Well Go Usa // 2010 // 113 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 5th, 2011
His only redemption comes through betrayal
From Hong Kong, a messy crime saga looking at the relationship between an ambitious detective and his desperate informant. It's pretty good.
Nick Leung stars as Police Detective Don Lee, a cop who is renowned for his handling of informants. His last "stool pigeon," however, ended up in a bad way thanks to sideways call from Lee and it's been a year since he's gotten back into the game.
But duty calls, as a local gangster is planning a big-time heist and the force needs some human intel. So Lee recruits Ghost Jr. (Nicholas Tse), an outlaw racer who's got some serious family issues. At first reluctant to sign up as a snitch, Ghost Jr. is finally persuaded and ends up in the teeth of the gang -- and it only goes downhill from there.
This is not a jam-packed actionfest import. The Stool Pigeon is more along the lines of something like The Departed, or more appropriately Infernal Affairs. This isn't quite up to the level of those two movies, but I have no qualms about offering a hearty recommendation to fans of hardboiled cop cinema.
Leung and Tse are the driving force behind the success of The Stool Pigeon. Detective Lee is an interesting creation, a seemingly ramrod-straight, by-the-books, law-and-order guy who clings to his informant system as if it were Moneyball. He looks at his informants as a means to an end and that's fascinating. In one scene, he's lecturing other cops about his system, impressing upon them to make the informants "feel like you're their friend," and not "be their friend." The cop/stoolie relationship is a means to an end for Lee, a two-way avenue where both players are exploiting each other. It's a flawed outlook, as the cheapening and dehumanization of the informant becomes the main moral quandry tackled by the film.
On the other side is Ghost Jr, whose saga isn't quite as nuanced and penetrating as his counterpart's, but satisfying nonetheless. His is more of a straight-arrow crime story, as he gets caught in various double-crosses within the gangster hierarchy, leading to a number of death-defying encounters.
Though the runtime is heavily concentrated on the characters, there is some action tossed in to spice things up. It's not glossy, high-octane stuff and mainly consists of a couple car chases and a botched heist job. However, the finale is engaging, a bloody, clumsy stab-a-thon in an abandoned school.
The Blu-ray delivers, providing a high-end 2.35:1/1080p treatment that pushes sharp clarity and clean picture fidelity throughout. There's a DVD version included as well, but opt for the sharp contrast of the HD. Sound: a clean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (Cantonese) and a dubbed 2.0 stereo English mix. Extras include deleted scenes, some making-of footage, and a hefty behind-the-scene featurette.
Well-executed and packing a punch, The Stool Pigeon is a winner. Crime thriller types should give it a serious look.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Cantonese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy