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Friday, October 06, 2006

The nihilistic, hardcore DOG BITE DOG 狗咬狗

Sam Lee getting bitten by Edison Chen in Dog Bite Dog poster

Dog Bite Dog (狗咬狗) starring Edison Chen (his first role since last year's Initial D) and Sam Lee (a once-promising actor demoted to appearing in numerous B-grade crap films in recent years) is hardcore. Heck, I can't even think of another word to describe it.

This film is like that Jet Li film, Unleashed (or Danny The Dog, depending on which country you're from), but darker, more nihilistic, more morally ambiguous, less kungfu, more harrowing, more emotionally exhausting, no ridiculous sentimental schmaltz, no clear line between good guys and bad guys, watching it will make you feel nearly as rotten as watching Requiem For A Dream, just that you'll probably be so emotionally numb by then after witnessing all the gore and violence you are subjected to throughout the entire film.

A nameless (based on the two reviews I've read) Cambodian hitman (Edison Chen) raised and trained as a killing machine was sent to Hong Kong to kill (like, duh). He finished off his victim, a woman lawyer, in a dimsum restaurant by shooting her in the head point blank, and then grabbing and slamming her head onto the glass cup on the table (splat!), then putting another two bullets into her head. The police came not long after, amongst them is Wai (Sam Lee), a young detective who gradually became obsessed in trying to track the killer, losing whatever shred of humanity he had with him by becoming just as inhumane as his target. There are no good guys or bad guys, despite dispatching piles of people with casual indifference, the hitman's brutality can be attributed to his background, whilst the police, like Wai, would resort to all kinds of violent methods in order to track the killer down, like bartering drugs, beating up informants etc.

Edison Chen in Dog Bite DogYet before you are entirely repulsed by both sides, they would show flashes of humanity that make you feel increasingly confused in choosing whom to root for, or rather, the emotional depth shown by the characters would engage you so much that it's nearly impossible to maintain a sense of detachment when watching the film. And that's what made the film so intense and hardcore.

The killer got into some kinda romance of sorts with a young and possibly mentally handicapped immigrant (Pei Pei) after rescuing her from a sexually abusive father. And in return, she became intensely loyal to him, aiding him whenever the police were getting too near. While Wai has his own secrets, especially something regarding his comatose father, who was once a highly-regarded police who was suddenly linked to a drug deal... what really happened that sent his father to a coma?

Oh, there's also this part where the cops got hold of the mentally handicapped girlfriend and beat her up brutally at the streets just so that the killer can come out of his hiding place. Hollywood this ain't. Not even the Koreans or the Japanese could've done something like this nowadays (well, the Japanese might, but they would most usually end up becoming exploitative... Takashi Miike-style).

Dog Eat Dog is a terrific film. Great acting (Edison Chen shows just as much acting skills as Jet Li in Unleashed, if not more, and Sam Lee reminds everyone why he was so promising back then after his breakthrough role in Made In Hong Kong. And the supporting cast of veteran actors like Wayne Lai, Cheung Siu Fai and the little-known Lam Ka Wah whom I remembered being a TV actor back in early 90s were impressive like hell), editing, cinematography (oh, my god, ESPECIALLY the cinematography) and script (okay, the ending is kinda over-the-top...). It's not easy to watch, and I doubt I can watch it twice because of how intense it is, but anyone not watching it is definitely missing something great. Kinda reinforces my faith in Hong Kong movies, this film. I dare to say that in Asian cinemas, Hong Kong is still unsurpassed when it comes to crime thrillers.

*sigh* Been churning out too many film reviews lately.

Film trailer

Related reviews:

Asian Cinema - While On The Road: Dog Bite Dog (HK) 2006

Lovehkfilm.com: Dog Bite Dog