Which is your favourite Dante Lam movie?
Acclaimed Hong Kong director Dante Lam has before this dabbled with a sports drama resulting in the well-received, "Unbeatable" (2013). It was a critically-acclaimed box office hit that also received numerous accolades at various film festivals and award ceremonies. This year, "To the Fore" seems destined to be another hit-in-the-making. With in-demand Taiwanese sensation Eddie Peng and South Korean heartthrob Choi Siwon leading the cast, "To the Fore" has a novelty premise rarely explored in the Chinese sports-drama genre: professional cycling. In conjunction with the upcoming release of "To the Fore" today, here is a recap of some of the best Dante Lam movies throughout his illustrious directing career.
"Beast Cops" (1998) "
This otherwise typical cops-and-triads drama was elevated with thought-provoking character study and layered direction by a pair of top-notch Hong Kong directors (Gordon Chan and Dante Lam). Anthony Wong won Best Actor for his veteran cop role as Officer Tung, and the movie also bagged another 4 Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Patrick Tam) and Best Screenplay (Chan Hing-Kai, Gordon Chan). "Beast Cops" was also known for the intense car chase scene between the Hummer and the bus. And believe it or not, the scene was actually shot in a separate manner before they were convincingly spliced together!
"The Stool Pigeon" (2010) "
After Dante Lam re-established himself as one of the most sought-after Hong Kong directors for gritty crime drama with "The Beast Stalker" in 2008, he improved by leaps and bounds in "The Stool Pigeon". Unlike the more melodramatic approach of "The Beast Stalker", "The Stool Pigeon" (slang for "informant") was blessed with an airtight script by Jack Ng and Dante Lam himself. Dante Lam's penchant for shaky-cam approach may have been annoying for some, but he still managed to deliver compelling action sequences such as the one involving a foot chase between Ghost Jr. (Nicholas Tse), Dee (Gwei Lun-Mei) and a few police officers. Nick Cheung, who previously won Best Actor award for his kidnapper role in "The Beast Stalker", shines again as a guilt-ridden Inspector Don Lee looking to seek redemption. Both Nicholas Tse and Nick Cheung earned a nomination each for Best Actor in the Hong Kong Film Awards, but it was Tse who walked away with the win.
"The Viral Factor" (2012)"
"The Viral Factor", which was shot in Kuala Lumpur, is marked as Dante Lam's most expensive movie (at a whopping budget of HK$200 million) yet in his directing career. Although the plot took a surprising backseat this time around, the movie was redeemed with lots of large-scale action sequences. With the help of veteran stunt choreographer Chin Ka-Lok, Dante Lam made full use of Kuala Lumpur city and turned it into a battlefield. Whether it was an explosive gunfight amidst the congested traffic in Jalan Raja Chulan or a spectacular car chase through the Pavilion shopping mall in the Bukit Bintang area, the action was perfectly staged with a blockbuster feel of a big-budget Hollywood picture.
A refreshing change-of-pace from the usual crime dramas, Dante Lam attempted to tackle sports drama for the first time ever. Set against the backdrop of MMA (mixed martial arts), "Unbeatable" was best remembered for Nick Cheung's incredible physical transformation from a medium-build body appearance to a lean six-pack muscular frame. His hard effort, coupled with his captivating performance has earned him a second Best Actor win (after "The Beast Stalker" in 2008) at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Although Dante Lam was often known for his doom-and-gloom storytelling method, he managed to show a sense of genuine warmth and offbeat humour within his direction. The MMA scene was brilliantly staged in a way that as if you were watching a live TV coverage.
"That Demon Within" (2014)"
A solid genre-bending thriller that mixes character-driven cop drama and supernatural element, "That Demon Within" evoked the Category III era of the '90s where everything was pessimistic for its grim portrayal of human nature and physical violence. Dante Lam's typically gritty and handheld direction was put into good use here, while the acting was similarly top notch, with Daniel Wu particularly effective as the mentally-tortured police officer Dave Wong.
"To The Fore" is now showing in cinemas.
Cinema Online, 06 August 2015