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~Dĵ (1998)
Beast Cops

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 11/06/2008
Summary: A film of two halves


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Soundtrack: Dolby Digital

Whereas John Woo had popularized the theme of 'heroic bloodshed' in the mid-1980's (cf. A BETTER TOMORROW, etc.), BEAST COPS - co-directed by Gordon Chan Ka-seung and Dante Lam Chiu-yin - exposes corruption within the police force and the corrosive effect of power on a new generation of opportunistic gangsters. Produced at a time of economic and social crisis in Hong Kong, the film clearly reflects the mood of a country in flux. However, Lam's lop-sided thriller takes a l-o-n-g time finding its feet on the mean streets of an ever-changing Hong Kong.

The ubiquitous Anthony Wong Chau-sang plays Tung, a sloppy - and somewhat complacent - detective who 'pals it up' with some of the very crime lords he's supposed to be policing, while Michael Wong Man-tak is Cheung, the new police boss in town, eager to challenge the status quo exemplified by the likes of Tung and his smug compatriots. The film lurches from one seemingly pointless scene to another for around 45 endless minutes, following these not-terribly-interesting characters as they interact with various girlfriends and comedic hangers-on (including Sam Lee Chan-sam as a scatterbrained cop who looks more like a surfer than a hardened lawman!), until a semblance of narrative begins to emerge from the fog of banality: Upstart mobster Thumbtack Wa (Patrick Tam Yiu-man) takes advantage of a gap in the Triad hierarchy following the departure of mob boss Fai (Roy Cheung Yiu-yeung), forced to flee the country following a bungled hit on a fellow gangster. Unfortunately for everyone around him, Wa is a burgeoning psychopath who rules by fear and intimidation, resulting in sudden eruptions of horrific violence against anyone who stands in his way. Worse still, Wa hides behind a long-standing 'financial arrangement' with Tung which renders him virtually untouchable. And as the violence escalates, the situation spins completely out of control...

Once Wa ascends the throne of power, Chan's narrative (co-written by Chan Hing-kar) gains a dramatic foothold, and the film's latter stages are as brutal and visceral as anything in the HK movie canon. However, the two leads (highly resistible at the best of times) are overshadowed by Tam - a hugely underrated actor - playing a complex character, far removed from the cackling, one-dimensional villains of old. By contrast, veteran bad-guy Cheung plays it smooth as an equally complex character who clings in vain to an old-style code of honor (to his detriment, as it turns out). Unfortunately, the film's opening stretch is a complete disaster, mixing comedy, drama and 'local color' to mind-numbing effect, not helped by the introduction of various romantic entanglements, all of which is meant to 'humanize' the characters, but which instead comes across as slapdash and rudderless, to say the least. Some viewers will tune out long before the storyline ploughs a recognizable furrow, though patience is advised - it DOES get better as it goes along, trust me!! Production values are scrappy in places, but fine overall.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 01/10/2008

“Beast Cops” is a cop/triad/buddy movie with some strong performances from key actors, excellent set design and decent action direction but it ultimately founders due to the by-the-numbers script and the dramatic limitations of Michael Wong. The scene is set under the credits, slightly out of focus shots of Hong Kong street life at night, with a moving camera and tilted plane that lets us know we will be seeing an urban drama with cops and bad guys. It begins with what should have been a quick hit against a mob boss that turns into a bloodbath with the assassin implicating Big Brother Fai with his dying breath. Fai, very well played by Roy Cheung, has to go on the run right away leaving a leadership vacuum in his small slice of the Hong Kong underworld and throwing long standing personal and professional relationships into disarray.

Brother Tung is full contradictions—he is a cop who has grown up with the men who now are gang bosses, is willing to overlook some of their crimes in order to keep peace in the area. Michael Cheung shows up, a cop who likes to do things by the book and who is more interested in making arrests than in keeping the lid on things. We are first introduced to him in a flashback which is shown right after the botched assassination. Cheung leads a squad of hooded and masked SWAT operatives into a hostage situation that he resolves by shooting the kidnapper just before the criminal pulls the trigger. We find out the kidnapper is the third person that Cheung has killed in the line of duty, a number that impresses his new boss.

