Beast Stalker (2008) (Ching Yan) [New York Asian Film Festival 2018]

After a gunfight and car accident, a cop pursuing a long time criminal foe is involved in the death of a child. His guilt pushes him to chase the criminal even more fervently. The child’s mother, a prosecutor, pushes for the most severe punishment for this criminal.

Directed by Dante Lam and written by Wai Lun from a story by Dante Lam, Beast Stalker is an action movie that starts strong and has a few great scenes, but it seems to get lost in its own grandeur. There is a ton of stuff happening, lots of characters, and one can easily get distracted for a second and become completely lost in the film’s twists and turns, its action scenes, and all that is happening. While the story is interesting, the execution is all over the place and makes it hard to just enjoy everything.

Adding to the all over the place feeling is the cinematography by Man Po Cheung and Kenny Tse. Their work is shaky at times and completely frenetic, which in smaller quantity can add to the dynamics of the film but here it makes it becomes a bit too much and takes away from the action instead of adding to it by making it hard to focus on what is going on and hard to follow the action which is so well planned and done in front of the camera. The cinematography paired with the editing make it hard to follow everything going on in each scene and leading viewers to not follow enough to make it through the film without questions. Thankfully, some of the scenes are done without this style and it makes them easier to follow and more appealing both visually and from an attention standpoint.

What is very well done here are the stunts, including a car chase scene near the start of the film which is well-planned and well-executed. It grabs the attention and doesn’t let go, even when the camera style may cause some issues. The film’s stunt crew does fantastic work here and throughout the film. Also doing great work is the cast including lead Nicholas Tse as the tormented cop and Jingchu Zhang as Ann Gao. The two of them carry the film and give performances at times very serious and at others very emotional. Their work pulls the viewer in and makes the most of each scene they are in, completely oblivious to the camera movements and the editing of course. They are both highly talented and make this a much better movie than it would have been without him.

Beast Stalker is an actioner that gets lost in its own visual flourishes when had it concentrated on the acting and the storyline could have been a much more engrossing film. As it is, it has a few really good action scenes and some powerful emotional ones that help drive the film to its conclusion and keep the viewer watching.

New York Asian Film Festival 2018 runs from June 29th to July 15th, 2018.