Fantasia Film Review: Drug War

(Source: Well Go USA)

(Source: Well Go USA)

Hong Kong cinema is always a healthy component of what Fantasia has to offer. This year, director Johnny To brings us his crime thriller Drug War.

It is immensely refreshing to watch a police film that is plot-driven rather than a superstar ego vehicle. Not that this film doesn’t have stars of its own. Louis Koo plays captured drug traffic boss Timmy Choi, a resourceful survivalist that is ready to make a deal to avoid the death penalty. Sun Honglei plays the stoic Captain Zhang, an determined officer of the law with the ultimate cool demeanor and serious impersonation skills.

Choi will agree to use his contacts to help Zhang go undercover and expose the big players in the largest drug cartel. In the process, we’ll get to meet a band of colorful characters. The always high driving errand boys, the mute brothers that can outgun an entire police squad, an over the top gangster with a trademark laugh, and more drug dealers that you can shake a stick at.

The most dramatic scenes will involve always involve the relentless Captain Zhang, who has the resolution of a bloodhound. You can’t forget Choi. He’s always perfectly unbalanced between doing the right thing and looking out for number one. You can never be sure if he’s trying to make amends for his crimes or will he betray everyone and everything the moment he gets a chance. I’m not telling you which one he picks.

As a storyline, the movie doesn’t give you a lot of surprises. There’s nothing radically new. As an action movie, it holds back before it lets go. There’s a build up to every confrontation. The acting is solid enough to engage you and keep you watching. It’s all leading to one of the biggest shootouts you will see outside of a western movie. This is asian cinema, so don’t expect the cop to suddenly let the bad guy go. Don’t expect it the other way around either. Recommended.

That will do for now.

Coming up:

(Source: 2013 Fantasia Film Festival)

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