The parallel between Fai’s muddled hit and Cheung’s surgical precision is telling. Unfortunately Gordon Chan fell in love with it--an approach to structuring the story that becomes a bit too obvious the fourth or fifth time it is used. For example, Yo-Yo notices the lights are fixed in her apartment and thinking about Cheung intercut with Cheung passing the time thinking of her. In another case Cheung and Yo-Yo fall into a passionate clinch while Tung and his girlfriend snuggle up to drift off to sleep fully clothed. The strangest one is in succeeding scenes in which first Anthony Wong and then Michael Wong break the fourth wall and address the camera (and the audience) directly concerning their characters’ outlook on police work. Anthony as Tung tells us that both cops and criminals make their living with guns but that criminals don't get a paycheck every month so if they don’t work they don’t eat, underlining his casual “we are all in this together” attitude. Michael as Cheung Michael Wong sees the world in terms of black and white with no grey area between them, a Manichean view with a sharp, bright and unmistakable line between good and bad—he makes the point that there is no grey area. Since Anthony Wong operates completely in the grey area so the conflict is clear—too clear. Gordon Chan hammering away at the differences and similarities between these two begins to look self indulgent and certainly becomes annoying.

Cheung’s claim to an unambiguous and categorical view of good and bad is undermined constantly—his first day on the job he sees his chief lieutenant taking money and drugs from criminals but ignores it. He is simply an uninteresting and underdeveloped character, a real problem in the script since his relationship with Tung and how both of them change is the core of the movie. When Fai returns from his Mainland exile the energy and direction change completely. Fai is someone intriguing, a violent but complex man who has been tested in the crucible of deadly Triad competition. He is, much like Tung, not quite up with the times. Even though he is given an oblique warning by the treacherous Custard Fai, a senior who has sold him out once already, Fai is still fatally tied to the Triad code of loyalty from subordinates and to superiors.

Two sequences ring completely false. One is after the takeover by dissolute Thumbtack Wa. He is shown as more evil than the old school triads because he wants to introduce the drug Ecstacy into the club where Yo-Yo is the mamasan, truly a Hollywood type contrivance. Extortion, pimping, assault, the occasional murder are acceptable for gangsters but running drugs immediately makes them bad gangsters. The other is the seemingly tacked on happy ending which winds up everything—Fai is avenged, Cheung is not only tough but street-smart, Tung has become righteous, Yo-Yo has the glow of an expectant mom and the streets are safe once again for small time criminals to ply their trade without undue interference.

I don’t want to criticize this film too much—I liked it and, with reservations, can recommend it—but the last battle between Tung and Thumbtack Wa—actually between Tung and Wa’s entire gang—went on far too long. At some point it becomes Grand Guignol excess. Tung has been shot, stabbed several times, slashed several times, stomped on, hit with clubs, hit with fists, had a florescent light smashed over his head and probably a few other outrages that I missed. This would not usually be a problem since Hong Kong action heroes and villains often take an enormous amount of punishment and continue to fight. But here it simply took forever and got to the point where it was simply ridiculous for Tung to be set upon yet again.

There are a lot of terrific performances in addition to Anthony Wong and Roy Cheung. Patrick Tam was perfectly villainous, Kathy Chow was delightfully sexy, her character grounded just enough so that it was easy to empathize with her, Stephanie Che lit up the screen in a small and oddly written role and Dick Tung was so sleazy that it was a pleasure to see his character dispatched. The film looks great—the squalor of Tung’s apartment was captured flawlessly and the cinematography, which included a lot of handheld and steadicam shots, was close to impeccable.

A good but flawed film

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 05/17/2007
Summary: Is this a joke I haven't been let in on?

I have to stand alongside Sydney Guy and S.A. Winters in the minority; this is a good but not great movie. Every time I come to the HKMDB site and my glance falls on Beast Cops listed in the top 25 Hong Kong films I get irritated. Whatever spell this film cast on most reviewers and the awards people was ineffective on me.

