Action / Thrillers, Films, Hong Kong, Reviews

Law with Two Phases

Danny Lee (The Killer, City On Fire) in the film that made him a star…

Best known for playing opposite Chow Yun Fat in the films The Killer and City On Fire, Danny Lee writes, directs and stars in this vehicle which both made him a star and cemented his role in Hong Kong cinema as the ‘seasoned cop’.

Kit (Eddie Chan) is the rookie, recently promoted from beat cop to detective. B (Lee) is his mentor, he may not play by the rules but over the years has got the results. The two don’t see eye to eye, as you might expect, but over time develop a deep respect for each other. B hasn’t left his rough background far behind him, in fact a friend from that time and now gang member, Blacky (Parkman Wong), supplies him with some of his information.

B’s methods are definitely unconventional. In one scene, hearing that no proof has been found against a man suspected of altering replica guns, B asks Kit to leave the room. Kit fears B may be about to beat the information out of the suspect. Instead B shows off his real pistol of the man, flings himself into a cabinet, then accuses the man of assaulting him and taking the gun. As the room fills up with cops, all pointing their guns at the suspect, the man is so petrified of what will happen he admits where the ammunition is hidden.

B doesn’t have Kit’s education, but has gotten the promotions over time by hard graft. Such dedication has left little time for relationships in his life (a recurring theme for Lee, see Organised Crime and Triad Bureau) much to the despair of his mother, who he still lives with.

Then B’s world turns upside down as he is suspended for accidentally shooting a child when in pursuit of Blacky – wrongly accused of killing B’s snitch, the appropriately named Druggy Shing (Tai Po). Plagued by guilt, B withdraws from the world, his attempt to make peace with the dead child parents only brings retaliation. Kit manages to bring him back to the case of tracking down Blacky, but when Kit himself is shot down days before B is to be reinstated, he questions why he is a police officer.

Law with Two Phases bleak and decidedly grey area of morality – for both criminals and police – became a mainstay of Hong Kong cinema. One of the first films from Hong Kong to explore these themes in such a gritty, realistic way, it’s influence can be seen in the work of John Woo, Ringo Lam, throughout the Heroic Bloodshed genre of the late eighties and more recently in films like Beast Cops. It also undoubtedly influenced Jackie Chan’s character in Police Story. Even if it doesn’t have the the fireworks or flashy visuals of many of those films, Law holds up well if a little too episodic at times.

Great performances, particularly from Lee himself, make this worthwhile viewing even if it has been greatly overshadowed.

Home media details

Distributor: Universe (Hong Kong)

The age of the film shows, but this is a prety good tranfer, retaining much of the detail particularly in the night time scenes.

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Andrew Heskins
Founder of easternKicks.com, which he's been running since 2002. And it's all thanks to Monkey, Water Margin and those damn fantastic 80s Hong Kong action movies! Andy works as a graphic designer in London... More »
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