Danger Has Two Faces (1985)
Directed by: Alex Cheung
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Returning home from the UK, Inspector Bobby (Bei Cheung) is handed robbery cases that connect to a murderer taking out only the criminals themselves. Doing his duty but also having to manage a group of largely disinterested cops, what Bobby doesn't know is that the killer is childhood friend and ex-cop Jin (Leung Kar-Yan). The employers of Jin are also high ranking in many regards...
I don't know if Alex Cheung's cop-drama output Cops And Robbers and Man On The Brink landed him the contract with Shaw Brother's or if he actively was seeking it himself. Regardless, these hard dramas led to the creation of the certifiably nutty sci-fi comedy Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and in the final year of Shaw's full production run at the time, Danger Has Two Faces. An effort at least on paper in tune with the style Cheung had manage to breathe great life into via mentioned dramas. Having been hands on in the cinematography department before (1*), director Cheung's creativity this time also stretches as far behind the scenes as being credited with the story, co-writing and again after Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, working closely with assistant director/co-writer Yuen Gai-Chi. Danger Has Two Faces becomes fitting symbolism for the final verdict of the film though, showing why there is a lethal danger to cater to audiences demand for a little bit of everything (except knowledge) baked into their movie experience.
It sure hinders some poignant concerns initially perhaps in the story outline by Cheung, talking about vigilante acts and shaping justice the immoral way but those themes gets lost under a whole lot of ill-fitting, muddled choices surely imposed upon Alex as I don't believe for a second he turned this dumb after his first two films! Unless Twinkle Twinkle Little Star really messed him up that is? Then again, are we Westerners even supposed to get and question this lethal combination of comedy and violence? Personally I feel any film taking missteps that in my mind really do translate as missteps is up for criticism and Danger Has Two Faces certainly is a valid case as it contains none of the maturity found in Cheung's prior works. Setting the stage with quite outrageous violence on an almost splatter movie level, things look rather ropey during the opening reel as timing for these physical effects are way off and the extensive use of Shaw Brother's oddly coloured blood doesn't do the production any favours in its quest for impact. Police procedure as plot points are recycled from five billion other flicks and Cheung chooses (or has to?) to spend time with the group of dim-witted, love-struck and goofy cops while the investigation for the killer pretty much stalls. One cop in between, one ounce of righteousness still left is meaningful as a concept but this dark among light cannot win, not even when Cheung pours on the violence.
Eventually "surprising" and explaining Leung Kar-Yan's Jin's motives means the stock bad economy theme but it's a master stroke compared to the muddled twists that takes place just before the action climax. Furthering the dark theme that somewhere was in Cheung's story, it's not only that it's clichéd as scripted (if even scripted), we're apparently supposed to take something away from this, it being a social commentary clearly setup earlier but all involved would rather bury valid trains of thoughts underneath the action climax. It's here Danger Has Two Faces does become bearable to some degree despite. The odd moment of tension as well as cinematography choices shines a light on Cheung's directorial skills but the proceedings becomes more about pouring it on in the violence department. Far from a valid choice but at least it adds a bit of colour to the film.
As evident early in the film, the way limbs and entire characters explode doesn't exactly reek of actual shocking movie tactics but I'd rather see a failed film go out on a goofy, explosive high and Danger Has Two Faces kind of does. Leung Kar-Yan, Paul Chu and Bei Cheung at least are mostly spared of being part of the comedic lows the film largely occupies itself with but there's no question Alex Cheung was never meant to make an imprint on this late production at the ailing Shaw Brother's. In a way understandable as somehow Shaw's had to compete commercially but it was certainly not going to happen via a filmmaker having achieved fame working with more consistent, darkly toned filmmaking than this.
IVL presents Celestial's remastered print in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Note that the opening Shaw's logo is unfortunately not the one from 1985 but instead the beloved old school one is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen before the film then reverts to its original aspect ratio. Free of damage, it was never the most slick film to come out of Shaw's but clarity and colours seems to correspond to the intended look of the film.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 remix adds a little "atmosphere" in the form of thunderstorms and crickets but mostly it's just a wide mono experience that doesn't distract more than once or twice. A Mandarin 5.1 track is also included.
The English subtitles fare well as they contain little errors or poor grammar (rather simple dialogue anyway). They are clearly timed to the Mandarin dub though as evident by character names and the fact that on occasion subtitles appear when no dialogue is spoken on the Cantonese track. We're talking incidental dialogue however. Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese are the other options.
Anyone familiar with the standard extras package from IVL would feel at home when venturing into this part of the disc. Within Trailers we find newly created Celestial spots for Danger Has Two Faces, The Delinquent, Kidnap, The Secret Service Of The Imperial Court and Duel Of Fists. In Movie Information 15 Movie Stills, a scan of the Original Poster and Production Notes (I.e. Celestial's way of presenting the plot synopsis) resides in addition to the selection Biography & Selected Filmography that goes only slightly in depth with its text pieces on Leung Kar-Yan, Goo Ga-Lau and director Alex Cheung.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) The gritty look of Man On The Brink was supervised hands on by Cheung along with Arthur Wong, Johnny Koo and Chiu Wai-Kin. Cheung was subsequently flying solo in this department on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.