Sunday, October 20, 2013

Drug War

2013, Hong Kong/China, directed by Johnnie To

Though it's as tightly constructed as most of Johnnie To's Hong Kong-based crime films, with an exceptionally intricate plot that rewards careful attention, the overall aesthetic is much less slick than usual, and the early going in particular is thoroughly deglamorized, with grim landscapes and a nothing-left-to-the-imagination depiction of the work of drug mules. Indeed, at no time is the drug business seen to be especially rewarding -- even those who've made it big seem to have serious problems, whether it's the consequences of their activities on family life, their inability to stop themselves dabbling in their own product, or simply the gnawing tension that comes with a life lived constantly in fear of it all coming to an end. All this is not to suggest that the usual To pleasures are absent, though: the pacing is both expert and breakneck, not least because the action is compressed into a couple of restless days. There is also a standout extended set-piece wherein the police manage the many moving parts of a major drug deal to allow themselves to intervene in the action and pass themselves off as criminals, with Sun Honglei, who plays the head police officer, wryly amusing in his dual roles.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States