Beast Stalker (2008)

Directed by: Dante Lam
Written by: Jack Ng
Producers: Candy Leung, Albert Lee & Cheung Hong-Tat
Starring: Nicholas Tse, Nick Cheung, Zhang Jing-Chu, Wong Suet-Yin, Miao Pu, Liu Kai-Chi, Gwok Ching-Hung & Lau Kong

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Awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2009:
Best Actor (Nick Cheung)
Best Supporting Actor (Liu Kai-Chi)


Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2009:
Best Screenplay (Jack Ng)
Best Editing (Chan Ki-Hop)
Best Sound Design (Phyllis Cheng, Nip Kei-Wing & David Wong)

Awards at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2009:
Best Actor (Nick Cheung)
Recommended Film

Awards at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2009:
Best Actor - Nick Cheung (shared with Huang Bo, star of Cow)

Nomination at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2009:
Best Action Choreography (Stephen Tung Wai)

Cop Tong (Nicholas Tse) leads a team of veteran and in general older colleagues. An almost failed raid results in more cracks in the group as Tong calls out Michael (Gwok Chung-Hung) as the one to blame. With emotions running high, Tong and veteran Sun (Liu Kai-Chi - SPL, Cageman) stumble upon a gang of robbers and a car chase ensues. A heavy collision ends it, the robbers are caught but Tong has accidentally fatally shot the daughter of lawyer Ann Gao (Zhang Jing-Chu- Protégé) who was stashed in the trunk of the car. Cut to 3 months later and being tormented by what was ruled as an accidental death, Tong have distanced himself from the police force and instead established contact with Ann's other child, little Ling (Wong Suet-Yin) while the likes of Sun and Michael have suffered injuries, promotion and demotion in the wake of the the cars impacting.

The robbers have their leader about to be sentenced in court and orders a kidnapping of Ling to be executed by Hung (Nick Cheung) in order to have a key piece of evidence destroyed. Being scarred himself to the point of blindness and colourblindess, he takes any job, no matter how low, dirty and violent matters will become. It's all to further the life of himself and invalid wife Li (Miao Pu). The kidnapping goes through as planned and under the radar of the police, Tong must enlist part of his old team and gain the trust of Ann...

Back in full effect since 2006's lambasted Undercover Hidden Dragon which he co-directed with long time working partner Gordon Chan, Dante Lam hits 2008 with one of his 3 productions. Them being the animated Storm Rider - Clash of Evils and The Sniper which should've come out by now had it not been for the Edison Chen photo scandal (among a few other things) so we'll endure the wait with Beast Stalker in the meantime . In fact, it very MUCH suffices as its mixture of kidnap-thriller and emotions coming out of a few life shattering and altering moments scores in a way we've wanted Dante Lam to for some time.

There's been Beast Cops and odd, quirky material such as Jiang Hu - The Triad Zone but no true merging of highly commercial, accessible sensibilities coupled with internal journeys from Lam. So Beast Stalker is totally welcome and even though it sways within its running time, it still delivers a punch it aims for. Sways seems to be a suitable word as stylization is something Lam rarely veers away from. So amidst the dirty, gritty Hong Kong streets (wonderful, automatic production design utilized very well), Lam opts his camera to be a documentary crew... looking in, over shoulders, never settling on being static and for some portions of the film, the effect lingers between pretentious, suitably part of the ride and you can easily feel seasick as well. But overall Lam argues well that we should side with his technical tools as he manages to inject tension, excitement and emotions via them. Especially in the way the city of Hong Kong is used. Streets, pavement, dark passages, alleyways... they ARE foreboding and no production designer and set dresser could fully manufacture something this immersing. It's merely added upon, built upon... something that goes in line with how Beast Stalker plays out.

And as the key car chase (which isn't about the chase but the impact literally) has revealed itself, so has overacting, reckless characters and self-indulgement and it wouldn't be wrong to state a case for no drama and just heart pumping ride. But as the obligatory "3 months later" card appear before us, Lam quiets down and has Nicholas Tse's character-journey take center stage. Watching the second child of the family that IS alive, Lam's intentions as a subtle director within this package has little effect in these situations but Beast Stalker should be judged based on the overall coherence of mentioned elements of tension, excitement and drama so this start that feels like a dip matters!

And key elements though the characterization of Zhang Jing-Chu's conflicted mother and law-abider is basic, heard and simple stuff done before but no one on the production has decided to re-invent conventions. Instead they aim strike a chord within them. Even big force in the form of Nick Cheung is a violent, monster of a man with life spirit and the closure this trio needs to come to works and matters within this fast paced thriller-scenario.

This is why Beast Stalker would be a little special movie for even viewers not familiar with Hong Kong cinema. Accessible but with its heart pumping for the city of Hong Kong, its talents (young and old... with old represented in an excellent way by veteran Liu Kai-Chi) and its blend of genres, Dante Lam shows that the distance between reliable efforts such as Hit Team and thoroughly excellent character-material in Beast Cops have not made him forget. On the contrary, there's been building blocks added since then.

The DVD (Joy Sales):

Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.

Audio: Cantonese (with usage of Mandarin in one scene), Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1.

Subtitles: English (coherent with no obvious errors to report), traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.

Extras: Except the commentary, all the extras reside on the second disc in the set. All special features except the TV spots and the Behind The Scene program are subtitled in English.

*Audio commentary with director Dante Lam, writer Jack Ng and production designer Yau Wai-Ming. Covering casting, subtext, finding a true Hong Kong feel via locations, creating the car chase, research, nuances of what respect means in Chinese society and Zhang Jing-Chu working on her Cantonese, the track is certainly informative. Nothing truly groundbreaking information-wise but the anecdotes of how much the twin kids playing Ling got pushed and worked would horrify Hollywood producers. The trio also leave a fair number of gaps and simply describes the ongoing story at points.

* Preview-section contains the trailer and 4 TV spots.

* The Making Of (13 minutes, 56 seconds) follows the formula but gives us a better insight than usual. Especially the stories and behind the scenes footage from key sequences such as the car crash and when little Wong Suet-Yin gets buried in the sand. Nicholas Tse's devotion to the acting and Dante Lam the technical perfectionist also gets covered.

* Behind The Scene (23 minutes, 23 seconds) extends a whole lot on the footage shot by the making of crew, with focus on scenes such as the car chase and Wong Yuet-Sin getting the sand dumped on her.

* Deleted Scenes (21 minutes, 10 seconds) contains approximately 9 clips, most of which are extensions of no interest. Of note is a longer scene showing Hung's first kidnapping victim peeing herself as she's dying from the poison, the police almost catching wind of something being wrong in Hung's apartment after his old lady neighbour has called them about the plumbing and an ending coda that wraps matters up by talking but is clearly one too many scenes for an audience about ready to go home.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson