Thursday, July 10, 2014

Film Review: That Demon Within (2014)

That Demon Within (Review)
China/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Vicol Entertainment Ltd. HK)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most stylish, entertaining, and refreshing crime films of the region.."

After he unwittingly saves notorious criminal Hon, The Demon King (Nick Cheung), stubborn cop Dave (Daniel Wu) suffers from a severe mental breakdown.

That Demon Within follows Dave during his explosive meltdown. Tormented by visions of his past and the image of Hon, Dave sets out for redemption. He sets out to capture Hon and kill his gang. Along the way, his colleagues attempt to delve into his troubled mind. What is Dave suppressing and why? It loses some steam during the second half as it begins to focus a little less on the psychological aspects and more on the traditional crime elements, but it still kept me hooked. The ending is great, too.

That Demon Within is a unique crime thriller/drama. China has pushed out many crime classics (I even made a list dedicated to the best Chinese crime films), but they are frequently more of the same. That Demon Within breaks out and blends classic crime elements with deep and effective psychological aspects. The story is interesting and entertaining, but the main focus is on character -- particularly, Dave's troubled character. And I loved it. This blend is something that's not done often, and it's fortunately masterfully executed.

Other than the fantastic psychological elements, That Demon Within offers great action in the sense of stylish shootouts and exciting chase scenes. The use of slow-motion during some of the explosions is a welcomed addition. There's also some great tension and suspense, much of it impressively built through dialogue. Finally, That Demon Within is also visually impressive. Dave's mental breakdown is riveting and effective thanks to the wild visuals.

Daniel Wu is a great leading man - it's incredible to watch his character deteriorate. Nick Cheung shares less screen time, but he's also very impressive -- one of my favorite actors. The film has a very distinct and attractive style. The use of vivid colors is refreshing, it makes the cinematography pop. The music is also very unique for the genre; it sounds like it's ripped out of a horror film, and I loved it. The Hong Kong Blu-ray (Region A) has superb picture and audio quality, and great English subtitles. Director Dante Lam, who is also responsible for my personal favorite The Stool Pigeon, crafts a magnificent psychological crime film; it's one of the most stylish, entertaining, and refreshing crime films of the region.

Overall, That Demon Within is a fantastic film. Although it does briefly lose momentum during the second half, I loved every second of That Demon Within. It's a visually beautiful film with a creative and entertaining narrative. If you love Chinese crime films but want something fresh, check this film out.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some gore, and some sexuality (an attempted sexual assault.)

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