Movie Review: That Demon Within

By Pui See Tsang

That Demon Within (魔警) features a police officer who doubts himself after saving the life of a notorious and ruthless killer. Unsure if he did the right thing by protecting a cold-blooded murderer, his actions come back to haunt him when the killer and his gang become the leading suspects in a bloody armed robbery. This movie is directed by Dante Lam in Hong Kong. The main characters are Daniel Wu and Nick Cheung. It was released on April 18. The cast members included Andy On, Deep Ng, Liu Kai Chi, Dominic Lam, and Stephen Au.

The movie begins with a ritual invocation to the Demon King, a figure from Chinese folklore. The accomplices of Hon, an injured killer, are followers of the nasty spirit, and wear ominous demon masks when they steal a slew of diamonds. The crooks’ darkly picturesque hangouts include mortuaries and crematoriums. When Hon was soon feeling well enough to escape, Dave, the fragile cop, holds himself responsible for the thug’s return to action. Thus, begins a chase that’s complicated by the police officer’s sense that he is turning into his enemy. Sometimes, the screen billows with red, as Dave’s rationality is overtaken by bloody rage.

Lam doesn’t insist that a supernatural rationale for Dave’s breakdown is any more plausible than a scientific one, but the director heightens the occult atmosphere by including several eerie ceremonies that commemorate the dead with traditional rituals and music. The latter is picked up by Leo Ko’s clanging score, which is suitably nerve-rattling.

Some of Dave’s repressed memories involve fire, a motif of the policeman’s nightmares and hallucinations. Flame, often fueled by gasoline, also features in spectacular action sequences. The blazes are not purifying, though. When “That Demon Within” finally burns down, all that’s left is char and ash. Dave wants to be a good police officer, but because of his mental problems and childhood trauma, it makes him become crazy. He wouldn’t allow himself to do anything wrong or he will punish himself as well by using a belt to beat his back. Lastly, Dave is actually very smart, as can be seen in his plan to crumble the demon criminal group.

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