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Blu-ray Review: The Stool Pigeon

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When you’re talking about prominent directors of Asian cinema, you’d be remiss to not mention Dante Lam. This Hong Kong based director has a varied resume with films that run the gamut in focus and content. In 2010, Lam and Emperor Motion Pictures released The Stool Pigeon; a gritty richly layered film about betrayal.

The Stool Pigeon follows the life of a young police officer named Inspector Don Lee (Nick Cheung) who is a troubled individual with a tragic past. On the exterior he remains calm and collected. He’s at the top of his game and in charge of a unit responsible for working with informants and placing moles inside volatile situations. Deep inside, however, Lee is conflicted with his job and putting people in harms way in order to make a bust. Things went south in a particular case and it wound up with the informant living a shattered life after being attacked by the perp.

Now that he’s had time to put that behind him Lee takes on a new case with a new informant. A street racer named Ghost (Nicholas Tse) has recently been released from prison and Lee wants to use him to get close to a notorious criminal known as Barbarian (Lu Yi). Naturally Ghost is reluctant to become a stool pigeon at first, but considering his sister has been sold into prostitution to repay their father’s debt, Ghost doesn’t see another alternative.

As the plot moves forward the relationship between Ghost and Lee becomes more complicated and things get dangerous as Barbarian and his gang plan a bank robbery that has the potential to leave Ghost in the same shape as Lee’s former informant. Lee starts to doubt whether or not the end justifies the means and at the same point he’s struggling with aspects of his personal life. It’s a series of bad decisions that have led to betrayal of loved ones and friends and The Stool Pigeon plays off the complexity of it all beautifully. It’s not all drama, however, since The Stool Pigeon is also a rather intense action flick. Car chases, knife fights, gun fights, and all manner of scuffles are featured here at nearly every turn.

In the end The Stool Pigeon is a wonderfully entertaining film. It starts out a little slow, but once Ghost and Lee get together the plot rockets forward to a dark, inevitable conclusion. If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, or simply love crime movies, you’ll want to check this one out for sure!

The Stool Pigeon is presented on Blu-ray with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film comes with a full 1080p high definition transfer with MPEG-4 AVC encoding. The film looks gorgeous with sharp details, rich black levels, and fine contrast in the dangerous streets of Hong Kong. The film has a certain amount of grit that permeates the experience and coupled with muted colors that push strong symbolism, the picture really comes to life. This isn’t the most outstanding high definition transfer we’ve ever seen, but it’s a finely crafted experience that leaves one satisfied.

The audio package included here comes with 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio to call its own. The film is presented in original Cantonese with English subtitles. There’s an English dub included as well, but the Cantonese is by far the way to go. Details are solid and the sound is crystal clear. There’s a dynamic presence on the soundstage and all around the audio quality goes toe to toe with the video.

For bonus features there is a selection of trailers as well as a nearly 47 minute “Behind the Scenes” production featurette. This includes all the expected backstage shots, on set clips, and interviews. It’s worth checking out, but not the most in depth feature of its kind. Likewise there’s a “Making of” video that’s smaller in focus by comparison, and a collection of “Deleted Scenes” that extend the experience somewhat but don’t necessarily round out the film.

The Stool Pigeon is a fine release by Well Go USA Entertainment. The Blu-ray is sharp in quality and presentation, and the film itself is entertaining and riveting all at the same time. The characters of Ghost and Lee are wonderfully developed over the course of the story and the action finds a nice balance amidst the delicate plot. This release comes strongly recommended!

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About Todd Douglass