Since the late 1970s, Hong Kong cinema has long been associated with various cop genres. While action or crime movies that involved police units like Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) and Narcotics Bureau (NB) are commonly explored in the Hong Kong cinema, you’ll be surprised that the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) isn’t particularly a popular subject matter.
Last time I checked, the only Hong Kong movie I can remember about bomb disposal unit was the 1994 action comedy titled Bomb Disposal Officer: Baby Bomb, which starred Anthony Wong and Lau Ching-Wan. Now, cut to the present day, it’s finally nice to see the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau is given a high-profile cinematic treatment in the form of Herman Yau’s Shock Wave.
Before I get to the review, here’s the brief synopsis: When the Hong Kong’s Cross-Harbour Tunnel is held under siege by a wanted terrorist-bomber, Peng Hong a.k.a. Blast (Jiang Wu) and his hired mercenaries, he determines to seek vengeance against Superintendent JS Cheung (Andy Lau) of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD), who betrayed him several years ago.
Headlined by actor and producer Andy Lau himself, he delivers a typically committed yet charismatic performance as the dedicated bomb disposal officer, Superintendent JS Cheung. Some of the action set-pieces by veteran action choreographer Dion Lam (Infernal Affairs) are thrillingly staged with the kind of rousing entertainment one might expect from a good Hong Kong action movie, with the opening nighttime chase scene and the final shootout in the tunnel being the prime examples. Kudos also go to Herman Yau alongside his frequent co-writer Erica Li Man and his technical crew for showcasing the methodical approach of how an EOD officer defused a certain bomb or explosive device.
However, at nearly 2-hour running time, Shock Wave doesn’t exactly live up to its race-against-time setting. For a supposedly taut and tense action blockbuster that involves a mad bomber trapping hundreds of hostages inside a tunnel with large amounts of C-4 explosives, you would expect a fast-paced movie. Instead, the movie is needlessly protracted where Yau and Li Man often divert the pace with extraneous plot details. For instance, what’s the point of including a kidnapping scene involving Cheung’s girlfriend Carmen (Song Jia) that feels more like a filler than a necessity?
Then, there are times the Hong Kong law enforcement agency depicted in this movie are inconsistent in terms of their decision-making procedure. This is especially true during one of the poorly-written moments where the police finally had enough and charging into the tunnel while the hostages still in danger.
The subplot, in the meantime, doesn’t help much to establish the characters or even benefits the overall storyline. The introduction of Song Jia’s Carmen is more like an obligatory fill-in-the-blank female love interest. Needless to say, her romantic moment with Cheung is a time-waster that neither affectional nor empathetic enough to justify their onscreen relationship.
Finally, apart from Andy Lau’s engaging lead performance, the rest of the supporting characters are sadly pale in comparison. Although Jiang Wu gets to do crazy things that associated with his mad-bomber character, he doesn’t look threatening enough or even registers well as a worthy main antagonist. Philip Keung tends to overact as Cheung’s police colleague Kong, while recognisable past and current TVB actors like Ron Ng, Sek Sau and Felix Wong are all given underutilised roles.
Overall, Shock Wave could have been better if Yau and Li Man stick to a more streamlined “die hard-in-the-tunnel” action movie. It’s very obvious they lack a certain finesse to handle a movie with an elaborate setup and side stories. Given this is a rare moment we get to see a Hong Kong action movie where an EOD takes centre stage, Shock Wave ends up being a missed opportunity.