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
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"
Unfortunately, every silver-lining has a cloud, and in this case it's
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
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
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.
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.
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.
presentation from Mega Star, as usual, with clear menus and well-composed
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?
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.
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
Providing you can pick the disc up for a reasonable sum, its definitely