|Gordon Chan, right, director of Beast Cops at HKIFF|
|The disheveled trio of ordinary heroes|
For someone living in Hong Kong, it was an unexpected delight to recognize many of the scenes that were filmed in my neighborhood of Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced Jim-Sa-Joy) on Kowloon island. What elevates this film from a boilerplate cop drama into a thoughtful commentary about human existence is a script that combines light-hearted humor with philosophical musings about life and love, and how even the most flawed of characters can be a true hero.
"I wanted this film to be, ultimately, hopeful," said Chan after the screening, who was kind enough to answer a few burning questions of mine. "The studios wanted a comedy, but I wanted it to be more than that - a reflection on the human experience."
The story centers around Tung (Anthony Wong), a disheveled, out of shape street cop with dubious morals. He mostly cares about reeling in a paycheck and staying on the good side of gang leader Fai, known as "Big Brother." However, circumstances change when Big Brother goes on the run after a hit on a business rival goes wrong, and puts his trust in Tung to keep his territory on the up and up. To make matters worse, Tung finds himself having to show his new boss, fresh-faced Michael Cheung (Michael Wong) the ropes of the neighborhood without implicating himself. Worlds begin to collide as Cheung falls hard for Big Brother's abandoned girlfriend Yoyo (Kathy Chow), a hard-as-nails madame, and their relationship quickly becomes exclusive. Meanwhile, Pushy Pin (Patrick Tam), one of Big Brother's underlings, attempts to move up in the ranks, taking advantage of his old boss's absence.
|Mr. Chan's autograph!|
It is in the quiet moments where the story holds its true power. The desperation on the face of Tung when the married woman he has been having an affair with tells him she is going back to her old life without him, stating she doesn't love him. "But I love you," he mutters softly as she slinks back into the night, and the shadows of the evening fall around him like a curtain addressing the end of a final act.The profound sadness on Skinny Sam's face when his presumed date shows up with her husband, and he motors away with the bouquet of flowers still attached to the backseat.
SPOILER ALERT: Chan shared with me that Tung was originally supposed to die, but he felt that would've changed the tenor of the movie completely, which I agree with. "I wanted to send a message of hope," he said. Perhaps hope not only for the characters in his story, but for the city of Hong Kong.