"The Beast Stalker"

Anger issues, petty politics, and other charming attributes

REVIEW Missed The Beast Stalker at the just-completed 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival? Make sure you catch its theatrical run at the Four Star, a longtime hotspot for new Hong Kong genre films. (Owner Frank Lee was dishing 'em out long before 2006's The Departed, a H.K. cops 'n' gangstas remake, raked in box office megabucks and Oscar gold.) Where else would I have seen 1998's Beast Cops, starring the inimitable Anthony Wong and the irritating Michael Wong (no relation)? The Beast Stalker boasts neither Wong, but it does have Cops codirector Dante Lam, who directs solo here and cowrote the script. Prior to a car chase gone horribly awry, Tong (Nicholas Tse) was the kind of police captain his fellow officers hated to serve, thanks to anger issues, petty politics, and other charming attributes. After Tong accidentally causes the death of a child — coincidentally the daughter of an attorney, Ann (Zhang Jingchu), who's prosecuting a mob boss — he takes some time off to become, uh, less of an asshole. It's only when Ann's other young daughter is kidnapped (what are the chances?) that Tong can attempt to redeem himself, though scar-faced baby snatcher Hung (Nick Cheung) proves an adversary as muddy-gray in the morality department as Tong is. Amid the gun battles and tense cell-phone negotiations (wouldn't be a H.K. action flick without plenty of both), there's not much beauty to be found in either of these two beasts. The movie, though, is plenty thrilling.

THE BEAST STALKER opens Fri/15 at the Four Star.

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