STOOL PIGEON, THE (SIN YAN) (director: Dante Lam; screenwriters: story by Dante Lam/Wai Lun Ng; cinematographer: Chung-to Tse; editors: Ki-hop Chan/Matthew Hui; music: Henry Lai; cast: Nick Cheung (Don Lee), Nicholas Tse (Ghost Jr.), Kwai Lunmei (Dee), Pu Miao(Cher), Yi Lu (Barbarian), Liu Kai-chi (Jabber), Philip Keung(Tai Ping), Shing-Cheung Lee(Don’s boss); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Candy Leung; Emperor Motion Pictures; 2010-Hong Kong-in Cantonese with English subtitles)
“By the time we get to the centerpiece bloody climax, too much air has gone out of the film for it to be revived.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Prolific Hong Kong filmmaker Dante Lam (“Love on the Rocks”/”Beast Stalker”/”Fire of Conscience“)cranks out another familiar Hong Kong action-packed cops and robbers tale done by the numbers in its usual formulaic style. Its conventional story is dragged out in a spurious attempt to perhaps convince itself it gives two shits about how the collaboration of a stoolie with his cop handler affects the psyche of each. You can forget the psychological trimmings and half-assed attempt to go a little arty, this is your typical HK action film with bloody machete fights and a chilling car chase through HK’s crowded streets. The protagonist is the titular brooding and guilt-stricken Ghost Jr. (Nicholas Tse), who needs some big cash to pay off the mob and thereby free his teenage sister from a lifetime of forced prostitution. It’s based on a story by the director and is written by Wai Lun Ng.
The pic opens with the manipulative dedicated cop Don Lee (Nick Cheung) feeling bad that his informant (Liu Kai-chi) is damaged goods from a machete attack after a drug bust, something the cop told the stoolie wouldn’t happen because he realized it meant giving up the informer’s identity and making him a target of the gang. Nevertheless the police brass is pleased with the bust and the cop is promoted to police inspector and recruits for his next stoolie the recently released felon Ghost Jr., a career petty criminal and illegal street drag racer. The reluctant stoolie infiltrates a violent gang of armed robbers, headed by a dude with the handle Barbarian (Yi Lu). There’s also a wary field commander named Tai Ping (Philip Keung), who has the stoolie drive the getaway car in a jewelry store hold-up.
Ghost Jr. falls for Dee (Kwai Lunmei), Barbarian’s conflicted gritty girlfriend and someone with a hardluck story to match his. The robbery is bloody, as one cop goes down. But the robbers get the gold and return to their hide-out, and then are in the middle of a double-cross when the cops make an appearance. The action now has the gang leaders chasing after Ghost Jr. and Dee, because they stole more than their share of the gold. Also around is the guilty cop, Don, who is haunted by so many bad memories he seems to have suddenly become too soft to do his job as coldly as dictated by police policy.
It was a chore getting through the over plotted middle section, as the overlong film drags its feet introducing dull subplots for characters that have no personality and are instantly forgettable. By the time we get to the centerpiece bloody climax, too much air has gone out of the film for it to be revived. What I learned from the film is that being a police informer is not a good career choice, and that I still could not warm up to a superficial Hong Kong formula action pic no matter how well it’s executed.
REVIEWED ON 11/4/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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