Drug War is sleek, suspenseful and lensed with flair and finesse.
Although, frankly, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Johnnie To, director of Triad Election and the original Infernal Affairs.
According to the trailer, China hands out the death penalty to anyone caught manufacturing more than 50 grams of crystal meth and Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) has made tons of the stuff.
When he is nabbed by stone-faced cop Zhang Lei (Honglei Sun) it is, perhaps, unsurprising that Mr. Choi offers to betray his associates to avoid paying the ultimate price for his folly.
Louis Koo has onscreen charisma to burn but can his character be trusted?
Honglei Sun (or Sun Honglei) may have watched one too many Beat Takeshi flicks (yes, I know Mr. Kitano is Japanese) but he plays his dedicated cop with gritty conviction (and shows his versatility when his character impersonates a druglord with a trademark chuckle).
Mr. To has a rep for smoothly oiled action set pieces and there are plenty of them here. However, in this film, the emphasis is on the behind-the-scenes surveillance by Zhang and his quietly efficient crew.
I had a bit of trouble picking out the bad guys from the good guys in the early stages of the climactic shootout. Still, I gotta put another check in the “Win Win” column for Hong Kong’s master of mayhem, Johnnie To.