Reviewed by: mrblue
In Hong Kong cop movies, viewers are treated to stories about slightly corrupt cops going after villains that usually end up in violent ways. On the Beat is a Mainland cop movie that focuses more on the small things, like stray dogs and domestic disputes. While it's not very exciting, the film is still an interesting look into Mainland culture.
Reviewer Score: 7
The film centers around Yang Guoli (Zhanho Li), a veteran cop in Beijing. Harried by his long-suffering wife, tired because of the long hours he must put in, fueled by the watching of 80's US TV series like Hunter, and most importantly, a firm believer in the government's laws and regulations, Guoli wants to find and provide some sense in justice in the city, but finds himself disappointed as most of his tasks are fairly tedious fare like finding illegal dogs. During an interrogation of one of the dog owners, Guoli's emotions come to a head, which threatens his career in the police department.
Director Ning Ying is known for a style that is heavily influenced by cinema verite, and On the Beat is no exception. Most of the cast is comprised of non-professional actors, with most of the cops actually played by Beijing policemen. Combined with a stark, almost documentary-like mise-en-scene and a soundtrack that emphasizes ambient noises rather than a sweeping score, On the Beat comes off as having a very dark and gritty style which turns out to benefit the movie very well. If matters were more slickly produced, then the picture could be seen as plodding and self-indulgent, but in actuality, Ning Ying has created an affecting glimpse into the somewhat hidden world of Mainland police work.
On the Beat isn't for everyone, especially if you're expecting a Hong Kong-style heroic bloodshed shootout and huge chopper fest. And even for those used to more talky films, viewers still might find On the Beat to be too slowly paced. Most notably, there is not "real" ending, as most of the main characters' story arcs are left up in the air. But despite these flaws, On the Beat is still worth checking out. If for nothing else, it provides a nice cinematic palate cleanser before your next trip into the realm of Hong Kong-produced dual-fisted ultra-violence.