Officer Tung (Anthony Wong) admits that there is a certain level of criminality in Hong Kong, and that he may be more part of the problem than the cure, but the fact remains the citizens there like to gamble and they like to whore, and he does not feel there's very much he can do to change that. Tonight he gambles in an illegal den owned by Brother Fai (Roy Cheung), the big cheese around there, but what he doesn't know is that the gang boss has ordered a hit on a rival, and when the shit hits the fan, Tung is caught up in the chase of the assassin - but Fai manages to crush the killer with his car, not exactly intentionally. It's clear he will have to lie low for a while, so who will fill the power vacuum?
Beast Cops, or Ye shou xing jing as it was called in its native Hong Kong, was a great success on home territory, garnering awards and proving just the tonic the province needed as China had reclaimed it from the British around the time this was made. Interestingly, its two lead actors were biracial, the aforementioned Anthony Wong and Michael Wong, though whether that was anything other than them being the right performers for their roles rather than a statement on half-white, half Asian thespians was probably reading too much into their casting. Whatever the reason, they made for a very decent double act, though not everyone from outside Hong Kong agreed, suggesting this played better to the home crowd.
Nevertheless, it did pick up fans abroad who recognised this was not your conventional heroic bloodshed action flick with balletic gunplay and what have you, as it was more a character study than a straightforward shoot 'em up. There was an occasion for people getting shot in this narrative, but it was not the driving force behind the drama, and while it did end in an extremely violent bout of hand to hand combat that took up much of the final act, that came across as directors Gordon Chan and Dante Lam feeling the need to go out on gory spectacle rather than an event that could not have been handled any other way; it was admirable that they made it seem like that in spite of it rather popping up out of the blue.
For the most part there were tropes of male bonding, romance with the female leads, and intrigue among the gangsters and cops alike that made for a richer experience than simply setpiece after setpiece of excessive gunfire, though as Hong Kong's film industry had proven time and again, there was a place for that as well. Michael Wong played Officer Cheung, who is Tung's new boss and means to shake up his department by ensuring more crimes were solved, in spite of Tung's explanation that he is more into preventing crime before it happens, hence the lack of arrests (!). But he soon has Cheung on side as he invites him to nightclubs to check out the gangsters' haunts and offers him a room to stay in - in the apartment he shares with another cop, Sam (Sam Lee), that is, and after he has introduced him to his favourite prostitutes.
What was unusual was the manner in which the prostitutes were not presented as clichés, though the hooker with the heart of gold conventions did arise, but as valid partners in romance for Tung and Cheung, the former getting all lovey-dovey with Stephanie Che and the latter with madam Yoyo, Kathy Chow, who begins to feel self-worth now she has someone looking out for her. Meanwhile there was the worrying situation with Fai, for a new boss has taken over, Pushy-Pin (Patrick Tam), a younger upstart who thinks little of murder to get things done the way he wants them, thus setting up what violence there was in the plot after that initial burst of action. But this was not really concerned with action until there was no way around it, it was more keen on revelling in the interplay between a host of colourful personalities, and the further this progressed the more it grew on you so that by the end you genuinely cared more about what may well have been drawn from stock than you ever expected, assuming you had tolerance for its idiosyncrasies. Music by Teddy Robin Kwan and Tommy Wai.