Monday, 13 August 2012

Danger Has Two Faces - 皇家大賊 (1985)

Shawgust kicks off with a bit of a bang this week in which I'll be talking about of Leung Kar-Yan's lesser known films Danger Has Two Faces!

Written and directed by Alex Cheung, Leung Kar-Yan plays Jin. A former cop turned pet store owner who moonlights as a hitman for a local mob boss. Things turn bad when the local police start an investigation into the murders committed by Jin who is desperate to leave it all behind and start somewhere new with his son.

I think I may have bitten off more then I can chew by choosing contemporary crime as my first theme for the inaugural Shawgust Month as these films tend to be completely devoid of martial arts action. Something which I concentrate very heavily on in my reviews but I do enjoy a challenge so I hope I can at least give you as much detailed thought on this film as I can. 

First things first. I liked the story in this one. It wasn't perfect but I did like how it played out. Alex Cheung does an okay job of keeping things in check. I do have to say that there are moments when it tries to be a lot more clever then it actually is but I do give him credit for actually putting some effort in trying to tell a good story. 80's Hong Kong Cinema is not really known for it's well thought out plots and three dimensional characters. Danger Has Two faces doesn't really stand out among the crowd when compared to some of the more well known films made during this time but as it is, the film's story does what it needs to and treats the characters well enough and allows some of the actors to carve out fairly decent performances all round.

I haven't any of Cheung's other works but I think after this I might feel the need to go out and get my hands on some of them as at least I'll know the films (hopefully) will competently made.

As I said before the acting is all round decent. Beardy gets to do the whole serious brooding thing which he found himself doing quiet a lot during the 1980's, he's very intense for the most part and plays Jin with conviction and determination. Even in the scenes he shares with his son are nicely played out and do make Jin to be a character of unfortunate circumstance. Something the character does comment on during the final act of the film. He's got a fairly good supporting cast behind him too. Bei Cheung plays his best friend and police detective investigating a robbery which Jing finds himself connected to after carrying out orders to bump off one of the robbers. I liked him, he didn't over act and he had some good scenes with Kar-Yan and a number of other actors. 

The stunningly gorgeous Carroll Gordon plays his girlfriend. Like pretty much any female supporting role in this film she tends to be a little bit annoying but she does show a bit of initiative when she decides to follow one of her boyfriend's colleagues suspected of being on the take by local mobsters. The sequence was backed by an annoying mid-80's HK pop song but I did like how she played it smart when it came to actually getting photographic evidence. Even if her choice of hiding places were questionable. Paul Chu Kong plays a rather devious police lieutenant but I thought he was too friendly looking to make a convincing bad guy but I'm guessing that was Cheung's point in casting him that way it makes it more shocking for the audience. There are a few other characters but one I only really wanted to mention was Kirk Wong. That's right. The director of Crime Story and Flash Future Kung Fu has a supporting role as a sleazy and hot-headed police detective and ends up being one of the more memorable characters in the film. It amazes me that Hong Kong had directors who also appeared as actors. Even in Hollywood now that's very much a rarity.

Given this is meant to be a modern day crime thriller there isn't much in terms of martial arts action. Everyone uses guns as their method of dealing out pain. Beardy uses a high-powered pistol which is reminiscent of one used by Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series. This lends credence to the fact Beardy does play as very Bronson-like character, dealing out justice through the barrel of the gun. Each bullet hit is accompanied by lots of bright red blood and even a few exploding limbs which I really liked as it gave it that slight over the top edge which fits the tone of the film very nicely. Sadly there isn't much action in it at all except for an opening shoot out in an MTR station and nothing much else until the final act of the film which shove in as much action as it can in it's remaining run time.

What starts off as a run and gun sequence through a forest turns into a vehicle chase which features some hilariously convenient obstacles and finally a big confrontation in a petrol container yard. I loved just how fast and insane the pacing of the last twenty or so minutes was. It seemed they must have been getting close to the end of the filming schedule and needed to get everything done quickly but this breakneck attitude does help raise the excitement factor and we end up with a very entertaining final reel.

One thing I would like to comment on is the music. There's a nice opening theme which I think I might end up ripping and putting onto my iphone as it has a nice, slow, understated tune to it which I really liked. There's also a few moments of the score which seem to be drawing inspiration from the likes of John Carpenter and Barry De Vorzon. Definitely one of the more memorable scores to an 80's Hong Kong film I've heard in a long time.

Despite not being much beloved among Hong Kong Cinema fans I for one really liked Danger Has Two Faces and will happily watch it again when the mood strikes. If you can find a copy of the DVD, which is out of print but there's still some copies floating around, then make sure you don't hesitate to pick it up as you'll be in for a very enjoyable 89 minutes of 80's Shaw crime goodness.


  1. I enjoyed it too, but it pales in comparison to Cheung's earlier films.

  2. i also thought the theme music was amazing, but your wrong on your criticisms...
    this film was awesome!!!

    i mean Leung in a dirtbike played chicken with a town car!, keep in mind having been filmed in the 80s it still rivals today's action special effects

    not to mention we get to see the 'naive goody cop' protagonist get his face smashed in, that was awesome! XD

    your right, about the female characters being portrayed as weak though, they weren't strong characters/'iron angel' types at all and pretty much ignored as far as unanswered questions at the films end... chok it up to our Cantonese machismo

  3. I decided to check out the film after reading this blog. It's not bad, it definitely has some high points, the cinematography is excellent and there is a definite hard 80s tone to the film. The comedy gets in the way though.