Johnnie To, a modern Hong Kong master of the crime genre, has struck gold once again with his latest film, Drug War. With a dash of Breaking Bad, along with traditional Hong Kong action set pieces, To's latest film manages to give fans exactly what they expect from a production of his, with some great action, interesting characters and a captivating story. Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is a low level mob boss, who manages to make his money from cooking meth for all of China. He happens to get busted, after an explosion of his facility, which places him right into the hands of Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei). When about to be given the death sentence, Choi decides to help out the Captain, by becoming an informant and lead him to bust major figures in the Hong Kong underworld. Together, the two of them have 72 hours, in order to intervene a major drug shipment, in order to save Choi from receiving the death penalty.
From a technical standpoint, Drug War highlights some of the best things that Johnnie To is known for. With its ill fated characters, epic gun fights and interesting characters, Drug War is another excellent film and can be added to the pantheon of great films that To has been cranking out for the last decade. Louis Koo's performance as Timmy Choi is an excellent one, where he manages to play both a victim and a manipulator at even turns throughout the film. The most impressive cast member was Sun Honglei, whose performance as Captain Zhang shows his dramatic range by having to go undercover multiple times throughout the film, in order to arrest other mobsters. This was the first film that I had ever seen Honglei in and it sure has made me a firm believer in his acting abilities, not only dramatically, but also shows a comedic side in a few of his impersonations of hooligans.
The action set pieces in the film are nothing short of brilliant and showcase how To always knows how to make an action sequence, by adding elements that make it different than most films. Where Vengeance had its interesting compost shootout, Drug War makes its exception with militant mute characters, that are unable to hear the police at their doorstep. Once alerted, these initial awkward characters manage to shine through and highlight one of the coolest gun battles in recent history. Just like this action set piece, a majority of Drug War finds its strong suit in suspense and highlighting the cat and mouse aspects of the crime elements. While the plot is very much straight forward, Drug War manages to still be much more fulfilling than most action films, along with being another brilliant crime thriller from a modern master of cinema.
Well Go USA's disc for Drug War, sports nothing as far as extras, but offers a fantastic video and audio tracks, that is sure to please fans. The films video is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. From the bustle of a nice hotel, to an abandoned meth lab gone wrong, Drug War makes for some pretty nice visuals, thanks to Cheng Siu-Keung's cinematography, who's also a frequent Johnnie To collaborator. The audio only comes in two Chinese language tracks, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix and a Dolby Digital stereo mix. Both mixes are well done, with the 5.1 mix truly coming to life during gun shootouts and action scenes.With the film coming out sometime ago, I was eagerly awaiting to see Drug War when it got here. Now that I finally have seen it, I can honestly say that its another win for Johnnie To and solidifies his talents even further. With its inventive action sequences, fantastic action and interesting set up, anyone would be doing themselves a major disservice if they don't check this amazing film out!