Beast Stalker Review
The FilmIn recent years, Hong Kong crime movies have moved away from action into the realms of humanist drama. The work of Johnnie To has shown less and less interest in the mechanics of genre and started to concentrate on the business of what makes people what they are, and directors like Cheang Pou-Soi have been more concerned with philosophical introspection than cool action. In a very post-modern way, Hong Kong crime movies seem to have become less about simple transactions of good and evil and much more about understanding the whys and wherefores of their protagonist's actions.
Pouting lovely Nicolas Tse plays the guilty detective in a way that is so vain that it is hard to claim much for the depth of his character's development, although he is written to not be as heroic as Tse tries to project. His tantrums, his obsessiveness and his creepy stalking of the child of the prosecutor suggest more darkness than Tse has to offer as a rather limited actor, and I must say that Lam's film suffers from this heroic perspective on a quite damaged character.
The rest of the supporting cast are similarly committed and they give depth to roles which are a little underwritten in a film that is full of cinematic shortcuts and assumption of movie conventions rather than careful exposition. That dramatic commitment of the cast is the chief draw of the film and the real success in creating tension comes from their plausibility and not the elegance of the script. As a director, Lam proves ruthlessly efficient in ringing out the humanist sympathy angle and very proficient in managing the small bursts of action, if only he was a little better at keeping the script grounded and avoiding cheap manipulation.
What you get with Beast Stalker is an interesting take on a procedural thriller and a terrific turn by Nick Cheung and that's well worth the occasional cringe and some preposterousness.
Technical SpecsThis is a two disc set with cheapish looking menus and probably an incorrect standards conversion of the main feature. The transfer is framed at 1.78:1 and interlaced with some motion shake, blurriness and general murk. Colours lack brightness and saturation, and the contrast is far from great as well. This is pretty weak stuff and you may get round it by some sturdy de-interlacing if you have that ability and messing with the contrast, but to be honest you don't have to as there are lots of decent Asian releases of this film already.
Special featuresDisc one contains a short trailer for the film, along with eight deleted and alternate scenes which must be watched individually. There are also 12 trailers for other Cine-Asia releases. The second disc comes with four featurettes with burnt in subs which deal with the arrangement of the car chases, one of Tse's stunts climbing the exterior of a building, the Chung-Tse street chase and finally footage of the child actors on set. These pieces are not narrated and do not include interviews.
The making of featurette knits together contributions from Lam and his cast along with onset footage and clips from the film. It's a promotional piece where everything is said to plug the film and it's very superficial as it skims through the message of the film, the actors and the stunts. There are interviews with Tse, Zhang, Chung and Lam. Tse talks about the depth of his performance and describes Lam as becoming less dogmatic than previously. Zhang tells the world what a delight and an artist Tse is, Chung praises Lam and the child actors, and Lam talks about wanting to explore the emotional side of Tse's persona (that sounds a thankless task).
SummaryA far from perfect film but it has some good ideas and a fine performance from Chung and the supporting cast. You might like to give this edition a rental but I'd advise shopping overseas for a better transfer.
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