Cop On A Mission

Cop On A Mission (2001)
Tai Seng Video Marketing
Cast: Daniel Wu, Eric Tsang, Suki Kwan
Extras: Commentary Track, Image Gallery, Trailers, Biogrpahies

The triad gangster film is a genre that has been around for many years in Hong Kong cinema, and it is hard to top some of its outstanding classics. With his 2001 film "Cop On A Mission" editor-gone-director Marco Mak has a good shot at becoming one such classic as the film features all the necessary ingredients, plus a little more… skin! When Tai Seng Video Marketing decided to make "Cop On A Mission" one of their domestic releases, I was eager to take a look how this DVD shaped up.

Police officer Mike (Daniel Wu) is suspended from duty when he is using his gun during a botched robbery. Despite the seeming dismissal however, Mike’s supervisor decides to make Mike an undercover agent to infiltrate the triad of Tin (Eric Tsang), a Godfather the Police wants to bring down but lacks solid evidence. Mike manages to quickly get Tin’s attention and over time wins his trust, so much so that he becomes his right hand jumping the traditional career ladder of the mob. But soon, Mike is torn between the two worlds as he suddenly feels how Tin’s power allows the criminal to get away with anything. Attracted by this power, Mike is always on the verge of abandoning his former life and becoming a criminal himself, all the while Tin’s estranged wife becomes his sexual obsession. Mike forges a plan to get rid of Tin and become the head to rule all of Hong Kong’s triads, but does he have what it takes to become the most powerful man in the underworld?

"Cop On A Mission" has a feel that is oftentimes quite different from the no-holds-barred approach the genre is traditionally infamous for. Director Mak allows the film pace down quite significantly at times in order to show Mike’s loneliness and personal isolation. The film contains a surprising amount of skin and flesh and at one point it almost felt as if Mak tried to deliberately establish actor Daniel Wu as an upcoming male sex symbol with countless nude scenes that are clearly designed to show off his sex appeal. Fortunately Wu has much more to offer than that and makes for a good and believable leading man in this dark, uncompromising story. Perfectly complemented by Eric Tsang as the ruthless triad head and Suki Kwan as the sultry temptress, the film gives us solid characters in a highly dramatic story with a furious finale.

The movie’s visual style is also remarkable and it shows that Marco Mak knows how to make pictures work. His image composition, the cinematography and shot sequences are nicely counterpointed by atmospheric sequences with slow motion and skillfully placed jump cuts, giving the film an additional layer of atmosphere and style.

Tai Seng is bringing "Cop On A Mission" to DVD in a <$PS,letterboxed> <$PS,widescreen> version in the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Although the print shows a few speckles, the overall presentation is clean and clear without overly noticeable grain. Colors are strong and vibrant without ever appearing oversaturated, rendering flesh tones very naturally and giving the daylight scenes in the streets of Hong Kong a very realistic look. The colorful composition of other scenes is vividly reproduced, addi9ng to the film’s atmosphere. Blacks are generally deep, although some slight dot crawl is evident in shots with fine shadow detail. The compression is without problems or distracting artifacts, making for a pleasing presentation.

"Cop On A Mission" contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix in Cantonese as well as a Mandarin and Vietnamese <$DS,Dolby Surround> track. While the Cantonese track offers a wife soundstage with good integration of surround effects, the Mandarin track by comparison feels much tighter and has a significantly boosted output level, resulting in a much louder presentation. Surrounds are used well and frequently, sometimes to enhance the dreamy atmosphere of the film, at others to drive the action home with bullets flying from all directions around the audience’s heads. The DVD also contains English subtitles, which are turned on by default to supplement the default Cantonese audio track. As usual with Tai Seng’s domestic releases, the subtitles are very good without obvious translation errors, typos or other unintentional misinterpretations.

The disc also contains an audio <$commentary,commentary track> by Tai Seng’s own Frank Djeng. In quite some depth, Djeng discusses and analyzes the movie, offering additional information on the cast members as well as certain shot sequences. As with all his efforts – Djeng has also traditionally compiled the liner notes and biographies for all of Tai Seng’s domestic DVD releases – he is very diligent and complete in his observations while always maintaining a conversational tone. His own exposure to the Chinese and the American culture alike allows Djeng to explain certain specifics that may otherwise be lost to American audiences, thus helping to make the film more tangible.

The release is rounded out by a selection of trailers, a nice collage of publicity still and poster art from the movie, and extensive biographies.

"Cop On A Mission" is another great example of cool Hong Kong filmmaking, and once again, this is a story you would never see in a Hong Kong film. While a certain Westernization of the material is evident, the story arch, the setup and the conclusion are full of twists and wicked turns that keep the viewer glued to the edge of the seat. Coming as a great DVD, "Cop On A Mission" is highly recommended and nicely shows the direction modern Hong Kong Triad films are taking these days, strongly playing up the elements of sex, drugs, violence and money.