April 21, 2014

That Demon Within

In Dante Lam’s That Demon Within, now in limited North American theatrical release, a tightly-wound police constable (Daniel Wu) loses his already tenuous grip on reality after donating blood to a stabbing victim. The beneficiary of this reflexive act of altruism turns out to be the Demon King, cop-killer and leader of a ruthless armed robbery ring. The intensity of Wu’s internalized madness places him alongside Keitel and Cage in the cinematic cop-on-the-edge hall of fame. Nick Cheung, previously seen as the soulful MMA trainer in Lam’s rousing fight pic Unbeatable, vibrates with grinning menace as the Demon King. Lam’s oppressive, wildly expressionistic direction situates the audience inside the protagonist’s skewed reality, even as it keeps up the cat-and-mouse crime thriller tension. As such it recalls the director’s previous portrayal of a policeman’s spiral into insanity, the classic Beast Cop.

Cinematographer Kenny Tse again shows that Hong Kong is the world city that was made to be photographed in beautiful digital.

Lam knows how to escalate a third act, and here serves up an outer conflagration to match it’s anti-hero’s inner disintegration.

A must-see for fans of Feng Shui, gritty crime flicks, and hallucinatory cinema.
HK movies now routinely show up on streaming services, so if you can’t catch it now, remember That Demon Within for later.