With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, April 17, 2014

THAT DEMON WITHIN opens tomorrow in limited release

China Lion
That Demon Within / Mo jing
Directed by Dante Lam
Hong Kong/China, 2014, 112 minutes

That Demon Within is the latest film by veteran Hong Kong director Dante Lam (Unbeatable, The Viral Factor). It will open in North America tomorrow, Friday, April 18th, day-and-date with its Hong Kong release. The movie will screen in major metro areas throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Toronto and Vancouver.(Check local listings.)

Golden Horse Award-winner Daniel Wu (Overheard, Hot Summer Days, Control) stars as Dave Wong, a 35 year old who's been a police officer for 17 years. In that time he's served in 23 of Hong Kong's 42 precincts. The reason is that he's a stubborn, overly conscientious cop who gets along with no one. He's currently assigned to manning a post at a hospital E.R. in West Kowloon by himself.

Daniel Wu as troubled police officer Dave Wong

One night a wounded man comes into the E.R. He's Hon Kong, an armed robber and a cop killer. He needs blood, but the hospital is very low on his blood type. Kong is played by Nick Chueng, who recently won the award for Best Actor at the 33rd Hong Kong film awards for his performance in Unbeatable (2013).

Wong, who is unaware of who and what Wong is, happens to be the same type and he donates the blood that saves Kong's life. Soon thereafter he's roundly berated by Sr. Inspector C.F. "Pops" Mok for saving not just a notorious criminal, but a cop killer to boot.

Nick Cheung as Hon Kong

It quickly becomes clear that Wong has some serious issues, ones that for the most part originated in the enormous demands his father placed on him during his youth. As a result, he's very guilty about having been instumental in saving Kong's life. Wong's supervisor, Liz Kwok (Christie Chen, in her second feature film) has her sister Stephanie, who's a psychiatrist, examine Wong to ascertain just how severe his problems are.

As the film heads towards it's violent conclusion, the key question is will Wong be able to master the demon within him or succumb to its self-destructive power.

Two of the thieves in their demon masks during a shoot-out with police

There were several aspects of the film that brought other movies to mind. At the beginning, the gang of crooks don demon masks that made me think of those worn in The 5 Deadly Venoms. The street battles between the thieves and police were reminiscent of Heat. Finally, the female shrink examining an officer of the low reminded me of Infernal Affairs. This is not to suggest that I found That Demon Within derivative, because I didn't. I mention these comparison only because they kicked off the associations I mention. Maybe Lam intended them to be references or homages, maybe not.

Whatever the case, Lam, who co-wrote the screenplay with Wai Lun Ng, has fashioned a gripping psychological action-thriller. If it's playing near you, by all means check it out. It's well worth your time and money.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; a good film, solidly recommended.

Info and video clips at That Demon Within's official website.

Further info about That Demon Within can be found at China Lion on Facebook.