Saturday, July 7, 2012
Man On The Brink
New wave director Alex Cheung's second feature after his excellent debut Cops and Robbers, 1981's Man On The Brink further examines the inherent links between cop and criminal, taking it a stage further this time as the the two become entwined as one.
The film stars Eddie Chan as Ah Chiu, a cop given a special assignment to infiltrate a triad gang, to get to know the inner workings of the gang, and to become one of them in order to take them down from the inside. Initially enjoying the job, Ah Chiu soon realises the lifestyle is taking it's toll, not only on his own life but the lives of those close to him. With only fellow undercover cop Ah Tai (Kam Hing Yin) to confide in, the pressure mounts on Chiu to unbearable levels, as he teeters, well on the brink of course!
Cheung's film is much more of a serious, gritty drama examining the psychological effects of the undercover's life rather than the expected action flick. Man On the Brink does deliver short bursts of violent action, which serve to enhance the the pressure cooker atmosphere, rather than them feeling like they are there for the sake of it. These sequences are suitably chaotic and desperate, giving them a distinctly realistic feel. One of, if not the earliest example of the undercover film in Hong Kong cinema and as such, not only is Cheung's film superb in it's own right, but highly influential in this popular sub-genre of the crime film.
In addition to directing, Alex Cheung also wrote and shot the film, and it was clearly a labour of love for him and aside from a couple of moments of unnecessary humour, he does an excellent job across all disciplines, even managing to fit in a little biting social commentary. For a 1981 film, it holds up remarkably well with only a heavy handed music montage dating the film, otherwise it still feels fresh, and considering the number of imitators the film inspired this is truly remarkable.
In a movie full of strengths, Eddie Chan's performance is one of it's greatest and he's never anything less than believable, giving the film a solid emotional core and making you completely empathise with him as he buckles under the intense strain of the situations he finds himself in. The sense of dread is palpable as Cheung expertly ratchets up the nerve shredding tension as the story moves towards it's conclusion.
Unfortunately Man On The Brink is another classic Hong Kong film unavailable on dvd, and as a result difficult to see, I would urge you to track it down however you can, trust me it's worth it!