Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Film Review: Breaking News (2004)

Breaking News (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Pony)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...action is spectacular with magnificent camerawork and choreography..."

When the mainstream media capture the humiliating defeat of a uniformed police officer by a group of bank robbers, Superintendent Fong (Kelly Chen) and the Hong Kong police force decide to capture these criminals on live television...

Starting with a ultra-stylish, single-shot shootout, Breaking News continues to follow Fong as she orchestrates this televised event, while Inspector Cheung (Nick Cheung) and his crew attempt to capture these armed bandits on their own; it also focuses on the uniformed officers under Fong's command, the group of robbers they are after, and an unsuspecting group of criminals caught in the crossfire. The bulk of the film takes place in a large apartment complex, with explosions booming through the small rooms and blazing shootouts occurring in the almost-claustrophobic hallways. Breaking News blazes through its short runtime to a good ending, although it could've been better.

Breaking News is so simple yet so smart. Of course, it is a film, so you do have to suspend reality; I know, much of the film, especially the action, is not plausible, but it's entertaining. The concept blends stylish, masterfully executed action and interesting social commentary. It features a well-developed psychological battle of wits as Fong and the robbers use the media to their advantages. Although its mostly a one-sided battle, its interesting and entertaining to see how each group manipulates the already manipulative media. The story is interesting, creative, and smart without sacrificing entertainment. The action is spectacular with magnificent camerawork and choreography to keep you on your toes -- and, it's very consistent. There is also some great humor mixed in -- two or so fart jokes and some quirky hostages to lighten up the film.

The story does have some flaws. As simple as it may seem, there were a couple of confusing plot points. The ending, for example, features some questionable actions from the criminals, which, in turn, leaves the audience assuming. Also, there are some character development flaws regarding Fong, which are mostly evident towards the end; the film basically drops her into a role she's not well suited for and would better suit the more charismatic character. These are minor flaws, though, and they are really only noticeable during the ending; it's not a film-ruining ending, but I'd say its the only part of Breaking News that is not excellent.

Kelly Chen plays her character well, but lacks some charisma needed for leading lady; aside from her performance, the writing for the character is a bit of a cliché, which isn't helpful for Kelly Chen. Nick Cheung shares less screen time but has a strong screen presence, and great charisma -- his performance is what you'd expect considering Cheung rarely leaves the role. The film is beautifully shot. The cinematography compliments the camerawork well, especially during its action sequences. The music is also very well fitted, and even unique enough to differentiate the film from other Chinese crime movies. Johnnie To is fantastic with his focused and creative direction; Johnnie To is a master of action who continues to push the genre in the right direction.

Overall, Breaking News is a fantastic action film with a well-executed and effective concept. I was hooked from its masterful introduction to its decent ending -- but, only the ending is decent, which is still good, while the rest of the film is brilliant. Definitely some of Johnnie To's best work, and a fantastic crime thriller for fans of the genre.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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