Beast Cops ★★★★½

Not only does this have Anthony Wong at his most righteously sleazy playing the streetwise cop who bends but doesn't quite break the rules in the interest of maintaining the delicate balance of the community under his protection (ie: the Triads are OK if they're just into gambling and prostitution, but drug dealing and violence against non-gang members is too much), but it also has the most Michael Wong performance ever from Michael Wong, playing the straight arrow cop who gets assigned to be Wong's partner/boss, a man so ill-fitting the improvisational Cantonese community he's assigned to that everyone refers to him as a white guy (Wong, like his character, is half Chinese and not quite fluent, his American accent is extremely noticeable).

The metaphor is obvious enough: the foreign, authoritarian presence arrives in Hong Kong and attempts to impose order on its barely managed chaos. The cop story is mirrored by a generic Triad story, in which Roy Cheung's old school honorable crook is supplanted by his younger, less moral protégé (Patrick Tam, not the director, but the singer who beat out Sammi Cheng at the 1988 New Talent Singing Awards). The bulk of the film though ignores the familiar plotting in favor of character bits and street-level explorations of the neighborhood Wong works in, along with the cops' relationships with women (all the women in the film are prostitutes).

Directors Gordon Chan and Dante Lam take a New Wave style handheld approach to the city, one that had been largely abandoned in the wake of A Better Tomorrow and heroic bloodshed. The movie is the city, and the city is Anthony Wong.