Tony Leung Chiu Wai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Sam in The Longest Nite.
Tony Leung is best known for playing somber heroes so it is a bit surprising to see him here where he plays an extremely corrupt cop. Inspector Sam isn't like Tung from Beast Cops who just took a too relaxed view of his job, Sam actively works as an enforcer for the local criminals. He does not just go about interrogating or arresting particular suspects he's command to. Instead Sam spends his time rough torturing anyone he's basically told to by the bosses he works for. Leung is funny enough less somber here than usual, although he's not really happy either, in his portrayal of Sam who seems to be a very no-nonsense sort of agent. When we first see Sam handle his first couple of cases Leung brings an extremely cold brutality in his performance as there is so little humanity he has in his eyes here as Sam cruelly goes from one man to another harming them in one way or another, and in some cases issuing a very to the point execution order on the suffering party.
It is interesting since Leung is not a really physically imposing guy. The film almost seems to purposefully emphasize this by having him wear somewhat baggy clothing and framing him in a way that never hides his height. Leung overcomes this possible hindrance completely and carries himself with considerable menace through the efficiency he brings to Sam's manner of torture. Leung's whole manner in terms of his movement is that of basically a craftsman doing a job that he knows all too well once again. Leung is quite effective as he does not portray Sam really deriving any pleasure from the violence he inflicts on his poor victims, but rather he portrays it much as just a carpenter making a table or something. Leung shows it basically as something that Sam's gotten use to at this point making it perhaps even more cruel since Sam clearly is not even putting all that much passion into the violence, even though he is still completely fulfilling his task still.
This film is a bit too fast paced thanks to the very short run-time therefore we don't get a lot of downtime so to speak with Leung. Leung's performance is almost always moving in the action except for one very brief scene where Sam seems to take a moment out of the plot. It's an extraordinarily brief scene, but it's a brilliant moment as Leung takes to develop Sam just a little more. All the scene consists of is Sam washing his face but in this moment Leung expresses the exhaustion in Sam as it seem he's been chief torturer for far too long and his resigned reaction when he receives yet another call perfectly sums up how Sam truly feels. It's such a great couple of seconds I do wish the film had given him a bit more time to show Sam outside of the job. That is not the case though as Sam gets to rest even less than usual when he finds out he's being blamed for something, that was something I think the film could have been made a little clearer, and I'm usually pretty good at deciphering complex plots.
Anyway though Sam to make up for his mistake attempts to pin it on a strange hitman named Tony in order not to confuse anything obviously (Lau Ching Wan). Although I would say the film doesn't build the rivalry between Sam and Tony as much as it should Leung and Wan make up for it though in their scenes where they are facing off. The best of them being in a prison cell where Sam waits for Tony to make a move. Leung and Wan bring such a palatable intensity to the scene that they bring a hatred to life in a way that the script doesn't really bother to. Whenever the two share the screen there is a searing emotional quality to the scenes as both actors do their absolute best to cover for the film leaving them a few gaps. They actually don't have that many scenes together though as Sam finds himself the target of a manhunt as he attempts to make it out of Macau before he is killed by either the police or the gangsters.
Again I would not have minded if the film had built up to this climax a little more but Leung does not lose his step as everything seems to be closing in around Sam, and Sam takes some pretty extreme measures himself to attempt to make it out. Leung is terrific in these scenes portraying Sam's vicious manner as flies through the night in Macau killing and torturing his ways to an escape. Leung is excellent in conveying the growing desperation in Sam even as he attempts to his cold demeanor. Leung is effective in carrying these scenes and makes them compelling even though Sam is most certainly a vile character. This is a strong performance by Tony Leung Chiu Wai altogether since he turns Inspector Sam into an interesting villain we follow throughout the film despite the fact that Leung's really isn't given that much material to work with. Not only that the film frankly does not stop and this is a remarkable performance by Leung since he does so much while never losing step with the momentum of the film.