Hot on the heels of the SFIAAFF, the SFIFF (these letters are out of hand) paid tribute to the East with Beast Stalker, a blockbuster of a Hong Kong action film from director Dante Lam.

One of the festival staff introduced the film as “the best HK action movie since Johnnie To‘s Election,” Which left me shaking my head in the back row (where white guys watch Asian action movies) for a couple of reasons. First, that sounds like a lie. Second, I didn’t think Election was that great. Regardless, I was excited for some glaring face offs and perfectly sequenced gun fights.

Unbeknownst to me, I was sitting in the worst possible place in the theater. To my right, a heavily bearded hipster with his girlfriend and a large popcorn. To my left, two women in their fifties. For the first hour, the hipster shoveled popcorn into his mouth like it was his dinner. In fact, it WAS his dinner. I know this because he kept telling his girlfriend, “This is my dinner.” He also had a handful of those beef-stock brown paper towels that he would crumple idly in his hand about every 2 minutes before wiping his massive beard, which sounded, I exaggerate not, like someone stepping on broken glass. After each face wipe, he’d swig from his biking water bottle, taking great pains to suck and slurp the mouthpiece dry, letting the air slowly squeak out like the pride of a middle school P.E. teacher.

Once he finished dining, the two ladies to my left got started. High school kids are generally the worst seat neighbors, but people in their fifties are second. This is because they forget how long 2 hours is and have apparently lost all patience with the world, let alone the subtitled world. “What did that say? I couldn’t read it” “She said, where is Ann?” “Who’s Ann?” “The woman whose daughter was kidnapped.” “Ohhhhhh.” “These subtitles go so fast.” “Where did you put those Raisinets?” “Here in my bag next to the paper towels. Let me get them.”

By this point in the movie, the chase between the now-blind kidnapper and the cop had been resolved and the last people involved in the three-car crash that set the movie in motion were being revealed. When I watched the super slow motion replay that accordions one car, sends another flipping into the air like Nascar, and tailspins the third into the back of a truck hauling sharpened metal beams, for the final, culminating time, I thought to myself, what a way to go.

Not better than Johnnie To’s Election, Beast Stalker is part of the SFIFF, and plays one last time Wednesday at 12:30.

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