Notable Cast: Daniel Wu, Nick Cheung, Christie Chen, Andy On, Liu Kai-chi, Dominic Lam
Dante Lam has never been my favorite of the modern Hong Kong directors that has found international appeal for various reasons. The lacking US releases of his last two films seemed to indicate that perhaps there wasn’t quite enough strength and/or appeal to them so I didn't really hunt them out. I kept my opinion open though and when I discovered That Demon Within was available to watch on Amazon Prime (even though it has yet to get a full US release on home video), I was on it in an instant. As the closing credits roll though, it’s easy to understand why the thriller garnered mixed reviews and no one seems to be clamoring for a wider release. The film is one that sports a spectacular and edgy concept, but lacks the flow and structure to sell its tale of paranoia, revenge, and moral stance. It’s a film that could have been one of Lam’s best in concept, but falls considerably short.
When a small time police officer (Daniel Wu) attempts to do the right thing by donating blood to a severely injured man, he unknowingly keeps a criminal mastermind (Nick Cheung) alive. When this “Demon King” escapes police custody, our young hero will do anything to take down the man he saved and the criminal organization he runs. Even if it means crossing the line.
|It's just gun talk.|
Dante Lam isn’t a director that’s really suited for this kind of film either. His stylish action set pieces, think Michael Bay inspired, don’t quite fit either and come off a cheesy in the film. There are a ton of reoccurring symbolic elements to be found, including tons of fire and the demon masks that the villains wear, but those get lost in a plethora of characters and plot progressions for the film. Since it is still a thriller, That Demon Within is obligated to give us a twisty tale where Daniel Wu’s character has to play off the gang members against each other and there is, of course, police corruption involved. So as the film is trying to stuff these portions into the plot, it loses its focus on the character study and all of the artistic pieces fall flat. Let’s not forget that because it’s a thriller it also has to have a few action set pieces and while those work for the most part, the finale car wreck would have been prime material if it wasn’t for the questionable CGI, it again pulls away from the core of what would have made this film tick: the character arc.
|Demons with shotguns.|
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