I did think Anthony Wong did a fine job as the corrupt cop. Why so many reviewers describe his character as a little, or slightly shady I don't know; he's fully corrupt. The guy just cruises the streets at night using his shield to freeload off everyone. He doesn't freeload off the local triad, though; no, he earns the money the boss spots him to gamble with by turning a blind eye on their doings. He's not a sympathetic character, even though most of us would rather hang around with him than with the by-the-book cop played by Michael Wong. He has charm, not integrity.

Spoiler warning for the rest of this paragraph, though honestly I think you'll see everything coming in advance as you watch the movie. A. Wong's cop only battled the triad when the guy who usurped his (A. Wong's) triad boss's position kills the ex-boss. Then he exercised the "honor among triads" by going after the guy, something none of the actual triads would do, demontrating that A. Wong's cop was actually more of a triad than the triads. Yet the movie makes like he's a hero for doing this; actually he's just a triad doing what triads do, which is the same thing the usurper is. He's just more likeable because he's a jovial loser vs. the usurper's calculating coldheartedness.

This is another movie in which Sam Lee appears as a lady killer! This is a joke that's gone stale.

Don't get me wrong, it's a decent movie. But "must see" Hong Kong fare? No. It just doesn't merit all those 9's and 10's people are giving it.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 05/02/2007

It's been a few years since I'd watched Beast Cops. Which details pertaining to this great film stick with me the most?

1. Anthony Wong's acting - What a remarkable performer! I especially love the "But I love you" after that long pause.

2. The final sequence - grim and touching at the same time, the value of loyalty within the triad is reinforced.

3. random one liners. "And the turtle is from a turtle restaurant." --> one of my favorites!

4. Michael Wong. I believe this was one of the first films I'd seen with him in, and I'd always heard of his legendary suckage as far as acting goes. Well, I found him quite "lovable" here as a cop ("I became a cop b/c I don't know what I would have become if I didn't become a cop"). This is THE Michael Wong's finest hour, nuff said.

This film is a must-see for HK cinephiles. However, it is not yet a personal favorite.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 01/14/2007
Summary: two wongs make a right...

tung (anthony wong) and lee (sam lee) are two cops, who share an apartment and work a couple of triad dominated streets in hong kong. the two operate slightly outside of police regualations (and the law, in general), but within a moral framework that is closer to that of the triads. big brother (roy cheung), the boss who covers this area, has a close relationship with tung that extends beyond mutual respect; he runs a nightclub, where tung and lee are frequent attendees and his girlfriend, yoyo (kathy chow), is the mammasan (looking after the girls who work there).

somehow, this strange relationship preserves the peace and everyone is pretty happy with the situation. that is, until a botched assassination means that big brother has to flee hong kong, leaving his territory and yoyo behind. this coincides with the appointing of tung and lee's new boss, a decorated, ex-sdu officer, cheung (michael fitzgerald wong; yep, i was suprised that the 'f', doesn't stand for 'fucking'...)

cheung has a very different view of the world, and the role of the police, to tung and lee; to him, things are blank and white. as cheung spends more time with his new colleagues, he finds his perspective altering, especially as his relationship with yoyo develops. unfortunately, trouble is on the horizon; pushy pin (patrick tam) has stepped into the void left by big brother's departure and his ambitions are about to destroy the peaceful status quo that existed before.

gordan chan and dante lam, sharing the director's chair(s), have created a fine film, packed with interesting, well rounded characters and an original, fresh look at a genre that has been extensively covered (and still continues to be) by hong kong film makers. more than that, they manage to make michael wong look good...

if you talk to anyone who knows, even a little, about hong kong cinema, you'll get very few people questioning the fact that anthony wong is one its greatest actors and michael wong is one of its worst. its no suprise that anthony wong puts in a great performance here; he conveys the depth of his character in a fine naturalistic and understated style, which won him three seperate 'best actor' awards. this is not really a suprise: what is a suprise, is michael wong's performance. one could argue that gordan chan created a role that was ideal for michael wong but, regardless of this, this is one of the very few cases, where michael wong isn't terrible; in fact, he's more than just watchable, he's pretty good! yes, i never thought i'd write that. somehow, michael won's clunkiness meshes perfectly with cheung's straight-man persona and he even manages to be good when cheung realises that the world isn't black and white. wow!

beyond the excellent work of the two wongs, the entire cast is solid and pack the film's extensive cast of characters with fine performances that bring chan and lam's world to life. i have to mention sam lee here, despite the great work of the two main leads it is lee's lee, who is my favourite character: he's just great.

excellent and highly recommended...

