Monday, January 01, 2007

[1981] MAN ON THE BRINK: Hey--New Wave undercover cop drama! Infernal Affairs twenty years ago! Or one half of Infernal Affairs--poor Ah Chui, an undermotivated cop mysteriously picked for undercover duty. (Mysteriously because I found it mysterious that they picked a guy who was shown thinking about quitting the force in a previous scene, and let an old lady get away in the opening scene because he felt bad for her. Wouldn't you want somebody completely committed to police work for your undercover guy?) He doesn't turn out to be a particularly good thug, either--he's not quite brutal enough--but just being with the thugs begins to turn him rotten. He drives his girlfriend away as he gets more casually violent, and then he's fired from the force when he organizes a hit on his ex's new lover's jewelry store and is left a thug in name and in deed. That's just the one-sentence summary, there's a bunch of twists and turns, plus some unfortunate moments of bad comedy and errant sentiment. But overall this is an unusually character-driven film, not an exercise in plot one-upmanship or style like a lot of Hong Kong crime movies. Ah Chui isn't a bastard, but he isn't noble either; he's kind of a cop everyman who gets his girl and eventually his life stolen from him because he's forced to walk between two worlds (there's your title) and in the process of falling between the two and staggering back to his feet he gets run down to nothing. In the end he gets beaten to death by a bunch of vindictive apartment-dwellers after a botched raid, his final words something like "Is this a heroic death?" And the final freeze-frame is a friend of his screaming in rage at his friend's death--a raw ending for a generally raw film, aforementioned tonal lapses aside. A lot of the New Wave was powered by raw anger, wasn't it?

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