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China 2013
Directed by
Johnnie To
102 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Drug War

If you’re not usually given to Hong Kong action movies, a genre of which director Johnnie To is an acknowledged master. don’t be deterred: Drug War is relatively light on violence, at least until the set-piece finale, and stylistically spare, in some respects reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat, but stripped of the psychological depth.

Set in mainland China in and around Tianjin, the country’s third largest city, Drug War is the story of a sting set up by an anti-drug cop Capt. Zhang (mainland star Sun Honglei) after an amphetamine drug-factory owner, Timmy Choi (To regular Louis Koo) is busted when he loses control of his car when drugged to the gills.

Little happens in the first half of the film other than putting all the pieces in place. It might take some doing to follow the plot as there are a lot of characters and everyone is concealing their identity in one way or another.  Bar an inventive gun battle at a factory run by deaf-mute employees (Guo Tao, Li Jing) the film is largely given over to the efforts of the relentless Zhang to get the slippery Choi to finger his associates. Thanks to a taut script and To’s unrelenting pacing. however, the film flies by until the climactic shoot-out which is superbly orchestrated to bring the various protagonists together in a mayhemic bloodbath in which no-one is spared, a suitably merciless finale to the cold and harsh world the film depicts.  

Available from: Madman




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