THE STOOL PIGEON (BLU-RAY)
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
The concepts of trust and betrayal are played out between cop and informant in this – often too highly – complex Chinese thriller.
Is it good movie?
In most films, the police informant is a cipher – some greasy underworld urchin to be shaken by the lapels until he coughs up some nugget of information that allows the plot to continue. In The Stool Pigeon, director Dante Lam seeks to flesh that relationship out a little more, and get an honest view of it from both sides. The resulting script is supposedly inspired by actual stories told to Lam while researching other films.
Inspector Don Lee is an extremely reserved, coolly calculating man. He received a nifty promotion after a huge drug bust that left one officer dead and Lee’s inside man crippled and emotionally deranged. Now he counsels rookie cops on how to have an effective, yet isolated relationship with their own informants. Yet when he recruits a young man, Ghost, Jr., directly out of prison to bust serial criminal Barbarian, which Lee’s superiors desperately want, he finds himself getting personally involved in the case, as well as Ghost, Jr.’s desire to pay off the debt that has gangsters pimping out his sister.
Meanwhile, during the heist Ghost, Jr. is a part of in his role as stoolie, he falls for Barbarian’s girl, Dee, and when the job inevitably goes pear-shaped ends up on the run with her. Meanwhile meanwhile, Lee is dealing with his ex-wife, whom he wronged in a spectacular fashion, which provides the viewer a chance to see him in a more emotional state. So you have Lee’s relationship with his wife, with the informant he betrayed in the past, with Ghost. Jr., Ghost Jr.’s relationship with his sister, with Dee, Dee’s relationship with Barbarian and her backstory about the family that betrayed her…whew!
As overly complex as The Stool Pigeon can be, it is still a damned fine film. If you look at the action set pieces, from the car chases to the fight scenes, if the actors were speaking English you’d think this was a Hollywood film. But unlike Hollywood, this film strives to have empathy for its characters, and displays its violence in a more realistic fashion. When a character gets his ass beat, he doesn’t shrug it off and light up a smoke. He limps the hell away, covering his head as he goes. I also enjoyed a lot of the artier touches to the film. All in all a good watch.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen, 1080p, obviously. The image looks great, both in terms of photography and transfer. It also comes with a DVD copy of the film.
Audio: There are two DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks (think they could have crammed more superlatives in there?) and two Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. One each in Cantonese and English on both of those. With optional English subtitles. The sound is just as good as the image.
Behind the Scenes: Oh, man. These guys follow the letter of the law, if not the spirit. This is 45-minutes of, literally, behind the scenes footage. Ever been on a movie set? It’s goddamned boring. This is like standing on a movie set for 45-minutes and watching almost nothing happen. Ugh.
Deleted Scenes: There are about ten minutes worth of deleted scenes here, mostly dialogue trimmed from scenes in the film or backstory stuff.
Making Of: This is a 12-minute piece which is a more traditional doc. It includes behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
There are also two international trailers, both pretty good.
On a side note, the features will continue, in order, instead of defaulting to the extras menu.
Despite its sometimes excessive plot elements, The Stool Pigeon is an enjoyable movie. Great photography and loads of car chases and machete fights, but also full of empathy for its characters and some nice, artier touches. Nothing in this film is one-dimensional, and I give it a hearty recommendation.