Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Film Review: Drug War (2012)

Drug War (Review)
China/2012
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...brings you into its world and keeps you suspended through its tense encounters..."

After crashing into a building, a dazed and confused drug lord Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) agrees to team up with Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) to avoid the death penalty.

Drug War continues with Timmy and Zhang working together to takedown the rest of the drug ring over the course of 72 hours. Both are taken through tense situations of trust and betrayal -- against each other and the people they're targeting. For example, can Zhang continue to play a drug lord and survive in the drug underworld? Are Timmy's actions genuine, or is he planning something bigger? The tension further rises as the plans complicate. The final act explodes in a climatic gun battle leading into a dark ending of consequence and punishment.

Drug War begins with a successful crackdown. The characters we are introduced to -- Zhang and Yang -- are initially cliché and bland; one is a stereotypical tough supercop and the other plays it bland and boring. However, after this introduction, the clichés are dropped and the characters grow with the plot and settle into more likable and comfortable characters. This isn't an all-out action film by any means -- it's far from Hard Boiled. Instead, Drug War brings you into its world and keeps you suspended through its tense encounters -- usually its action dialogue and suspenseful choices characters make. There are a few brilliantly choreographed shootouts towards the second half of the film; these blazing, edge-of-your-seat action sequences quite literally keep you at the edge.

Sun Honglei initially starts off bland and boring, even if that is supposed to be his character; eventually, he brings life into his performance, though. Louis Koo delivers a wonderful performance -- very lifelike, deceptive and even emotional, especially during the ending. The film is shot beautifully -- the movie looks amazing with great color tones, and the camerawork is extremely engaging. The music is great and sets the tone for the film, as it's supposed to. The action is beautifully choreographed, even if there are only two or three shootouts. Johnnie To's direction is also superb, really consistent and precise pulling as much possible from the cast and story.

Overall, Drug War is an incredible crime thriller. Developing suspense through dialogue and thrills through action is quite the accomplishment on its own, but Drug War becomes much more through its engaging story and direction. I highly recommend this film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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