Rabidly violent Hong Kong crimer “Dog Bite Dog” takes action off the leash and delivers a grueling, bumpy, but invigorating ride. Film is rugged and bloody even by Hong Kong standards, and helmer Soi Cheang makes sure auds feel every punch, gunshot and stab wound. Pic did decent biz when released in Hong Kong earlier this year and will prosper throughout Asian territories. Elsewhere, ancillary will provide solid returns.
Tattooed Cambodian youth Pang (Edison Chen) is smuggled by boat to Hong Kong under deplorable conditions as if he were a feral animal. Recruited from the dumps of Cambodia and that country’s street boxing scene, Pang is dispatched to Hong Kong to act as an assassin.
Unable to speak Cantonese, Pang is picked up from the Hong Kong docks and taken to a specific restaurant where he ferociously devours all the food set in front of him and then shoots his target point blank. This graphic opening hit is just a taste of what’s to come.
Cops investigating the crime scene include the belligerent, anti-authoritarian young cop Wai (Sam Lee), a perpetual thorn in the side of his squad chief (Cheung Siu-fai). The chief tolerates Wai because he is the son of an honored policeman who currently lies comatose due to injuries sustained while on duty.
Meanwhile, Pang has instinctively made his way to Hong Kong’s landfill garbage dumps, which are similar to the ones where he was living in Cambodia. He finds an unnamed man and his daughter Yue (Pei Pei) living at the dumps. After Pang sees the man rape his own daughter, Pang kills him. Afterward, Yue gradually awakens a gentleness in Pang.
Pic’s high velocity set pieces continue with a confrontation between the two protags at the dump. However, as the sub-plot regarding Wai and his comatose father comes to the fore, pic develops greater depth.
Last two reels take place in Cambodia. The ultimate altercation between Pang and Wai stretches credulity even for a film that stylishly bulldozes logic and takes full advantage of coincidences. That said, the brutal finale will knock auds senseless and leave little time for analysis.
Helming and expert editing propel pic over narrative rough spots. Central perfs by Chen as the untamable Pang, and Lee as the young cop frustrated by authoritarian hypocrisy, are dynamite. Supporting perfs also are strong.
Lensing (often handheld) is generally dark with metallic blues and bilious greens but cinematographer Fung Yuen Man also uses harsh golden light to good, if unpleasant, effect.
Soundtrack is smartly constructed, occasionally making powerful use of silence as counterpoint to the violent, cacophonous chaos that dominates the action. During fight scenes where Wai and Pang go head-to-head, disturbing, growling noises add to an already intense atmosphere.
Only jarring note is the ironic use of song “You Are My Sunshine” in pic’s final moments. Other tech credits are sharp as a hound’s tooth.