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 09/19/2006
Summary: Magnificent

In a word, magnificent with a capital M. Beast Cops is one of the best films ever made. If you are new to Hong Kong Cinema, this is a movie you must see.
En una palabra, magnífico, con todas las letras mayúsculas. Policías Bestia es una de las mejores películas jamás hechas. Si eres nuevo en el cine de Hong Kong, esta es una película que debe ver.

En un mot, magnifique, avec toutes les lettres majuscules. Beast Cops est un des meilleurs films jamais réalisés. Si vous êtes nouveau cinéma de Hong Kong, c'est un film que vous devez voir.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/08/2005
Summary: Great movie with a Lot to Offer!!!

An excellent artistic action/drama movie, portraying the life of cops and triads, with the lead performance by two of HK legendary Stars Anthony Wong and Michael Wong. The movie beings with the brother-like relationship of Brother Tung (Anthony Wong) and Big Brother Fai (Roy Cheung), in a Gambling Joint, where Anthony Wong is a part Gambling Addicted / Good Cop whom is completely infatuated with HK nightlife. Both Roy Cheung and Anthony Wong have an understanding where Roy Cheung is allowed to run the gambling joint / Night club, provided he keeps all the triads in order. Later in the movie, Roy Cheung hires a small-time assassin to kill one of the other Big Brothers of another Triad Society. The Assassin succeeds, but during the escape misses his queue to escape and jumps out of a two storey high building, ironically only to be accidentally run over by Roy Cheung, the Triad Boss whom hired him. The assassin dies and with his last dying breath, tells Anthony Wong that Roy Cheung was the person whom had paid him to carry out the assassination. Anthony Wong also witnesses the car accident, but Roy Cheung panicking flees town for a while, until things calm down.

Finally Michael Wong comes in, soon after the departure of Roy Cheung, and tries to shape up Cops Anthony Wong and Sam Lee, in order to decrease the already high crime rate. Here we see a form of Love Triangle build up, where Michael Wong takes interest in Kathy Chow Hoi-Mei (who you might notice also came in Cheap Killers), along with Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam), smaller adopted brother of Roy Cheung whom is left in control after his departure, trying to make out of him by taking over all the Triad Gang and becoming the Big Brother. There are also several other love developments between Anthony Wong and a Hooker, which seems to only using Anthony Wong as a cushion for her problems. Sam Lee comes in this movie a few times (sometimes it looks like he’s acting more like the untamed, quirky Gen-X-Cop rather than an average young city cop) but not enough to actually develop a proper character. Also Roy Cheung is once again under used, where in total he only gets about 15 minutes of screen time. The movie is wholly centred around Michael Wong and Anthony Wong, which isn’t too bad since both actors are developing into Super Stars, although sometimes the movie unnecessarily focuses on the night life, rather than actually portraying any sort of history for character development.

Overall, this is an excellent movie and certainly shows, if given the opportunity Anthony Wong and Roy Cheung can really do well for themselves. Michael Wong does sometimes get annoying with his mixed Cantonese / English Dialect (which if you notice occurs in almost all the movies he seems to act in) although you do feel like getting of your couch and writing a letter of complaint to Michael Wong telling him this is a HK Movie, not a US Movie. If you’re looking for in depth plot, some action, and stunning performances, this is definitely the movie for you!!

Overall Rating: 8.9/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: SteelwireMantis
Date: 04/16/2004
Summary: One of my favourite movies (not just Hong Kong movies)

Gordon Chan directs Anthony Wong and Michael Wong with a whole load of stars in a brilliant drama about cops and triads.

