Drug War

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Laura Clifford 
Drug War

Robin Clifford 

Just as meth manufacturer Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) crashes into a restaurant fleeing from a disastrous lab explosion, Captain Zhang's (Sun Honglei) team has captured a busload of drug mules at a toll booth. With Choi, who is facing a death penalty, in custody, Zhang decides to gun for the cartel he supplies, going undercover with Choi as his entry in "Drug War."

Laura:
Hong Kong action director Johnnie To ("Exiled," "Vengeance") heads to the mainland where crime thrillers are rare but drugs are a huge problem, with hundreds of police officers killed in gun fights in this decade alone.    To has created a hugely entertaining, extremely violent, ofttimes funny film which also underscores the extreme dedication of Chinese drug enforcement, Zhang painting the picture of an almost superhumanly diligent cop.

To's trifold opening introduces us to a huge cast of characters (with more to come).  In addition to Choi, literally foaming at the mouth behind his wheel, Zhang's right-hand 'man' Yang Xiaobei (Huang Yi) is a female cop who kicks ass.  We also meet two cops who've been following the two comically stoned drivers bringing raw materials to another of Choi's outposts for over twenty-four hours.  To expertly mixes tone within his lightning fast pace.

Choi brings Zhang to meet Haha (Hao Ping), a man so named because of the exuberant laugh which greets every situation.  Haha offers a table laden with the seafood brought into his port, a prime exit point for drug smuggling, while Zhang covertly keeps a camera trained on him.  Haha is Choi's connection to Bill Lee, the guy Zhang's really targetting - or so he thinks - and the next thing we know, Zhang and Xiaobei are posing as Haha and his wife, Zhang's impersonation so astute it might take a few seconds to catch up to the barreling plot line.  Bill, though, isn't as hospitable as the man Zhang's now posing as and he's forced to ingest a life-threatening amount of drugs.  After a hair-raising detox, he's speeding on the night train towards the next meeting, where mute workers loyally await Choi.

The action moves so fast, Zhang constantly reacting to Choi's ever-shifting story, it's hard to tell who's playing who as the consequences become more and more deadly.  To orchestrates a huge cast and multi-layered plot (written by Ryker Chan, Ka-Fai Wai, Nai-Hoi Yau and Xi Yu) like the ringmaster of a three-ring circus, his explosive, nihilistic finale layered with betrayals.  To's "Drug War" may be one of the few films that earns a 'second' ending, the chilling revelation of a true psychopath.

B+

Robin:
Robin gives "Drug War" a B.
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