A devastating dilemma changes the fate of three cops when an undercover operation against a notorious Thai drug lord goes horribly wrong.A devastating dilemma changes the fate of three cops when an undercover operation against a notorious Thai drug lord goes horribly wrong.A devastating dilemma changes the fate of three cops when an undercover operation against a notorious Thai drug lord goes horribly wrong.
The White Storm totally surprised me and it is extremely entertaining from start to end. Prior to walking into the cinema, I really don't think much of it because it's another drug movie (Johnnie To's Drug War is still very fresh in my head) and it's a subject matter that is just too jaded. The only reason I wanted to watch this is because of the incredible heavyweight cast of Sean Lau, Nick Cheung and Louis Koo. These 3 awesome actors have never shared the big screen together. But from the get-go, Benny Chan, the director held on to my jugular and kept squeezing it with twists after turns.
The action set-pieces use the locations very well. From the night market streets of Mongkok, to dilapidated sleazy apartment blocks, to the forest of Thailand, the action is well-framed and shot. The sound design is out of this world - so much stuff is happening from the sides and in the surrounds. It would have been just plain stupid if it's just action for action's sake. No, Benny Chan always emphasizes the melodrama behind all the action pieces. One of the best shoot outs I have seen in recent years occurs at the end of the second act. Breathtaking... the see-saw shifting of power, empathetically seeing an officer get shot, all hell breaks loose, culminating to the heartbreaking scene where Sean Lau has to make the choice of his life. It's Hobson's choice really... any which way he chooses, the brotherhood disintegrates.
The acting? No need to say. The 3 of them play off each other very well. Of the 3 I enjoyed Nick Cheung's arc the most. He is a complete revelation in any role he has taken up. The ever dependent Sean Lau plays his character without histrionics but I could feel his pain. Just look at the scene where he has to make the Hobson's choice. A lesser actor would have over-acted, not Sean Lau. Then Louis Koo. He has definitely improved much in his acting but I do feel he got the short end of the 3 sticks.
The writing is quite inspired and for some reason it reminds me of John Woo's Bullet in the Head (1990). A simple 楚留香 recurring motif cements the entire narrative together. There was no need for too much homo-erotic knowing looks or nods to suggest the themes of loyalty and honor. My wife's favorite scene is when the 3 are at the hospital seeing Nick Cheung's mom for the last time. It is an incredibly written scene. I have seen so many of these death scenes but nothing like this. The words that spew out of their lips are amazingly poignant.
... and that last shoot out at the hotel. Oh man... bullet perforated faceless bodies pirouetting in a mist of smoke and red, heroes wielding 2 guns like wuxia exponents... I miss that so much. Sure, it's over the top but it's a movie and this heroic bloodshed genre has always made me a believer. I am a believer so true and through, I even wrote my dissertation on it . It would have been a masterpiece if the third act was tighter. It just felt a little bloated and over-long - a minor quibble.
If last year's Cold War which is just an opening act to a larger story won all the major HK awards, then The White Storm is going to sweep away everything this year. It is a much more accomplished action thriller with nobler aspirations.
- Dec 9, 2013