Tung (A. Wong) is a slightly dirty cop who is loyal to Big Brother (Roy Cheung). After a bumbled assassination, Big Brother leaves Hong Kong for a while. Michael is a highly celebrated cop that is assigned to lead Tung and Sam (Lee). Michael falls for Yo Yo (Kathy Chow), Big Brother's girl and gets her pregnant. While Big Brother's rival Custard King (Arthur Wong) corrupts Big Brother's Godson Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam). On Big Brother's return a deadly web of betrayal, law and order, friendship and revenge ensues.

This movie had many different subplots to it, like Tung and Michael's love lives, Sam the player cop who gets into bed with a lot of women and a few others. What I really liked about this movie was the realism that it portrayed throughout (except for the end, then it gets surreal the HK way). A lot of dark humour in movie as well, Sam Lee is funny, and Anthony Wong is excellent as Tung, surprisingly Michael Wong is also great.

A cult classic, must watch.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/18/2003

Tung (A. Wong), a slightly dirty cop, has managed to keep a truce between the local gangs through his friendship with the local Big Brother (Cheung). However, when Big Brother must flee to the mainland after a botched hit, a young Triad named Push-pin decides to step in. Things go from bad to worse when Push-pin finds out Tung's new boss, Mike (M. Wong), is sleeping with Big Brother's ex-girlfriend. Tung must decide which side of the fence he is on and who to support.

Despite the title, Beast Cops is not the over-the-top action extravaganza you might expect. Rather, it is a GoodFellas-style look into the lives of the cops and Triads. The film has an almost documentary-like feeling in parts, such as when characters speak directly into the camera or through the use of steadicams. Like GoodFellas, Beast Cops also has a healthy dose of violence, often popping up when you least expect it.

All of the leads are good -- even Michael Wong, one of the worst actors I have ever seen on either side of the ocean, who can simultaneously butcher lines in both English and Cantonese is suprisingly decent. However, the real standout is Anthony Wong. A little paunchier than in previous films and with a scraggly goatee and perpetual rings under his eyes, it's very easy to see him as the world-weary Tung. And his over-the-top psycho performance at the end is just simply great. It's worth seeing this movie just to see the young Triads run like schoolgirls from the crazed, seemingly invincible Tung.

I only have a couple of nitpicks with Beast Cops. While the soundtrack is very good for the most part, the Pulp Fiction-ish surf music at the end really takes away from the ultra-violent turn in the action. Also, the last scene is far too cheery and seems to have been tacked on to please the audience. Overall, though, Beast Cops is one of the best crime movies I have seen in years. The ending leaves room for a sequel, which I would happily welcome.

As a side note, I was quite happy when I heard Beast Cops took home a few Hong Kong Film Awards, including best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best director and best screenplay.

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 01/25/2003

"Beast Cops" imbeds itself in the grey; the thin line dividing black from white where two members of an anti-triad unit closer resemble the people they have sworn to bring to justice than the law enforcement agents they supposedly are. The title leads new audiences in the wrong direction; the film itself is actually a drama with a heavy reliance on dialogue. The photography's many camera tilts suggest a society in trouble. Patrick Tam shines in a supporting role as a young triad looking for comeuppance.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: S.A. Winters
Date: 11/25/2002

Well, HK and Hollywood have at least one thing in common. When a movie wins major awards, it's usually over-hyped, over praised, over long and half baked.
Who's kidding who? Mismatched cops over come differences and go after triads. Except Michael Wong's straight arrow never really notices what a shit Anthony Wong is because he is too busy giving the love to Big Brothers girl after he skips off to Mancau.
So not one new wrinkle in the script here. No surprises, and at 110 minutes pretty dull. The best part of the movie is the name of a triad member name - ManDick!
Truley, I just don't get how Lau Ching Wan can get past over for what he has done lately and Anthony Wong get credit for sleepwalking in front of the camera.
See The Longest Nite for filmmakers and actors trying to put a spin on things.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Anthony Wong Chau San and Michael F. Wong star in this truly excellent cop movie co-directed by Gordon Chan and Dante Lam. Michael plays the straight shooter with clear sense of morals who gets reassigned to a new beat in Tsimshatsui where he teams up with Anthony, who's been living comfortably in that great zone where gambling/hookers and the friendly attentions of the neighborhood triads don'r seem quite as bad. For most of the movie, we have a well-written character study, dominated by Anthony Wong who gives a career performance. The supporting players (Kathy Chow, Sam Lee, Roy cheung) are all excellent, and the movie manages to generate interest in these characters without ever becoming predictable or resorting to conventions. The final reel turns into a revenge-driven action setpiece set against a quirky music soundtrack reminiscent of Dante Lam's later Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone (and I wouldn't be surpised to see Quentin Tarantino rip it off in his new movie). Definitely the best HK movie I've seen in a while. Highly satisfying.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/09/2001
Summary: Superbly crafted and performed movie

