Dir. Johnnie To, China, 2013, 107 min., NR, DCP, In Mandarin with English subtitles Official Website
After a violent lab accident and subsequent arrest, meth cook Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is in the custody of Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) with only one chance to avoid execution: turn informant and help Zhang wrap a month-long operation in just a few days. As things begin to spin wildly out of control, the line between duty and recklessness is blurred, and it’s not clear whether Zhang or Choi actually has the upper hand. Long considered the master of the Hong Kong crime thriller, Johnnie To’s first mainland production eschews “two guns at once” mayhem in favor of atmosphere and a tightly-wound plot, punctuated with impeccably choreographed bursts of startlingly realistic violence. This intricate puzzle box of a film ignited a firestorm of controversy in its homeland upon its release.
“In DRUG WAR, Hong Kong genre master Johnnie To gives a superlative lesson on how to give an updated, thoroughly engrossing twist to the classic cops-and-robbers chase.” —Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter
“The big budget and big social canvas have called forth one of [To's] best movies, a dense and involving police procedural with a dash of the grotesque and a persistent undertone of doom.” —Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com