Saturday, December 6, 2008

DOG BITE DOG (Hong Kong, 2006)

A fight at the opera: the bits they really didn't need.

DOG BITE DOG (Hong Kong, 2006)

D: Soi Cheang Pou-soi

Bleak made chic, with hip nihilism taken to nearly laughable extremes, as grungy Cambodian assassin Edison Chen hits Hong Kong for a paid hit and is immediately pursued by tenacious cop Sam Lee across a dingy, trash-strewn city. The picture moves at a relentless clip, forgiving those moments where it slows down for Chen to "act," but the central message that men will revert to basic instinct in desperate times is nothing new, so the filmmakers make sure to blame bad daddies for good measure (or is it absentee mommies?). The metaphor is mercilessly pounded home by Silver Cheung's production design, which consists largely of spreading copious amounts of detritus and grime onto every location--as if having one major character live in a shanty on top of a garbage dump wasn't obvious enough--and cinematographer Edmund Fung, who bathes the festivities in a sickly yellow-green hue. Okay, we GET it! But just in case we don't get it, one setpiece fight between the grunting protagonists is augmented by dog growls. You see, they're all feral and stuff, so...ummm... But the worst is saved for last, a self-contained, thematically unneccessary and nigh-operatic blast of pretentious Cambodian slice 'n dice that could have saved all involved one hell of a lot of embarrassment had it been dropped entirely. Real life party boyz Lee and (especially) Chen look too young for these parts, and are surrounded by any number of actors who might have been better in their places. Of the two, Lee comes the closest to convincing, while Chen finally appears to have found the outer reaches of his limited talents, and it was a very short search.


Cal said...

Yes, I also found it to be heavy-handed, and I hated the unnecessary ending - they could have finished the film nicely without having the Cambodian bit tagged on. I didn't think Chen was too bad in this, actually, but I know you have a certain...dislike for the man ;)

Rex Saigon said...

I do indeed have issues with Chen's abilities as an actor, but by that measure there are many other Hong Kong performers of equally limited skill, but they're balanced by a degree of humility that Chen never had. That, plus market demand, is probably what denies many younger Hong Kong performers long and lucrative careers these days, so Chen could prove savvy enough to stage a slow comeback (I'm sure his bank accounts aren't suffering even now), but I strongly believe we'll still have to contend with the fact that he's more of an idol than an actor. Some would say that the same could be said of some of today's top talents back in their early years (Andy Lau?, Jacky Cheung?), but thankfully they were more capable of keeping their private lives private. Incidentally, this review was written back in early 2007, long before the big scandal hit the papers. ;)

As for DOG, I'm glad someone else found the ending to be unnecessary. It's certainly well-made, as the clip shows, but it's just too much, and the movie ends quite nicely without it. Had it been released that way (minus the ending) I think my thoughts would have been much more positive to the overall production. I'll give Soi Cheang credit for at least trying to do something different . . .