BEAST COPS (1998) - I first saw this at a mini-HK festival a few years ago, not long after it came out. At the time I thought it had some interesting bits but was quite boring to sit through. Anthony Wong was in attendance though, and turned out to be a thoroughly decent chap. I'd considered picking up the DVD for a while, but the high price tag put me off. I decided to borrow a copy this weekend though, and found that the intervening years have prepared me much better to appreciate the movie. Co-directed by Gordon Chan and Dante Lam, I think it shows a lot of the latter's influence, having seen his solo efforts since. The movie is very intelligent and subtle, with a very knowledgable bending of genre conventions that Lam would later pursue to much greater extremes in JIANG HU and RUNAWAY. Whilst those movies bend conventions to the extent of being parodies, here the treatment is much more delicate, and if you don't know your genres well you will most likely miss it.

The movie begins as a kind of 'day(s) in the life' movie of cops Anthony Wong and Sam Lee working in Tsim Sha Tsui (sp?), where the boundaries between Triad and Cop are decided blurred. The law of the government is given very little respect, but the overall system works. Roy Chiau is the Triad big brother who keeps the law of the Triad which ensures this in place. Former SDU member Michael Wong turns up on the scene with some very different attitudes to law and order.

"For some people there is a large grey area in life, but for me there is only a line between black and white".

Lam & Chan focus on the characters in this scenario and give them plenty of time to develop, letting the "story" build very very slowly. They manage to pull out a definite career best performance from Anthony Wong, and even Michael Wong is likeable here. Other characters such as the ditzy mama-san Kathy Chow and ambitious young triad Patrick Tam are also given a lot of depth, though I never made sense of Stephanie Che's character (I couldn't help noticing that every female character in the movie was a prostitute, although in Stephanie's case it wasn't quite clear cut). The scenarios and dialogue are very well scripted, with devilishly subtle black humour throughout. Cinematography and soundtrack are also superlative. The movie avoids the pitfall that some of Lam/Chan's SDU dramas fall into of simply being 'day in the life' movies with an action ending tacked on - whilst you might not realise it for a while, the story is being built up piece by piece until it shifts into full gear about 30/40 minutes before the end. There's no sense in spoiling what happens here, but suffice to say that there is adequate payoff

The movie won a few HK awards on its release, and when I first saw it I wasn't quite sure why. Now that I have the viewing experience behind me to recognise the multitude of genius touches the movie contains, I would quite happily give it awards in pretty much every category. Definitely one of the best movies to come out of Hong Kong in the past 5 years.

10/10, but not a movie for everyone.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/03/2000
Summary: Good but not great

Just like "The Mission",everyone raved about how good it is & maybe thats why i got high expectations for the movie.

This is a police drama by the way. The title is a little misleading (but aren't most hk movie titles!!).

I think people like this movie because of the STRONG ending (or at last half an hour) of the movie. The drama during that time is very intense and the fighting is very brutal. But don't expect too much action in this movie. I found the first half of this movie very average at best.

The focus of the movie is really on the characters. I really like Anthony Wong's character and his girlfriend in the movie. It was realisitic and you like both of the characters very easily. Love is not meant to be easy.......Sam Lee is comedy relief but in the end, sort of gets what's coming to him. Micheal Wong's character and his girlfriend seem unrealistic. They just seem to fall for each other too easily and there relationship seems a bit too perfect. Roy Cheung and Patrick Tam are great as triad master/student.

