Drug War Blu-ray Review
When running a drug compound, it’s wise not to bring any attention to the operation. And so when green clouds start to spill from a building that’s used to house a meth lab, it might be a sign to head somewhere far away and fast.
That’s Timmy Choi’s (Louis Koo, 2008’s RUN PAPA RUN) plan—until he gets caught by the police. Faced with a death penalty for manufacturing 50 grams of meth (China is a bit more strict with their punishments than most other countries), Timmy is given a shot at getting his sentence reduced by Captain Zhang (Sun Hongeli, 2012’s LETHAL HOSTAGE), who wants the entire operation brought to its knees. With that, Timmy convinces Zhang to let him team up with the cops and rat out all of those who’ve helped make him a kingpin. The agreement finds Timmy impersonating two different men, both buyer and seller, on as many occasions as necessary.
DRUG WAR is directed by Johnnie To, the prolific Hong Kong-born filmmaker who’s helmed no less than 50 movies in just over 30 years. To is a renowned director best known to Western audiences for his crime films (he’s also tried his hand at comedies and romances), like 1999’s THE MISSION (which earned To his first of three Best Director honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards), 2004’s ELECTION (the Best Picture winner at the 25th HFCAs) and 2006’s TRIAD ELECTION (which, like its predecessor, was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival). Fans of To will likely get a major thrill from DRUG WAR, which offers many of the director’s trademarks.
Still, while there is a car chase to open the movie and a gunfight to close it, DRUG WAR doesn’t offer nearly as much action as one would expect (especially considering there are about six-dozen firearms on the box art). In short, there is far too much talking and insistence from the screenplay (by Ryker Chan, Ka-Fai Wai, Nai-Hoi Yau, and Xi Yu) that the characters go about all of the procedures that such a movie feels obligated to, which only serve to slow down the movie.
DRUG WAR moves too slowly for a movie that runs 107 minutes. Between the aforementioned car chase (which ends with Timmy plowing through a restaurant) and gunfight (a stellar showcase with no music cues, which makes it all the more suspenseful), many scenes (especially in the first hour) run far too long and stay too distant from the reason there’s even an audience. (This relative stinginess of bloodshed may also be because DRUG WAR is To’s first movie to be shot in Mainland China, where censors are stricter.)
To is a strong filmmaker and has earned his name in the genre, but DRUG WAR, despite a select few standout moments, isn’t the spectacular crime-thriller you may be led to believe it is.
DRUG WAR premiered at the 2012 Rome International Film Festival as a “surprise” and was nominated for Best Film, Best Screenwriter and Best Editor at the Asian Film Awards.
DRUG WAR BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. DRUG WAR has an overall slick look to it and that translates in this high-definition transfer. Details and color tones are strong throughout.
Audio: Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. The audio transfer is also very good, with every last gunshot coming through surround sound speakers with full effect.