ContactSales: Emperor Motion Pictures, Hong Kong (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: China, 24 Aug 2010; Hong Kong, 26 Aug 2010.
Presented by Emperor Classic Film (HK), Huayi Brothers Media (CN), Sil-Metropole Organisation (HK). Produced by Visual Capture (HK). Executive producers: Albert Yeung, Wang Zhongjun, Song Dai. Producers: Albert Lee, Wang Zhonglei, Cheung Hong-tat.
Script: Jack Ng. Original story: Dante Lam. Photography: Kenny Tse. Editing: Chan Ki-hop, Matthew Hui. Music: Henry Lai. Art direction: Pater Wong. Costume design: Stephanie Wong. Special make-up: Middi Yau. Sound: Ho Chi-tong, Kinson Tsang. Action: Chin Ka-lok, Wong Wai-fai. Car stunts: Thomson Ng. Special effects: Chi Shui-tim. Visual effects: Free-D Workshop. Second unit photography: Hon Sze-cheung.
Cast: Nicholas Tse (Ho Sai-fui/Ghost Jr.), Nick Cheung (Chief Inspector Lee Cheong-tung/Don Lee), Gwei Lun-mei (Dee), Liu Kai-chi (Jabber, the drugs bust stoolie), Miao Pu (Cher, Lee's wife), Lu Yi (Barbarian), Sherman Chung (Ho's younger sister), Lau Kong, Philip Keung (Tai-ping), Lawrence Cheng (Cher's brother), Li Shing-cheong (Lee's boss), Deep Ng (Fairing), Vincent Wan, Kong King, Derek Kwok, Vivien Leung (Leung, the social worker), Chan Hoi-yan (old stoolie), Aki Lee (Zipper), Ho Wa-chiu (Ma Fu-wing, the pimp), Cheung Kwok-leung (police squad leader), Selina Tsui (singer), Gloria Wong (night shop woman), Lo Tsz-hang (driver of car hitting Cher), Li Ka (roadblock policeman), Cheung Chun-fai, Wong Wai-leung, Wong Wai-fai (Tai-ping's assistants), Tse Loh-sze (illegal doctor), Law Chor-lam (driver), Joey Lau (Barbarian's girlfriend), Lao Siu-kuen (abducted female driver), Au Hin-wai (senior police officer), Chow Chi-keung (roadblock policeman), Lau Yuk-mui (old woman neighbour), Max Cheung, Chun Kai-wai, Yao Jiawen, Ng Wai-lok, Li Chi-ho, Yan Zifei, Chen Sha, Chen Xiaojing (Lee's colleagues).
The Stool Pigeon 線人
Contemporary crime thriller
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 111 mins
Directed by Dante Lam (林超賢)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 22 September 2010, 22:59 PM (HKT)
The main cast of Dante Lam's Beast Stalker reunites in a tense, more character-driven crime thriller. Some theatrical potential, plus genre festivals and strong ancillary.
Hong Kong, the present day. Following a drugs bust, detective Lee Cheong-tung (Nick Cheung) is promoted to chief inspector but his stool pigeon Jabber (Liu Kai-chi) is exposed and almost killed. A year later, Lee is told that Taiwan gangster Barbarian (Lu Yi) is back in Hong Kong and planning another jewel-store robbery. He recruits petty criminal/speed car racer Ho Sai-fui (Nicholas Tse), who's about to be released from prison, as a stoolie to infiltrate the gang of Tai-ping (Philip Keung), whose men Barbarian employs. Ho has inherited a large family debt, and his younger sister (Sherman Chung) is being forced to work as a prostitute, so he accepts Lee's offer. Ho is taken on as the driver in Barbarian's team, and gets to know his woman, Dee (Gwei Lun-mei), whom he'd briefly met a few years ago in a chance encounter. He continues to feed Lee information on Barabarian's plans, despite a growing risk of being unmasked. Lee is also having more and more misgivings about the danger in which he puts his stoolies. He also has personal problems of his own: his dance instructor wife Cher (Miao Pu), from whom he is now separated, tried to commit suicide a few months previously and has since had amnesia.
Following Beast Stalker 証人 (2008) and Fire of Conscience 火龍 (2010), Dante LAM 林超賢 and regular scriptwriter Jack NG 吳煒倫 continue their move towards more character-based crime dramas with The Stool Pigeon 線人 (2010), which not only reverses the roles that leads Nicholas TSE 謝霆鋒 and Nick CHEUNG 張家輝 played in Stalker (with Cheung this time a cop and Tse a criminal) but also casts against type both Mainland actor LU Yi 陸毅 as a gangster and Taiwanese actress GWEI Lun-mei 桂綸鎂 as his trashy woman.
Rapidly becoming one of Hong Kong's best character actors, Cheung is excellent as the cool, bespectacled police officer who harbours growing doubts about the ethics of gambling with stool pigeons' lives, while Tse, who's also been moving away from just pretty-boy roles, is totally convincing as a street criminal forced into an impossible situation. In the biggest change of her career, however, Gwei, who made her name in Blue Gate Crossing 藍色大門 (2002) and has since largely been in sweet parts (Secret 不能說的秘密 (2007), Ocean Heaven 海洋天堂 (2010)), is remarkable here as a tough, jaded moll, expanding on the potential she showed for less decorative roles in All About Women 女人不壞 (2008).
Lam doesn't exactly stint on the action expected of him as a genre director: a car chase through Kowloon to the strains of White Christmas and the final rough-and-tumble in a schoolroom are both memorable. But the tension and thrills are much more situational and character-driven here. A sequence in which Tse's stoolie is almost discovered in a meeting with Cheung's cop would not have been half as effective with lesser detailed roles.
Ng's script also takes time to focus on the procedural side of running stool pigeons — money promised, paperwork to be signed, and so on. In a reflection of present-day Hong Kong, the real enemy here is bureaucracy, with both criminals and crime-fighters trapped by economic cutbacks and broken promises by superiors. Justice is shown to be done in the end, but it's clear from the thin dividing line that Lam and Ng draw between both sides of the law that the filmmakers' sympathies don't exactly lie with the establishment.
Pigeon is way less dark and claustrophobic than Stalker, and doesn't have the same kind of complex, Swiss Clock-like plot. But it's more deeply characterised from top to bottom, with much better chemistry between Tse and Cheung than between Leon LAI 黎明 and Richie REN 任賢齊 in Conscience. Only the subplot of the detective's private life seems pasted into the overall drama. Widescreen photography by Kenny TSE 謝忠道, who worked on all three pictures, has both grit and composition.