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An intense, riveting psychological crime drama action thriller
After the success of Unbeatable (激战), The Stool Pigeon (线人) and Beast Stalker (证人), Dante Lam is back again with Nick Cheung for That Demon Within (魔警), a dark, intense, riveting, character-driven psychological crime drama action thriller. But this time around, Daniel Wu plays the central lead character instead of Nick Cheung, who has lesser screen time compared to Dante's previous films.
The film explores the evil that exists in every single one of us, no matter how righteous we seemed to be on the surface. The story is about an overly-righteous policeman with a troubled past, Dave who ignorantly donate his blood to save Hong Kong's most dangerous criminal Hon, who is seriously injured after trying to escape from a heist. This random act of kindness causes more problems, as Hon continue his villainous work, leaving more cops and innocent people harmed and killed in the process. This has put serious strain on Dave as he tries to salvage the situation. Eventually, he becomes so obsessed in hunting down Hon that his dark past starts to haunt him again, providing further damage to his fragile psyche.
The cinematography is superb as usual and the gritty, violent action sequences are not over-the-top, frenetic or shaky compared to many recent released Hong Kong/China production nowadays, which is commendable. The location and setting for the film (the rooms, streets, buildings) provides a moody and grim atmosphere in an otherwise bleak film. The film has some pretty good pacing, plot developments as it keeps me engaged in it without a look at my watch.
Daniel Wu managed to deliver a good performance as the emotionally unstable police officer, has some great on-screen psychotic moments as he breaks down. The moments are taken in close camera shots (it looked as if the camera is strapped to his chest), providing the audience a closer, impactful view of his trauma. Over the years, Nick Cheung has successfully established himself as a credible actor with award-winning worthy performance. Despite his minimal involvement in the film, his villainous performance as Hon still manage to provide an impact to the audience.
Overall, the film managed to provide an interesting, exciting new take on the cop-thriller genre, which is not easy in my opinion. (Hong Kong has done many successful cop-thrillers in the past, themes or plot devices are heavily overused in many past productions) It's a recommended watch.
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