Director: Dante Lam
Starring: Daniel Wu, Nick Cheung, Christie Chen, Andy On, Liu Kai-chi, Dominic Lam
By-the-book Hong Kong police officer Dave Wong (Daniel Wu), working the police post at a Kowloon hospital, agrees to a blood transfusion for a patient with a severe injuries. Later he learns that the very man he saved is Hon (Nick Cheung), a violent criminal responsible for numerous deaths. When Hon escapes police surveillance and resumes his criminal activities resulting in more bloodshed, Dave begins experiencing guilt on a level that threatens to unleash a darkness within him never before seen. As he begins a personal investigation to bring Hon and his criminal associates to justice, his methods and sanity are stretched to degrees that will challenge his righteousness and oath as an officer.
Dante Lam directs this Hitchcockian crime thriller with a visual panache that has been missing in many Hong Kong films of recent years. Hearkening back to the hyper-kinetic and colorful productions of the 90’s, Lam delivers a wholly engaging and incredibly enthralling picture where powerhouse performances by Wu and Cheung anchor a tightly paced and engaging psychological thriller.
Cheung, continuing his recent trend of darker and more mature roles, brings a very convincing sinister bend to his character. Hon is calculating, brutal, and certainly commands the screen whenever he appears. It’s a physically intimidating performance and perhaps one of his most viciously entertaining in years. Wu has definitely stepped up his game as Dave Wong; he has come a long way from his early days in Chiseen and the like and has matured into a very solid actor. As Dave begins to unravel, Wu exhibits a gallery of emotions and drives home a feeling of helplessness along with dark motivation. It is a challenging role to be sure and Wu more than admirably handles it. The supporting cast is quite good with the excellent Liu Kai-chi stealing the show as the conniving Broker. Almost a pawn in the game of cat and mouse between Wong and Hon, it is always great to see a supporting actor have so much to do against competent leads.
That Demon Within is one of those few recent Hong Kong films that truly feels like a throwback to 80’s and 90’s era HK. It it frenetic, bloody, and oddly beautiful with its dynamic camerawork and fantastic touches of mental instability for both Hon and Wong. While it does have a few missteps; some minor lapses in police judgment and more than a few wholly unlikable characters, the film is a thoroughly engaging and darkly beautiful film. Gritty and intense, there is a LOT to enjoy in this film and Lam may be one of the few last gen filmmakers still making interesting and challenging pictures.