh-air in a genre which was quickly becoming stale.
Unfortunately, due solely to the presence of Michael Wong, my overall feeling towards the movie was one of frustration - how much better would it have been with a more capable actor?

Although this dual-layer transfer was somewhat of a letdown, especially when you take into account Mega Star's higher than average retail price, this film is required viewing, if only for Anthony Wong's career-best portrayal.
Providing you can pick the disc up for a reasonable sum, its definitely worth buying.

MOVIE 8/10
PICTURE
7/10
SOUND
9/10
SUBTITLES
9/10
EXTRAS
6/10
MENUS
7/10
PACKAGING
8/10
OVERALL 8/10