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Dog Bite Dog
NOTE: Although this DVD is an import from Hong Kong, it is NTSC Region 0 which means that it should play in all DVD players.
A fairly simple premise gives director Pou-Soi Cheang ample opportunity for over the top melodrama and bleak, nihilistic violence in his latest crime film, Dog Bite Dog. A Cambodian named Pang (Edison Chen of the Infernal Affairs trilogy) assassinates a woman at a restaurant in Hong Kong and draws the attention of the local police. A chase ensues and Pang winds up putting a dagger into the throat of Fat Lai, a negotiator, right in front of his partner, Wei (Sam Lee of the Gen-X Cops films). As soon as Wei draws his gone to shoot him, Pang puts his hands up and surrenders and the rest of the squad come running in and arrest him. They take him into custody and find that he'd been hired by the woman's husband, and soon Pang escapes.
Meanwhile, Wei's father (Ka Wah Lam), awakens from the coma that he's been in for the last few months since Wei found out his true nature and overreacted. Because of this, the internal affairs department has been watching Wei. They figure he's a loose canon and that sooner or later he'll snap – they're not far off! Wei makes it his mission to hunt down Pang and pay him back for what he did to his partner and to prove his worth as an honest cop. Unfortunately for Wei, Pang has taken an innocent girl with him after killing shooting her captor at the junkyard where she was being held. This will complicate things far more than either of them could realize as their cat and mouse game comes to a close.
Dog Bite Dog starts off quite well. The characters are well established, the story points out an interesting link between all three of them that binds them together in ways that none of them realize, and the action comes at us with style and intensity. The atmosphere is sufficiently bleak and the cinematography and rough camera work accentuates this quite a bit. Adding to the 'plus side' of things is the fact that the acting from Sam Lee and Edison Chen is top notch, with Lee in particular really getting into his role and showing a darkly serious side that those who have only seen him in comedic roles just might be taken aback by. Unfortunately, the film gets bogged down under the heavy-handedness of its message and the over use of simple metaphors. Pou-Soi Cheang is obviously comparing the acts of the leads to those of wild dogs, he does this with some subtlety at first by showing us a dog looking for food just trying to survive, but if we weren't able to pick up on that, by the middle part of the film he's literally beating us over the head with it, using growling noises during the fight scenes to make sure that there's no way we can miss this rather obvious comparison. On top of this, there's the ending – one of the most completely over the top and unnecessarily melodramatic finales in some time. Whatever success he had in building things up to this point isn't ruined, but it is certainly hurt by the over cooked visuals and the soundtrack that are employed during the last moments of the film.
In the end, Dog Bite Dog does get more right than it gets wrong. It tells a decent story, it features some strong performances, and it has stylish direction, realistic violence that actually adds to that atmosphere without feeling too gratuitous and an interesting underlying theme of paternal redemption. Sadly, it looses control at the end and this really takes away from the replay value of the picture.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this release is decent but far from flawless. There are some compression artifacts present in the darker scenes (of which there are many) as well as some mild print damage showing up here and there in form of specks and grain. The color scheme for the movie has been intentionally manipulated to give everything a dark, bleak look and the disc replicates this quite well. Sometimes the fine detail does get a little buried and there is some aliasing here and there but everything is perfectly watchable.
There are three audio options included on the first disc in the set – Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Cantonese DTS 5.1 Surround Sound and a Mandarin dubbed track in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Optional subtitles are available in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, and English. If your hardware is compatible, opt for the DTS track is it is just a little heavier sounding and a little more intense than the Dolby Digital track. Channel separation is clean and clear and the effects and score are mixed in with the dialogue nicely. There are no problems to report with hiss or distortion and the English subs are easy to read even if there are a few awkward phrases here and there in the translation.
Extras on the first disc include trailers for three other DVD releases available from Joy Sales as well as a commentary (which includes optional English subtitles) from director Pou-Soi Cheang and one of his producers. Done as a sort of roundtable discussion, Cheang fields questions from a group of people who have been asked to participate in the discussion and he covers the box office reception that the film received during its theatrical run in Hong Kong as well as how he went about casting the movie. He doesn't go into as much detail as he probably could have and things are fairly superficial here but if you were rabid about the film it's worth at least sampling this track despite the fact that the translation into English leaves a little to be desired.
The biggest and best of the supplements on the second disc in this set is a behind the scenes documentary that clocks in at approximately an hour and seven minutes in length entitled My View To A Film. Here, in addition to a wealth of behind the scenes footage and clips, we are treated to interviews with stars Sam Lee and Edison Chen who talk about their characters, their working relationship with the film's director, and about some of the more interesting moments in the movie. The interviews aren't all that in depth but they are at least amusing and some of the behind the scenes footage is quite interesting to see which makes this worth a look.
Also included on this disc is a montage of behind the scenes footage entitled Give Me Another Chance (9:03), a blooper reel entitled The Funniest Video and some deleted scenes (7:38 worth in total, the bulk of which – though not all – are from the first half of the movie), none of which really add much. Battlefield is a three minute look at how some of the action set pieces were put together that ends with the crew lighting candles and posing in front of a glazed pig. Rounding things out is a still gallery of nineteen promo shots from the feature. Menus are provided for both discs and chapter selection is available for the feature on disc one. The packaging for this release is quite attractive with the two discs housed inside a keepcase, which features some alternate cover art that contrasts nicely with the slick looking slipcase cover. Inside are two postcards, which reproduce images from the movie. Subtitles are provided for all of the supplemental material in English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.
Dog Bite Dog is a decent enough film with an interesting story and a great build up that gets muddled by its heavy handed message and completely melodramatic ending. Joy Sales has done a solid job on this two-disc release and even if the translation isn't perfect, the inclusion of English subtitles on all of the extra features definitely adds some value for English speaking fans of Hong Kong cinema. Not a masterpiece, but a decent movie. Rent it if you can, otherwise consider this one casually recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.