By Diego Olivares
“That Demon Within” is a fast-paced thriller with deep psychological pathos mixed with violent action scenes.
Imported from China, the film centers on a righteous yet mentally unstable cop Dave Wong, played by Daniel Wu. While on guard duty at a hospital one night, a critically wounded man walks in.
Wong volunteers to give a blood transfusion to man which results in saving his life.
To his horror he discovers that man is actually sociopathic crime boss Hon Kong, played by Nick Cheung. Kong gets his amoral kicks in robbing jewelry owners and killing police officers.
The realization is too great for the “honorable” cop and he becomes increasingly disturbed by his actions. Wong takes matters into his own hands to resolve this error, leading to violent and tragic results.
Directed by Dante Lam, “That Demon Within” is a dark psychological horror story in the body of a slick action film.
The film has themes of honor, regret, madness and redemption running deep through its story.
Written by Lam and Jack Ng, the plot is rich with great substance that’s not seen in more recent action thrillers. Where most action films put “action first-story second,” “That Demon Within” is the other way around.
The story and characters give the film multiple layers. The characters, from a team of vicious jewel thieves to a determined police unit tracking them, all deserve their own movie.
The film feels like a combination of many sub-genres of crime films. It goes from being a heist picture to a police procedural with an intense character study running through the narrative.
Its title, “That Demon Within” has multiple meanings towards it. On the surface, the title refers to the thieves wearing demon masks while committing the robberies.
A second meaning refers to the madness corrupting Wong as he loses more of his humanity. This causes him to falls into a downward spiral of insanity.
This is proven in a scene where he starts having flashbacks of a haunting childhood event. However, he isn’t only character corrupted by his internal demons.
Other characters such as the thieves are overpowered by their own demons. This comes from the greed and mistrust they feel throughout the film.
This relates to the core theme of the film which is the darkening of the human spirit. The idea that everyone has the capability to commit inhuman acts, no matter how honorable or loyal they are.
Wu is great as the film’s lead. He’s able to be heroically stoic one minute, and a deranged psychopath the next.
Sometimes he could be both even in the same scene. An example of this is a moment when he madly beats two thugs for causing property damage.
Cheung is fantastic as the lead villain of the story. He exhibits a ruthless, yet devilishly cool charm to himself.
A scene of him getting the thieves together for a heist shows his controlled ruthlessness.
The film delivers what the audience wants to see. There’s a grittiness to the action that feels very visceral and can be said in the way the violence is handled.
The violence is portrayed as extremely graphic and brutally stark. This creates a realistic vibe that adds to the disturbing horror element of the film.
On a downside, the film has some major flaws. While the characters and story are good, the plot twists used in the film are rather predictable and are seen coming before they occur.
Computer effects are used to poor effect and come off as cheap. This takes away the realistic grit of action scenes and more effort should have been put into them.
While the film has its errors, it doesn’t take away from how good it is. With strong lead performances, visceral action scenes and a thematically rich yet grim story, “That Demon Within” is well worth a watch.
“That Demon Within” is unrated and was released April the 18th.