Film Review “That Demon Within”

926_tdw-teaser-poster-lores_044DStarring: Daniel Wu and Nick Cheung
Directed by: Dante Lam
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 52 mins
China Lion Films

In Cantonese with English subtitles

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

During a daring daytime robbery, the police and bad guys are shooting it out in the middle of a busy street packed with bystanders. When one of the bags of money falls open into the street, one of the robbers notices a black velvet bag spilled into the street. Looking down incredulously he asks, “are those diamonds?” Thus begins one of the best action films (and psychological thrillers) I’ve watched in a very long time.

Dave Wong (Wu) is a dutiful cop. As we learn more about him we find that he became a cop in order to give his life an almost calm normalcy. While in the emergency room of a local hospital Dave learns that a badly injured man needs blood. Feeling it is part of his job to protect the people he gladly donates. It is only later, when he finds that the man he helped was the mastermind of the robbery, that things begin to spiral downward, especially after he is chastised for his good deed by his superiors. Dave begins to recede into his old self, often hallucinating that he and the crime boss are the same person. He is self absorbed in his own world, where fiery images dominate his thoughts. As his guilt progresses Dave slides deeper and deeper into an abyss he may not be able to escape.

I am a huge fan of director Dante Lam, especially his 2012 film “The Viral Factor.” He brings to the screen an amazing combination of John Woo’s visual flair and Martin Scorsese’s story detail. This film is no exception. As the film moves along…as we move along in Dave Wong’s world, we begin to put ourselves in his shoes. These moments blend in perfectly with some of the most amazing action sequences I’ve seen on screen in years. While watching this film I kept thinking this would be a great story for Scorsese to tackle, as he did in 2006 when he turned “Infernal Affairs” into the Oscar-winning “The Departed.”

The film is also helped by a strong script and an even stronger cast. As Officer Wong, Wu is mesmerizing. Deep down he’s a good man who wants to do good things. However, the demons that haunt him, from his past and from the present, conspire to knock him down. The film rests solely on his shoulders and he carries the load with seeming ease. If you’re looking for a wild ride during this calm holiday weekend, you can’t do any better than “That Demon Within.”

“That Demon Within” opens today in select North American cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Washington D.C.

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