I almost bought this movie and i am glad that i didn't because all the hype has disappointed me. It is a good movie but the movie IS GOOD because of how great the last half of the movie is. I think a lot of reviewers have forgotten how the first half starts off......VERY AVERAGE for me (the first half)

I liked "The Mission" more than this so i give this movie a slightly lower score.......


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/08/2000

It might just be me, but a lot Hong Kong films about cops seem to resemble the American TV drama NYPD Blue (see Loving You). This isn't a bad thing as this is probably one of the best TV shows around (although I haven't watched TV for nearly a year so what do I know).

One of NYPD Blue's constant themes is the ambiguous morality of being a police officer. Beast Cops explores this terroritory as well, quite successfully. It centers around Officer Tung (Anthony Wong) and Mike (Michael Wong). Shockingly, Anthony Wong plays the cop who is halfway a triad member and Michael Wong plays the more straitlaced by-the-books type of officer. No casting against type here. Also in the mix is Sam Lee as Tung's sidekick, a young cop who spends most of his time playing video games and chasing women.

The plot revolves around a triad power struggle that occurs when Roy Cheung goes on the run. One of his lieutenants decides to take over the turf. This happens to not only be Mike and Tung's beat, but also the neighborhood in which they live. The other major subplot involves Mike's relationship with a madame who also happens to be Roy Cheung's ex-flame. The story itself isn't all that important, except as a vehicle to allow the audience to observe the way the various characters interact.

This could have been one of those films where the streetwise cop educates his idealistic new partner on the ways of life. Or it could have been one of those films where the idealistic cop reforms the cop whose gotten in too deep with the dark side. Fortunately this film avoids taking either of these easy routes. Things are consistently left ambiguous. It's obvious that Mike's way will not get him very far in a neighborhood where the triads are ubiquitous. However, it's no certain thing that Tung is actually doing any good. Is he in so deep that he might as well be a triad member? One of the film's best moments is
when Tung and Roy Cheung have a conversation in the pool comparing the merits of being a cop to a triad member. Perhaps there's just no difference.

By the end, we still don't know. This lack of resolution may annoy sum but do we really expect a 95 minute movie to resolve an issue like this?

Beast Cops is shot in a style befitting it's gritty subject. Plenty of handheld camera, playing with colors, and various combinations of slow and fast motion. Generally this works pretty well, although occassionally the direction becomes a bit self-conscious in its desire to look non-mainstream. Frankly, I have yet to see anyone do this as well as Wong Kar-Wai
(although Wai Ka-Fai could give him a run for his money).

The acting in the film was good, though not exceptional. This kind of role seems almost too easy for Anthony Wong and I've seen him do it many times before. He's good at it but I'd love to see him really stretch out. Michael Wong was surprisingly effective, perhaps because he had so little dialogue. Fortunately, his dialogue in English was truly minimal. His flat delivery rivals that of Keanu Reeves. At least when he speaks in Cantonese the language itself forces him to inflect his voice. Despite my bashing, he was fairly decent. Considering how I feel about his acting, this should be considered high praise.

Shelly Kraicer recently wrote an excellent article pondering the future of Hong Kong films in the face of such films as Storm Riders. With films like Beast Cops, The Longest Nite, and Anna Magdalena, to name some of 1998's notable films, I'm not ready to give up yet.

Reviewed by: jun-yan
Date: 01/06/2000

It is a very well-acted and well-written film. The most part of the movie has the feel of a docudrama in both its cinematography and in its dialogue.
Anthony Wong, again in an incredible performance, plays a corrupt, cynical, weathered policeman with a heart of gold, a loser on the surface and a surviver of life. In a humorously revealing scene, he explained to Michael Wong's character that he got his furniture from the days when he had a convenience store, selling fish, etc. "Every piece of furniture is a reminder of a stage of my life." The most surprising aspect of this performance is his tenderness and subtlety. He does it effortlessly with the utmost precision.

