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Original Title:
Yeshou xingjing

Hong Kong 1998

Crime, Comedy

Gordon Chan
Dante Lam

Anthony Wong
Michael Wong
Kathy Chow
Patrick Tam
Roy Cheung
Sam Lee
Stephanie Chei
Arthur Wong
Sammuel Leung

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Beast Cops

Story: Tung (Anthony Wong) is a cop who has realized that he can't achieve much with a black-and-white attitude. In order to keep the streets clean he thus works together with the triads and up until now this worked out pretty well. However, a killing that has been ordered by Fai (Roy Cheung), a triad boss and good friend of Tung, causes a stir so that Fai has to go into hiding. He doesn't even have the time to say goodbye to his girlfriend Yoyo (Kathy Chow) who therefore thinks that he has walked out on her. Shortly thereafter Tung's team also gets a new superior, the righteous cop Cheung (Michael Wong) who clearly differentiates between good and bad and doesn't know anything between. That's why Tung soon regrets having rented his room to his boss out of shortage of money, since he is constantly spending his time with gambling, leading to Cheung sharing a small flat with the team. Through Tung Cheung makes the acquaintance of Yoyo in whom he soon starts to develop a serious interest. At the same time the gangland is undergoing a change as Fai's former right hand Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam) is working on getting power into his own hands while his boss is abesent. For Tung this means that the sensitive balance on the streets is about to topple and a small war is about to break loose.

Review: "Beast Cops" is a much vaunted Hong Kong movie which has been shot by two not really unknown Hong Kong directors: Gordon Chan and Dante Lam. Both of them have brought out a few good movies on their own, Chan was already responsible for "Fist of Legend" and Dante Lam should later on score with good B-movies. "Beast Cops" is a fruitful cooperation between the two and the excitement of so many critics has most likely been induced by the at times surprisingly well written screenplay. The characters are all pretty colourful and some of the dialogues are downright profound in a way resp. contain some nice worldly wisdoms. Apart from that the film is no masterpiece, though, especially not since the filmmakers apparently weren't sure which path they wanted to take with this film. "Beast Cops" could have worked in two directions, as a comedy and as a gritty cop-thriller. The mixture that is delivered here isn't really convincing though and for a HK-film the thriller is also too lighthearted in tone.

The characters are written pretty well and more than anyone else Anthony Wong once again completely owns this movie. He is the star of the film since his multi-layered character portrayal is outshining those of the others, even though the other protagonists are actually drawn well, too. However, it remains to be pointed out that Wong's portrayal is way too charismatic for him to be taken as the ambiguous guy wandering between good and evil he is supposed to be. He may work together with the triads and also cultivates a friendship with triad boss Fai that is build on mutual respect, but even though he may not operate within the police code he is still one of the good guys. And this although from a objective point of view he is actually doing a few things that make you wonder about it. But that's just the movie's problem. If you look at it too closely there are some logical gaps and inconsistencies emerging. So you are better off simply accepting the entertainment value of the film and having some fun.

Michael Wong is throwing in some english lines in "Beast Cops" every now and then, which became really annoying over the years, but otherwise he fits well into the role of the somewhat wooden and trigger-happy cop who only knows black and white. Strangely, Cheung never gets into any real argument with Tung about this, even though it would have been the obvious thing to do. Instead Cheung even adopts Tung's methods as the film progresses! But apart from such oddities the chemistry between the two isn't bad and also leads to some subtle laughs. In fact "Beast Cops" has a lot to offer when it comes to humor without ever having to glide off into slapstick which was a wise decision. Even the supporting characters like the womanizer played by Sam Lee don't fall into the category of the comical sidekick but deliver a bit more than that. Roy Cheung, who plays triad boss Fai, can bring a bit more seriousness into the film and Kathy Chow plays a former escort lady who falls in love with a cop. A mixed bag of colorful characters that also have colorful sidestories coming along with them.

Unfortunately, these sidestories also pose a problem. The movie fishes too much in the lives of the different characters and more than once loses track of the story's actual red thread so that at some points you even get the feeling to watch a soap opera, if it weren't for the bloody and more gritty scenes as well as the dialogues being written outstandingly well. The most interesting part is Tung's relationship with a woman who already has a boyfriend who she is living off. She always comes to Tung if she needs a shoulder to cry on, therefore she is only taking advantage of the cop. And he is quite aware of that but doesn't care about it since he is in love with her. During such scenes there are some serious emotions involved that are adding a lot to the movie's drama content. Then, on the other hand, there are also some brutal scenes that make the film a lot more grim, e.g. the worthwhile showdown in which Tung having taken several stimulant drugs is cutting through the villians with a machete.

Consequently, it is quite apparent that the biggest flaw of "Beast Cops" is its changing mood. The surprisingly lighthearted ending eventually shows that the movie actually is only about being a fun ride and that it shouldn't be taken too serious. However, that's a bit difficult at times. It's also odd that the directors chose to let their protagonists talk right into the camera during some scenes as if they were giving an interview in some kind of a documentary. Furthermore, we have also seen the underlying structure of the movie in other HK-flicks. It's actually the unusual mixture of crime, comedy and a pinch of drama that makes "Beast Cops" so interesting or at least stand out. This doesn't make the several parts fit together at all, though, and we also miss a bit more action. A movie that sometimes is somewhat problematic as it surely is a guilty pleasure to watch. Most of the time Anthony Wong can hold together the movie, however, so that the end product misses a worse rating just by inches. This is just good 90s entertainment with that special something.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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