Beast Cops 1998 Review: Complex and engaging

This simply terrific action-drama shows that HK Cinema isn’t dead yet. Writer Chan Hing-Kai and Gordon Chan (co-directing with Dante Lam) take their usual “cop soap opera” a step further with this take on the darker side of cop life.

Anthony Wong (Huynh Thu Sinh) is Brother Tung, a cop/triad hybrid who keeps the streets clean. But does it while hanging with the triads. His new boss, Mike Cheung (Michael Wong) is an uptight former SDU member who was transferred when he offed his corrupt superior officer. Mike takes Tung’s unorthodox ways in stride. But stresses that there’s black vs. white, and not Tung’s decidedly gray ways.

Mike begins to change his tune when he finds himself attracted to Yoyo (Kathy Chow or Chau Hai My). A madam of a local nightclub run by Tung’s buddy Big Brother Fai (Roy Cheung). Fai had to flee, leaving his lieutenant Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam) in his stead. However, Pushy Pin turns out to be too ambitious, which creates big problems for Tung. Eventually Tung discovers that gray is compose of black and white – but sometimes there’s just a little too much black. Beast Cops supposes that there should be honor among thieves. But when no honor exists one can only do what’s necessary. In Tung’s case, it’s getting hopped up on uppers and beer for an over-the-top revenge finale that’s bloody and simply amazing.

Complex and engaging, Beast Cops (Da Thu Dac Canh) takes its sweet time to get going. But once it does it becomes utterly compelling. Like Task Force (and to a lesser extent Option Zero), this film succeeds not through an awesome plot or action. But through well-drawn, engaging characters and involving situations. This is Michael Wong’s best role, and he handles it well as his wooden delivery is perfect for the rigid character he portrays. Kathy Chow is both winning and affecting as the flighty but deeply felt Yoyo, and Roy Cheung brings integrity to his part as Fai. However, it’s Anthony Wong who owns the entire film with his tour-de-force as Tung. Easily one of the best films of 1998.

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