When an ambulatory TV news unit live broadcasts the embarrassing defeat of a police battalion by five bank robbers in a ballistic showdown, the credibility of the police force drops to a ... See full summary »
A French chef swears revenge after a violent attack on his daughter's family in Hong Kong, during which her husband and her two children are murdered. To help him find the killers, he hires three local hit-men working for the mafia.
Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
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Ching Wan Lau,
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
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When an ambulatory TV news unit live broadcasts the embarrassing defeat of a police battalion by five bank robbers in a ballistic showdown, the credibility of the police force drops to a nadir. While on a separate investigation in a run-down building, detective Cheung discovers the hideout of the robbers. Cheung and his men have also entered the building, getting ready to take their foes out any minute. Meanwhile, in order to beat the media at its own game, Inspector Rebecca decides to turn the stakeout into a breaking news show. Written by
When Yip is dangling outside the window and the camera looks down, the street is full of pedestrians casually walking or standing around, and there are no police visible. The narrow street is also inconsistent with exterior shots showing a wide open space in front of the building, full of vehicles and people. See more »
Extra points for effort - tough, gritty, realistic, innovative
There aren't many films that even try to be innovative these days, so when one comes along that does, we ought to be willing to give it the benefit of any doubt. So yes, I think the film could have been just a little better polished; but it's a solid entry even as it is.
In an era when crime thrillers seem to be all made for MTV - flashy, glossy, video-game-play - Johnnie To has delivered a tough, gritty, realistic study in obsession and professionalism. It is the police who, in differing ways, are very obsessed, and the criminals who are all professionals. And of course, it seems up to the media to spin the story the other way around, so 'decent citizens' can feel safe in their grimy little apartments like that of the cowardly 'father' who slips out on his own kids.
I've read the review comparing this to "Natural Born Killers", but the visual innovations used here work on a completely different level. Oliver Stone references all kinds of media not as social comment (he uses them too frequently in many different contexts), but rather because he accepts that American culture today is its media. For Johnnie To, the issue runs a little deeper. His visuals are not so much satirical comment on media as they are attempts to raise the question, Just how do we define ourselves publicly in the age of electronic media? or does the media inevitably define us? Even the obsessed CID cop, who clearly has no interest in the media, becomes a TV prop at the end - only the criminals remain enigmas and thus retain a kind of humanity - despite the fact that they are cold-blooded killers through and through; being cold-blooded killers is part of their job, after all. When they're not committing crime, their probably just like the next-door neighbors (one has promised another to attend the funeral of his son after the job gets done). That's actually a pretty scary thought itself.
This is the kind of film the Ray Liotta film "Narc" wanted to be, but sentimentally backed down from at all the most important moments. While Hong Kong's better directors can get awfully sentimental, they never let this force them to pull any punches. In the recent Tsui Hark film "Time and Tide" (which has plenty sentiment to spare) a cop and a crook suddenly find themselves pointing guns at each other's heads; the cop says "So now we're equal." The crook immediately shoots him in the head, and only then remarks "my gun kills, it doesn't talk." He then shoots the dead cop a half-dozen more times, just for the heck of it.
To's film works on a similar level (and I like it more, since the criminals here are much more believable). It is very tense throughout and able to surprise in an era when most of us believe their are no surprises left to film. That gives it an added value, in my book. It kept me watching throughout, and I think it will do so for most viewers.
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