Michael Wong plays his "gweilo" superior who is the straight-arrow type that reminds me of Ed Exley in LA Confidential a little. In the process of being shown the rope, the territory, the reality and falling in love with a prostitute who is also the triad boss's mistress (Kathy Chow), he turns out to be a rather original and convincing character instead of what we expected. The young actor Sam Lee plays an eccentric and unlikely womanizer in a memorable performance with limited screen time. The characters are drawn in an understated, but slightly exaggerated way that is very effective and grows on me without turning cartoonish.

The triads are portrayed in an ambiguous way that shows some sympathy as well as exposing the nastiness and absurdity of the lifestyle and the "honor code". It's full of black humor that works very well. The quiet confession of a seasoned and tired triad boss (Roy Cheung) rings very truth and realistic in my ears.

The ending, however, is a little too dramatic and graphic, and not entirely consistent with the understated tone of the rest of the movie, and lost a little of the cynical, ambiguous attitude built in the first 3/4 of the movie. Gordon Chan claimed that the final showdown was Dante Lam's style and not his. I can see why.

The locations, the cinematography, the scenery, would not have affected me so much if I had not visited Hong Kong this summer. The shots of the streets, the houses, the alleys, the fashion and everything, totally transmit this feel of walking down the streets of HK.

This movie is cynical, but in a sentimental rather than a pessimistic way. The audience get to hang with the characters and perhaps learn a little about Hong Kong. It finds humor and absurdity in violence and reality. I highly recommend it. The one thing I don't like, is the title that is totally misleading, serves no other purpose except for attracting the wrong crowd of audience, and almost turned me away.

Reviewed by: Mark
Date: 12/30/1999
Summary: At times jocular story

Modern cop drama with Anthony Wong playing the mildly corrupt cop who keeps a lid on things, and Michael Wong as the uptight straight cop who'll gun down a criminal regardless of the danger to the hostage. Most of the film is concerned with the interaction between the two, and the conflict between their way of walking the beat. Roy Cheung plays the local Big Brother who has an understanding with the police, but when he is forced into hiding, the rules change. The big showdown with the young replacement Big Brother (Tam Yiu Man) at the end is truly gruesome, and the real and visceral nature of the violence does not sit quite right with the at times jocular story (or even with the crazy surf music soundtrack that accompanies the final fight). But enjoyable regardless, and Anthony Wong is just splendid.

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/27/1999
Summary: Best of 1998.....

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.


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.


The main element 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 specifically address the camera, therefore breaking the fine line between them and the viewer. Heck, 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 many other different reviews, the title Beast Cops, often misguides the audience, leading them to believe that this 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 complex character study, realistically depicting life on the streets of HK. This is where the film takes a documentary turn, as a handheld camera bounces around shooting all the brutal carnage that surrounds it. In fact, the only scene which seems out of place is the over-the-top 'action' finale, which dumps all semblance of realism, and takes the film to ludicrous extremes. This is probably due to the fact that Gordon Chan did not supervise the direction of this portion of the film, which was credited to co-director Dante Lam.

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. Patrick Tam Yiu-man, who portrays Pushy Pin, is also impressive, and earned the film another award, a Best Newcomer trophy at the ceremonies this year. Sam Lee, whose appearance is reduced to a small role, gets some funny scenes, and basically provides some of the comic relief. 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.

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.

Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/26/1999

Anthony Wong is a jaded cop, too comfortable in his low key life collecting bribes from triad boss Roy Cheung to really care about all but the most violent of crimes. But change is inevitable when straight shooting Michael Wong transfers in from the SDU and Roy has to skip town, leaving his unprincipaled young protege in charge.

There's a lot going on in this film; the rich characterization that is a hallmark of Gordon Chan's 'Option' films; the well edited action sequences which proves that close up shots doesn't necessarily mean giving up visual continuity; set design which takes some imaginitive stabs at using color amid the gritty shots that have come to signify street life in recent HK films; heck you even get a Michael Wong playing a character too wimpy to fight back without a gun. But the only reason you really need to justify spending money on this film is Anthony Wong. Not only is he effective in portraying a man who has long lost his ideals, but there's a point in the film when he goes ballistic that has to be seen to be believed; his work in_Bunman_ pales in comparison. Frankly, I'm afraid to write anything but full praise, for fear he'll aim that can o' whoopass in my direction should we ever meet.