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Original Title:
Gau ngao gau

Hong Kong 2006

Crime, Thriller

Cheang Pou-Soi

Edison Chen
Sam Lee
Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai
Pei Weiying / Pei Pei
Lam Suet
Lam Ka Wah
Lai Yiu-Cheung

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Dog Bite Dog

Story: Since his childhood in Cambodia where he had to participate in illegal street fights to the death, Pang (Edison Chen) knows only how to kill. Now he is send to Hong Kong where he has to assassinate a woman. The police officers who are working on this new murder case, Wai (Sam Lee) and his superior (Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai) soon have some good clues where to look for the killer and so the chase begins. However, when Wai has to witness as one of his partners is getting killed by Pang in incredible cold blood, he discontinues his work for the police force and takes things in his own hands. Pang may have escaped the police's tight net in the city, but Wai has his own way of finding him. After Wai has beaten up his informant and gets to know where Pang's hideout is, he takes measures to confront Pang.
Meanwhile, Pang has found shelter at the home of an illegally immigrated Chinese woman (Pei Weiying), whose father abused her. The woman from Mainland China is very grateful to Pang for killing her father and setting her free, and thus helps him with passionate devotion. Pang actually starts getting feelings for the girl and so he eventually agrees to take her with him to Cambodia. Nonetheless, Wai is still hot on their trail, and moreover he almost completely crossed the fine line that made him different from Pang. One thing is for sure, Wai won't show any mercy on Pang the next time they meet...

Review: Hong Kong is famous for some really dirty gritty-nihilistic works, especially during the 90s. "Dog Bite Dog" is the return to those glorious days and even goes one step further. Ruthlessly and uncompromisingly as it gets, we are introduced to a world of such doom and brutality, that it might be a little bit to much to bear for some viewers. Not just the different settings are repelling and dirty, but also the characters, because "good" guys isn't anything you should be looking for, here. The movie is so intense and persevering in its mercilessness, that you won't have another choice but to sit in front of the screen in awe, having to give this outstanding work every credit it deserves.

The very special color shades already arrange the stage for what's coming. Portrayed in grey and dark yellow-like colors the Hong Kong we get to see resembles one gigantic garbage dump. This picture is also reflected in the different settings. Everything is dirty, broken, chaotic and illuminated only by dim light. More than anything else it's the dark pictures and the fact that the film mainly takes place at night, that make this world almost look like being what's left after an apocalypse.
The sound effects are also pretty outstanding and add to the ruthless atmosphere. When Wai and Pang jump at each other, ready to bite into their enemy's throat, then it's not just your imagination to hear the growling of aggressive dogs. The soundtrack with the somber humming of a men choral fits just perfectly into the picture, too.

However, what's really impressive is the brutality and the savegeness depicted in this movie. There are movies that are more bloody or gory than "Dog Bite Dog", but there are only few that are more brutal. The cold-bloodedness with which Pang slowly lets his knife pierce through his victims throat is shocking to an unknown paralyzing degree. More than anything else it is the futility of those acts that will cause you to shake your head in despair.
Still, that's not all, as we soon lose Wai to this cruel world, too. At first he might seem to be something like the hero we are supposed to relate to, but how could we when we see him and his partners beat up informants, just to ask the right questions afterwards! Moral scruples may have been minimal from the beginning, but eventually they are nowhere to be found within Wai at the end. Interestingly enough there is even given a reason for that as we discover in his background story, but this doesn't change anything. It becomes even worse, as there is no one among the side characters at all, who might have something similar to a conscience left, or doesn't have at least strong deficits.

In the end you'll find yourself in the odd position to wish for all protagonists' death. Yet, we also don't want to see it on screen. Pang is an animal, a dog, trained to slaughter anything and everything that might come in his way without hesitation and reason, if it is helpful for his own survival just in the least. With interspersed documentary-like clips we are shown under what circumstances Pang had to grow up, but every time we start to pity him, he kills someone in such a cruel and brutal manner, that he instantly loses any sympathy he might have had for a second. This also applies to the "love story" between him and the illegal Chinese immigrant. He might seem almost human during these scenes with the girl, but eventually he can't change what he really is: an animal.

Towards the end, however, it really looks like Pang learned how to be a human being. He might not be able to communicate with his new girlfriend because of the apparent language barrier, but he has been a man of few words anyway and so his relationship unfolds pretty believable. Still, these - you almost have to call it "positive" - pictures just don't fit into the movie and so we don't take long to realize that these sequence is merely a means to an end to put more weight on the approaching catastrophe. And it comes as bad as it gets. There isn't only bitter irony to be found in the fact how Wai eventually finds Pang, but also in the song "You are my Sunshine" which stands in stark contrast to what is actually happening on screen. A song like this is just absolutely out of place in such a film, but Cheang Pou-Soi knows it and makes use of it in a very stylish manner. And luckily this isn't the only nice idea he realizes in his work.

The directing of Cheang Pou-Soi ("Love Battlefield", "Home Sweet Home") is amazing and he manages to create a world, which causes the viewer to feel physical pain only by taking a glance at it. That is just how dark and nihilistic it is.
Edison Chen ("The Twins Effect", "Initial D") uses the opportunity to get rid of his handsome-guy image the media put on him and he does so surprisingly good. He still isn't a master of acting, but he gives his cold-bloodedness a nice punch. This is probably his best effort so far.
His rival is played by Sam Lee, who was mostly taking on the comedy role in several average flicks. This time he doesn't and he really outplays anyone else of the cast. His character was stuck in an amoral swamp of violence from the very start, but he sinks more and more into the depths of it, and Sam Lee depicts it with a great performance.

The only thing that's unfortunate is that the ending is a little bit too much of everything and even feels a bit forced. However, apart from that "Dog Bite Dog" is incredibly thrilling, even if it is also an repelling exerience at the same time. There will be lots of people who won't get anything out of the film, because of its mercilessness and grittiness. And to be honest, it's really hard to take pleasure in visiting this world. Still, it is a ride that remains at least fascinating until the very last picture. Being everything but a flick for the whole family, this extraordinary work will surely (and rightly so) find its fans. If nothing else, there is one thing that "Dog Bite Dog" achieves for sure: It marks the rebirth of experimental and nihilistic Hong Kong cinema.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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