Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Drug War (Du zhan)

About a week ago I watched a film called Drug War. It's a nice little Chinese film that has the sort of climactic shootout that would please fans of another little Chinese film entitled Infernal Affairs. It takes a while to really build up the movie, but once it does get going it's a lot of fun. This isn't exactly a film that relies on action to keep the scenes going. With the exception of the ending, there isn't too much guns-a-blazin' sequences. It's largely thanks to the dynamic between the two lead actors that this movie gets going at all. 

It's certainly not as fantastic as Infernal Affairs, but the climax will cause comparisons anyway. It's a damn good final twenty minutes. However, I feel it's more important to talk about the build up to that part. 

The rest of the movie feels somewhat wooden. A bit too formulaic. Granted there's only so much that can be done with the whole "good guy catches bad guy at the beginning of the movie and expects the bad guy to turn over a new leaf" type of thing. It's the kind of setup that only Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro could make watchable, but only in their prime. Sun Honglei does hold up his end of the movie as the indefatigable Police Captain Zhang, but the character of Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) didn't quite convince me. That wasn't really Louis Koo's fault, though. 

The entire movie I knew Timmy Choi was still a bad guy. I just felt like his character was one dimensional from the start. It was only thanks to Louis Koo's abilities that he was able to get anything out of the character at all. 

Of course, the bad guy being the one dimensional bad guy while the good guy being the one dimensional good guy isn't always a bad thing. Many Westerns are iconic for just such a thing. "Bad is bad and good is good" can be comforting. 

However, I was expecting more from this movie (like I do from just about every movie made after the 1950's) and it didn't quite give that to me. 

Captain Zhang is the stereotypical tough-as-nails cop that won't quit until the job is done, but even though Sun Honglei's obviously given a role that is completely transparent to us he still manages to give us a performance that is nonetheless impressive. 

There are plenty of good scenes in this movie. I'm not sure how accurate some of the drug scenes are, but there's one scene in particular that involves Captain Zhang suffering from too many lines of cocaine that is just riveting. The scenes prior to that where Zhang has to impersonate two different people in order to get deeper into the drug world are also really good. 

I'm not too familiar with his work, but I'm sure Sun Honglei is a gifted actor. 

The scenes involving the deaf brothers are especially good, too. And the climax is fucking fantastic. 

There's a lot to like about this movie, but it falls just a bit short of the mark that it probably wanted to set from the start. It's good and maybe even better than it should be, but it's still a far cry from Infernal Affairs

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