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Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
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I have not seen many of Johnny To's films, until I hit on The Mission. From that point on, I was hooked. So I went back, and watched all his other "masterpieces", specifically his cop films. These included The Heroic Trio (interesting, in a strange, anything goes kind of way), A Hero Never Dies (an excellent piece), Running Out of Time (excellent, if a bit contrived), The Mission (his best piece IMO), Fulltime Killer (excellent, though with another terminally ill Andy Lau and therefore reminiscent of Running Out of Time, therefore lowering its value in terms of the characterization), Running Out of Time 2 (obviously a half-hearted and very commercial attempt to make a fast buck, riding on the original). And, based on the above, it must be said that PTU is weak.
The film spends over 90% of the time trying to weave together the various characters, and, based on what we know of To, we expect everything to come together seamlessly and end with some sort of a bang. If not, at least with some elation as to how things will pan out in the end. Instead, Johnny To seems to realize, 70 minutes into the film, that he can't really do it or can't be bothered, and throws in another group of wholly irrelevant and previously unseen stand-ins. Just so everything can be explained away in one word: Coincidence. That is just weak. And sloppy too. For me, this rates up there with the disappointment that was the film called Hero (Zhang Yi Mou).
On the technical side, however, To is of course his usual self. The dark moods were nicely cast by the dark alleyways, the semi-lit and deserted streets. I do agree that the supporting cast is a bit weak, in that they do not seem natural. In fact, the only people who seem natural in the whole film were Simon Yam and Lam Suet. The female cast, of course, were dispensable as in all Johnny To (and John Woo) films.
All in all, the film only rates as "see it if you have nothing else to do on a Sunday afternoon" fare.
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