blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Drug War (2012, Johnnie To)

Sun Honglei stars in DRUG WAR, directed by Johnnie To for Media Asia Distribution.

Who would have thought a movie just called Drug War would be so amazing? The original Chinese title appears to be just as simple, director To and his amazing batch of writers–War is the probably the best four person scripted film ever–must have known they didn’t really need a flashy title. To’s direction is astoundingly assured and every one of his choices is spot on. Even when things get “predictable,” To makes them play pitch perfect.

The first third of the film sets up the anti-drug units, it shows how different cities work alongside each other, it shows the procedures. It’s not a procedural; To never tries to fill any genre. War isn’t a docudrama either. It’s not really a cop movie, not really a criminals movie. It’s a very matter-of-fact presentation of its events, they just happen to concern cops and criminals. To and the writers never take the time to explain to the viewer. From the first sequence, it’s clear To’s doing something very different.

Great minimalist score from Xavier Jamaux, great photography from Cheng Siu-keung. All around, just amazing production values.

The film mostly follows Sun Honglei’s captain from a big, but routine bust into a breakneck race. Louis Koo’s meth kingpin unexpectedly gets into a wreck and gets busted; Sun uses him to go after the big villain.

To ratchets the film up to a relentless pace. Amazing performances from the cast, every move is a good one.

War’s perfect.



Directed by Johnnie To; written by Wai Ka-Fa, Yau Nai-Hoi, Ryker Chan and Yu Xi; director of photography, Cheng Siu-keung; edited by David M. Richardson and Allen Leung; music by Xavier Jamaux; production designer, Horace Ma; produced by To and Wai; released by Media Asia Distribution.

Starring Sun Honglei (Captain Zhang), Louis Koo (Timmy Choi), Haung Yi (Yang Xiaobei), Gao Yunxiang (Guo Weijun), Li Guangjie (Chen Shixong), Gou Tao (Senior Dumb), Li Jing (Junior Dumb), Lo Hoi-Pang (Birdie), Cheung Siu-Fai (Su), Lam Ka Tung (East Lee), Michelle Ye (Sal), Lam Suet (Fatso), Ng Yuk San (Hatred), Keung Hon Man (Darkie), Gan Tinging (Mrs. Haha) and Hao Ping (Haha).


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