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In the safest city in Asia, the Hong Kong police department has been untouchable for years. Until one night the police headquarters receives an anonymous call after a fully loaded police van, carrying five highly trained officers and equipment, disappears off the gird. After receiving several cryptic phone calls from the hijackers one officer starts realizing they're aware of every crucial decision they make. But as they execute a carefully planned attack, little do they know they've become unwitting pawns in a bigger, more dangerous game. Written by
Touted as "the next INFERNAL AFFAIRS", COLD WAR is a bold, if heavily flawed action thriller that gives a fresh perspective rarely seen in a cop genre by showing an internal conflict between a group of high-ranking police officers struggling to solve a case.
The movie opens fast and furious, beginning with a sudden explosion at a crowded movie theater. Following immediately is a separate scene where an arrogant drunk driver speeds through the Hong Kong's freeways and ends up crashing his car pretty badly. An EU (Emergency Unit) van loaded with five cops arrives at the accident scene, which is reportedly being hijacked and vanishes from police radar. Despite all the so-called expensive and sophisticated technology at their disposal, the police can't even track down their own van. Apparently one of the five cops that ended up being kidnapped by masked hijackers is Joe (Eddie Peng), son of Deputy Commissioner of Police from Operation Division, M.B. Lee (Tony Leung Ka-Fai).
While the Commissioner of Police (Michael Wong) is out of the country, Lee has been appointed as acting commissioner and leads the rescue operation code named "Cold War". Lee's strategy is an all-out aggressive attack with "non-negotiable" policy against the kidnappers, but Deputy Commissioner of Police from Management Division, Sean Lau (Aaron Kwok) disagrees with his harsh decision and demands the situation to be evaluated thoroughly before any proper action is taken. Lau also suspects that Lee is overreacted especially since his son is being kidnapped as well. As the internal conflict is mounting up, Lee continues to bark his authority all for the wrong reasons when he harshly refuses to let his Head of Police Public Relations Branch, Phoenix Leung (Charlie Yeung) to release info about the kidnapping news to the public. The particular situation prompted Lau to step in with some top-brass supports from his best friend, Senior Superintendent Vincent Tsui (Chin Kar-Lok), Senior Superintendent Albert Kwong (Gordon Lam) and Secretary of Security for the Hong Kong Security Bureau, Philip Luk (Andy Lau) to overturn Lee's position so he can replace him as the new acting commissioner.
Once Lee is forced to step down, Lau immediately takes charge and proceeds on negotiating with the kidnappers who demands a huge amount of money or else. However, Lau's attempt to deliver the ransom money goes terribly awry and even leaves one of the crucial police officers dead. Now most of the money goes missing.
At this point onward, both Lee and Lau become prime suspects under the investigation of ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption), which is lead by a young ICAC investigator Billy Cheung (Aarif Rahman). According to Cheung, he has a reason to believe that Lee or Lau has something to do with the missing money and the overall conspiracy of the kidnapping case. Now the biggest question is: what really happens? If the synopsis above does sounds confusing to you, that's because first-time writers and directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk stuffed way too many plots in a compact 102 minutes! Not to mention their script is overly convoluted, which is filled with lots of loopholes and questions that might frustrate a lot of impatient viewers throughout the movie. Then there's Kwong Chi-Leung's hyperactive editing which can be annoying at times especially with too many overlapping scenes (particularly during the rapid-fire, dialogue-heavy moments) that seriously demands the viewers to play some catch-ups. The second half, which involves the ICAC investigation between Billy, Lee and Lau as well as the elaborate conspiracy theory, is a serious head-scratcher when viewers tries to connect all the dots together.
Despite all the glaring flaws, COLD WAR remains good enough to watch for. Kudos still goes to Leung and Luk for their ambitious move to present a cop thriller out of the ordinary, even though their executions are somewhat haphazard. As both being a first-timer, their directing efforts are still spotty in places. But it's hard to deny that Leung and Luk does possess some impressive feats in their overall directions.
The movie is benefited from lush production values and spectacular aerial shots (particularly the way how they framed the angle of skyscrapers), while the overall technical credits are equally top-notch. Except of course, some of the CG here are patchy (particularly in the climactic scene involving fireworks on the roof of a tall building). Peter Kam's music score is frequently intense throughout the movie.
Action scenes are adequate enough, particularly for the exciting shootout/car chase scene at the freeway overpass.
The cast, in the meantime, are rock-solid. Aaron Kwok gives a perfectly restrained performance (thank heaven he's not overacting like he used to!) as the calm and confident Lau, while Tony Leung Ka-Fai is especially a standout as the no-nonsense Lee who seriously deserves an acting award nomination (His scene involving him and Aaron Kwok barking at each other in the police headquarters, and another one where he coolly outwitted the two young ICAC investigators in the interrogation room, are downright memorable). The rest of the supporting cast are equally great, including Charlie Yeung, Gordon Lam, Aarif Rahman and even the cameo appearance from Andy Lau.
COLD WAR ends with a cliffhanger finale that screams a sequel. If the sequel is really made sometimes in the future, here's hoping that Longman Leung and Sunny Luk manage to polish their rough-on-the-edges direction and their overstuffed screenplay into a more balanced approach. As for now, COLD WAR stands as one of the best Hong Kong movies of the year.
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