Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Movie: Drug War (U.S. 2013)

The latest film from the hugely talented Johnnie To is the best movie I’ve seen all summer and stands at an impressive 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – yet I feel like nobody’s talking about it. So here I am, days late, telling you to go see it while you can.

An epic policier set in mainland China, Drug War opens with Timmy Choi (To regular Louis Koo) fleeing an explosion in his meth factory that kills his wife and several members of his family. He’s not fast enough to escape Captain Zhang and his drug squad, however. Facing the death penalty, Choi agrees to wire Zhang into an already-in-the-works deal that could ultimately bring down the biggest cartel in Asia.

What follows is a taut, fast-moving film as the deal grows, involving more players and layers of deception. Sun Hong-Lei is astonishing as Zhang, a laconic presence with a preternatural flair for role-playing. He’s always on his guard with Choi, though, whose grief masks ruthless calculation. The cops are constantly dealing with transportation issues and lack of sleep, and the script’s random bits of strangeness and low comedy further ground a heightened tale in reality. Find a theater where it’s playing. Thank me later. Here’s the trailer.