In Chinese with English subtitles
Veteran Hong Kong producer/director Johnnie To's hit police procedural Drug War will be debuting on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital (video-on-demand, electronic sell-through and streaming) tomorrow, Tuesday, October 15th, 2013, courtesy of those fine folk at Well Go USA. The film had its New York premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival this past July 5th and later in the summer enjoyed a limited nationwide release. Now those in North America who haven't seen it can find out first hand what all the acclaim was about and those who have seen it will be able to enjoy it again and again at their leisure. (Note: This review is based on the Blu-ray version.)
|Timmy Choi's car crashes into a restuarant|
The film begins by focusing on three vehicles, each one in some way tied to the meth trade. One is a car being driven erratically by Timmy Choi (Louis Koo); a factory of his for manufacturing the substance has just been destroyed in an explosion. Another vehicle is a bus that develops mechanical problems at a Jinhai city toll both. The third is a truck transporting the raw ingredients for manufacturing meth. It's being trailed by Guo and Chen, two members of the Yuejiang Anti-Drug squad.
|Booking time for Timmy (Louis Koo)|
After Timmy's car finally ends up crashing into a restaurant, his involvement in the drug trade is discovered and he's taken into custody by Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) of the Jinhai Anti-Drug Squad. The situation isn't good for Timmy because in China manufacturing as little s 50 grams of meth carries a a death sentence, and his production was way beyond that. He's able to strike a deal by agreeing to provide vital information to Zhang so that he can effectively wage a drug war against the providers of the raw ingredients, the factories that make the drug, and those involved with its distribution.
|Timmy, left, and Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei)|
The film is a remarkably taut policier, beautifully structured so that it can maintain edge-of-your-seat suspense even when there's no action per se. For example, Zhang, with Timmy's assistance and tutelage, goes undercover as both a provider/manufacturer and then as a distributor. Things can go wrong at any moment, and sometimes they do. But just when, in what way, and how badly -- well, that's what keeps things suspenseful.
There are really only two really big action sequences, but they're done -- as one would expect from Johnnie To -- with class, style, and a lot of firepower. The truly climactic shootout finale rivals the street battle in Michael Mann's Heat (1995).
|Zhang during the final set-piece shoot-out|
Although the disc is essentially bereft of special features (there's just a trailer for the film and previews of other Well Go USA releases), Drug War would be a welcome addition to the collection of any fan of Hong Kong cinema, Johnnie To's films in particular, or police procedurals in general.
ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.
Below are some links for further reading about Drug War.
Other reviews of Drug War:
AsianCineFest (Guest review by Colleen Wanglund)
Ric Meyers (Drug War is the third film reviewed in this article)
Interviews with Johnnie To:
Ain't It CoolNews.com