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Issue #169 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES July 21st, 2003

(2003; Mei Ah Film Production Company/Milkyway Image)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

While pursuing a goo wak jai who keyed his car, the rather dense Sgt. Lo Sa (Lam Suet) of the Anti-Crime Division wanders into a trap and his gun is stolen. Sgt. Mike Ho (Simon Yam Tat-wah) of the Police Tactical Unit decides to try and help Lo (who is up for a promotion) find the weapon before dawn; if it is not recovered by that time, a report will have to be filed. Lo knows that the culprits work for a gang leader called Ponytail, who was assassinated right around the same time that his boys stole the sergeant's piece. Meanwhile, to Lo's chagrin, CID has been put in charge of the Ponytail investigation and unit leader Inspector Leigh Cheung (Ruby Wong Cheuk-ling) takes fast note of the bumbling cop's highly suspicious actions. A gang leader tries to negotiate the surrender of a hood (who claims he is actually innocent of the killing but fears for his life) and Lo sees this as a way to strike a deal and retrieve his gun. However, one of his typically careless mistakes just may scotch the deal and lead to bloodshed.

The latest crime thriller from producer/director Johnny To Kei-fung (or Johnnie To, as he is usually billed nowadays) takes place entirely over the course of one evening, alternating between interconnected groups of characters. Central to the story is the fact that the various police units will not raise a finger to help one another, despite all having the same responsibilities. There is even a conflict within PTU, as Mike and two compatriots see the necessity in bending the rules to get results, while others (notably a second team, headed up by Maggie Siu Mei-kei) rigidly adhere to them. Long, lyrical takes allow the actors to communicate volumes while saying little, and To gives us a metropolitan backdrop quite unlike any other. HK crime thrillers routinely unfold at night on the streets but there is usually a steady stream of automobile and foot traffic. Here, we are presented with a quiet, virtually empty city (represented via excellent, unfamiliar locations) where the silence is broken only by footsteps, occasional conversation, mobile phones, and car alarms (the latter figure into the finale, a wonderfully planned and staged combination of happenstance and deus ex machina) . These sequences establish mood in such a simple and subtle fashion, they affect the viewer while often centering around nothing more than minor events.
Aside from a darkly humorous moment born out of violence and a nicely timed gag about the prevalence of those damn phones, this is a very stoic piece and the actors perform accordingly, even in the face of absurdity. It is a balancing act that the best Milkyway thrillers handle so adeptly, and this highly satisfying production represents a welcome return to form for both the company and a talented filmmaker who really seemed to be losing his way in recent years. Raymond Wong Ho-yin, Wong Tin-lam and Eddy Ko Hung also appear.

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

Simon Yam. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Lam Suet. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Ruby Wong. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Mei Ah #DVD-593 (Hong Kong label)

Sync Sound Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS-ES) and Dubbed Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1) Language Tracks

Optional English Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

6 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.39:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

88 Minutes

Contains moderate (but bloody) violence, interrogation torture, and mild language

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

Hong Kong: IIB

Cheng Siu-keung's excellent scope photography comes across very well in this slick transfer. The entire film takes place at night and the interiors also tend to be dimly lit; detail is very good under both conditions. Blacks are solid, hues are rich, and the element is spotless. The audio is an accomplished mixture of layered atmospherics and natural, immediate sounding dialogue and music, and the track comes across well here (DTS-ES is also included for the Cantonese version). Extras consist of an untranslated 17 minute interview section, featuring comments from To and Yam, a bilingual Data Bank and Synopsis, a squeezed trailer, and an additional trailer for the digital video production 20/30 DICTIONARY located in the Best Buy section. The DVD comes packaged in an outer sleeve and represents a definite step up in quality for Mei Ah. Just one complaint: the animated menus are ugly and impossible to skip through.

is available at Poker Industries.

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