Johnnie To’s Drug War

It isn’t shocking that Johnnie To would make an intense, stylish, and smart gangster movie. The Hong Kong auteur has been doing that for about 25 years. What’s amazing is that this story takes place in China, where movies are epic or wacky but rarely gritty, dangerous, or even cool.

As often is the case in To’s movies, Louis Koo plays a character who doesn’t say much or show much but has a dark undercurrent that is subtly and superbly played. As a busted meth manufacturer, he is forced to become a mole for China’s drug squad in conjunction with undercover cop played with conviction by Sun Honglei.

Is Koo’s character really helping the cops? Who is really in control? As the undercover cop is led deeper into the illegal operation, he is forced to not only travel from city to city but make promises, take dope, and put himself in other unsavory situations. It’s intense and violent and the payoff is worth it.

And you can read as much as you want into it. What’s the meaning of the meth lab mutes and the drug trafficking mules? Is the cops and robbers story an allegory for Hong Kong vs. China? And how cool is it that the handsome and tanned Louis Koo is first seen foaming at the mouth and then with cuts and bandages all over his face?

This movie actually showed in screens over the summer and it’s very cool that a domestic DVD and Blu-ray is being released in the U.S. by WellGo today. Check it out HERE and don’t forget to watch the Ip Man: The Final Fight trailer while you’re at it…