Thursday, 23 April 2020

Drug War [2012]

In Drug War, his first movie made fully in mainland China, Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To came all guns blazing with a taut, kinetic and entertaining action crime thriller. As a reviewer aptly observed, “there’s no room… for pretense or grandstanding, for any narrative bombast or subtextual curlicues that don’t immediately propel us toward the unusually bleak conclusion’, in this sleek, no-nonsense genre exercise packed with a string twists, deceptions and revelations. At its most elemental this is a tale of frenetic one-upmanships between its stoic protagonist and crafty antagonist (unsurprisingly, both male) – Zhang (Sun Honglei), a laconic and relentlessly driven cop, and Choi (Louis Koo), a drug dealer whose motives and allegiances are never clear. The film starts with a dramatic and compelling opening sequence that doesn’t waste a moment in grabbing one’s attention and setting up rest of the narrative, viz. Choi, a high-level drug dealer, agreeing to act as a snitch for Zhang and his squad, to bust a huge narcotics trafficking operation, in order to avoid the death penalty that he’s otherwise sure to get in China. Over the course of the next couple of sleepless days and nights, Zhang must stay a step ahead of Choi through constantly outguessing and outmaneuvering his imminently unreliable ally, as he goes deep into the organized narcotics ring. What follows, therefore, is one tension-filled setpiece after another – Zhang first enacting a powerful supplier and then as a wealthy distributor; facing the wrath of two mute operators who unleash hellfire with their submachine guns; outfoxing the kingpins into coming to the forefront from the shadows; and finally, an elaborate, no-holds-barred climax that this was always building up to.

Director: Johnnie To
Genre: Crime Thriller/Action
Language: Mandarin/Cantonese
Country: China

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