The Cat (1991)

Directed by: Nam Nai Choi
Written by: Gordon Chan & Chan Hing-Kar
Producer: Chua Lam
Starring: Waise Lee, Philip Kwok, Lau Siu-Ming, Christine Ng & Gloria Yip

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The character of Wisely is an known character in Chinese literature and he can described as a detective version of Indiana Jones (minus the whip). Actors Chin Kar-Lok and Andy Lau have both been given the opportunity to play him in movies such as Bury Me High and the recent The Wesley's Mysterious File. The Cat is actually director Nam Nai Choi's second Wisely movie, the first being the highly enjoyable Seventh Curse with no other than Chow Yun-Fat playing the character. Looking back at the director's career, (this movie was the last one he made) we see a few select entries in his filmography that are today kind of cult movies in their own right. The mentioned Seventh Curse is one, Story Of Ricky is well remembered to this day and the movie you're reading the review for, The Cat sure falls into the same category.

Wisely (this time portrayed by Waise Lee from Bullet In The Head) is on the hunt for a mysterious black cat that seems to be behind a few mysterious occurrences in Hong Kong. When he eventually finds it he realizes that it and it's fellow companions are themselves hunted by an alien force...

We got ourselves a silly and barely serviceable plot but more is not needed in Nam Nai Choi's movie. Some movies are pure entertainment and not much plot is required, just enough to hold the movie together for 90 minutes or so. Do you recognize the two names behind the script by the way? It's no others than directors Gordon Chan (Beast Cops) and Chan Hing-Kar (co-director of La Brassiere). Although their work nowadays are of pretty good quality, their script for The Cat is very loosely written. I do have a feeling that most of it was made up as the shooting went along, something that was common for Hong Kong productions at this time (and to some extent even today it seems). If you want to break into any business, you have to start somewhere but I don't think the director's have to be ashamed of being credited on this movie. They've been part in creating a very entertaining and crazy Hong Kong movie.

As a director, Nam Nai Choi barely holds the thin plot together. My main complaint has to be that some elements are inserted (and never explained) almost out of nowhere and therefore the attentive part of the audience will be restless since they don't really know what is going on. The movie gets off to a very slow and bad start also. The first 15 minutes is basically the setup for the story and while it's made clear enough, it's soooo slow. After the first really wild scene at the museum, the director finds a nice pace that is thankfully maintained throughout the 80 minute running time. The directing succeeds in delivering entertainment but boy are the dialogue scenes painfully bad! They're badly performed and only serves to bring us some more info regarding the unfolding 'drama'. I was ready to fall asleep but then The Cat displayed what holds this movie together; a series of bizarre and insane effects set pieces. The first one in the museum, where the evil alien force reveals itself, is a very good indication of what we're going to see throughout the movie. The special effects aren't of very high standard but do somehow manage to work within the frame of this movie. The filmmakers and effects team seem to have just done the best they can with the limited resources and that comes off in the final product. It's charming I think. This is not a gory film as such though and it mostly relies on slimey and at times superimposed effects, in other words nowhere near the gorefest known as Story Of Ricky.

Everybody who's seen The Cat remembers one thing and that is hands down the cat vs. the dog fight-scene. It's handled like an elaborate fight set piece and I can't describe how much fun it is to watch. For the most part, the real animals are used (don't worry about animal cruelty, believe me) and through extensive editing and some stop animation work, this scene makes the purchase of the dvd a must in my opinion.

No actors were nominated for their performances here but they didn't deserve it. You can't help thinking how hard it must've been for Waise Lee and Philip Kwok (who also served as the action choreographer) to maintain a straight face while doing these often crazy scenes. Waise Lee is and probably will be most known for his bad guy turns in A Better Tomorrow and Bullet In The Head but he was kind of the weak link in those movies actually. In The Cat he is quite wooden and doesn't seem to be having any fun at all. On the other hand he had to act against nothing most of the time since a fair number of his scenes were ones were effects were added in post-production. Philip Kwok (Hard Boiled) however throws himself mercilessly into the possessed by the evil alien force-role he has here. It's just pure fun watching him unleash the weapons power he has gathered in his hunt for the cat and Philip sure is something people are going to remember from this movie also.

There's not much else to say about Nam Nai Choi's movie. With The Cat he created another entertaining entry in his fairly short filmography and in the b-movie part of of Hong Kong cinema.

The DVD:

Previously only available from WA (mainland China label), Deltamac now debuts The Cat on Hong Kong dvd with a few key advantages. The print may be taken from the source (same superimposed title card at the start, see screen cap below) but WA's edition featured less dirt on the print. The constant speckling on Deltamac's edition doesn't exactly bother me and it will probably rank as the best release for quite some time. Colours and detail remain the same to my eye though, average. Cerain effects scenes are rather heavy on grain also.

Soundwise, the WA dvd was a disaster, featuring a distinct echo on the only audio track available, Mandarin. Deltamac of course feature both the intended Cantonese language track and a Mandarin one, both in original mono. Neither track was very well post-synced but obviously it's better to watch the film in Cantonese and sans echo.

The English subtitles are basically the same but Deltamac's disc didn't suffer from as many spelling or grammar inaccuracies. The cheesy dialogue comes through in the translation and the errors found do add to the enjoyment factor. Not even the trailer as an extra.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson