Review: DRUG WAR 毒戰 (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Review: DRUG WAR 毒戰 (2013)

A solid, if a tad overlong procedural crime drama anchored by two engaging performances (Sun Honglei, Louis Koo) and masterfully-crafted gunfight scenes.

Die-hard fans of Johnnie To's movie who are skeptical of the acclaimed Hong Kong director making his first crime thriller targeted specifically for the Mainland market will be suffered from strict China censorship, can breathe a sigh of relief because DRUG WAR plays like a solid Milkyway production. What's more, it's an engaging Mainland crime thriller that is bold enough to break many taboos -- namely drug abuse and portrayal of graphic violence.


Set in a port city of Jinhai, DRUG WAR begins with a bang as we witnesses a drug manufacturer Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is driving his car recklessly along the highway after an explosion in his cocaine factory that kills his wife and her two brothers. He later loses control of his vehicle and ends up crashing into a restaurant under the influence of drugs.

While at the hospital, Timmy crosses path with the leader of the Anti-Drug Squad, Captain Zhang Lei (Sun Honglei) when he tries to make an escape. Timmy ends up getting arrested and face death penalty. But he makes a deal with Zhang by exposing the entire regional drug network in exchange for a lighter sentence. During an elaborate undercover plan, Zhang and Timmy teamed up to con a drug-dealing middleman HaHa (Hao Ping) for the sake to get close to the largest local supplier Uncle Bill (Li Zhengqi). So far, their plan is successful but for how long that Timmy can be trusted?

Even though DRUG WAR moves at a deliberate pace, its intricate plot to see the way both sides of the Mainland police and the drug dealers going through their working procedures, is often thrilling to watch for -- particularly where Sun Honglei's Captain Zhang goes as far as adopting different personalities (among them is being HaHa) during his elaborate undercover operation.

Likewise, the cast is top-notch. Mainland actor Sun Honglei steals the show as the relentless Captain Zhang. Not to forget also is Louis Koo, who is perfectly typecast as the nervous but sneaky Timmy Choi. The rest of the Mainland supporting actors are equally credible, and so does To's Hong Kong regular team members (among them are Lam Suet, Gordon Lam, Michelle Ye, and Eddie Cheung).

Two well-staged, yet memorable action scenes are worthy of mentions here. The first one is a brief, but intense shootout sequence between the police squad and two deaf-and-dumb brothers (Guo Tao, Li Jing) in a drug factory. The other one is the brutal open-space gunfight sequence outside the primary school and the highway.

At times, the plot tends to be a tad overlong and draggy which is quite a test of patience even for die-hard fans of Johnnie To's movies. Some of the comical moments are rather annoying (among them involved the Hao Ping's HaHa character).


While DRUG WAR hardly ranked as one of To's best movies, it certainly earns its point as one of the more entertaining crime thrillers in the Chinese-language cinema.

No comments: