Breaking News

"Very Good"

Breaking News Review


Since we don't seem to be able to put together a halfway decent cops-and-robbers movie anymore in this country, it's nice to see that Johnnie To (Heroic Trio, Fulltime Killer) is still out there, making films like Breaking News. Strictly genre but still quite inventive, this is the kind of breakneck-paced, assured filmmaking that can remind you why Hong Kong cinema first caught on in America.

We open on your average grey Hong Kong street with shabby apartment blocks and metal grates over storefront. In a long, winding, de Palma-esque Steadicam shot, we track a gang of five thieves as they leave their apartment on their way to a heist, cops waiting below. Shots ring out. More cops arrive. Shots continue to ring out. Yet more cops arrive. Handguns are traded for assault rifles. Lots of shooting. The Steadicam continues to track through it all, no cuts. Many, many shots. Thieves produce rocket launcher. Escape.

The whole thing is caught on the news, a fiasco for the Hong Kong PD. At this point the film would normally detour into your standard cat-and-mouse scenario, renegade cop tracking down brilliant criminal for final showdown. But while the main cop Cheung (Nick Cheung) does have the requisite problem with authority and the head robber Yuen (Richie Jen) is about as smart and charming as it gets, the chase scenario is handled in a pretty perfunctory fashion. More by chance than anything else, Cheung and his team come across Yuen's boys in an apartment building, which is promptly sealed off as cops flood the area and prepare to stage the whole thing as a massive media event to restore confidence.

Breaking News, while at its heart a meat-and-potatoes policier, manages to spice things up with a good amount of media circus satire, especially regarding Inspector Rebecca (Kelly Chen), who operates the whole police operation as though she were a film director: "This is the age of the media... Image is everything." To concentrates mostly on the chaos inside the high-rise, with cops trying to evacuate all the civilians without letting any of the robbers escape. He interjects some nice wrinkles with a hostage scenario where Yuen forces his way into a family's apartment, accidentally bringing with him a couple of men he thought were his only it turns out they're another pair of criminals who just happened to be around. Unlike most criminal masterminds, Yuen is shrewd instead of sadistic, just at ease at planning getaways as he is flirting with Rebecca over a webcam; both actors being massive Asian pop stars, they seem to speak the same language. The two of them play the same media game, Yuen webcasting images of the two robber gangs eating a cheery dinner with their hostage family, while in response Rebecca showily distributes gourmet lunches to her cops and the media to show how relaxed and unhurried they are. The satiric touches are light but have some sting nonetheless.

To's style is quick and no-nonsense, but that's not to imply he's stale. Crane shots swoop over and through the action, while split-screens are liberally employed to follow simultaneous action. While the whole affair is riddled with empty shell casings, To doesn't overhype or eroticize the violence in the manner of many action directors, preferring to keep things moving. And move they do.

Smart and sly, Breaking News shows that genre doesn't have to mean predictable.

Aka Dai si gein.

Tom Brokaw goes ballistic.



Breaking News

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 10th June 2004

Distributed by: Palm Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Johnnie To

Producer: Johnnie To, Cao Biao

Starring: Gerry Fall as Jerry Blackwell, Joe Gehl as Elliot Hostan, Jeff Goodvin as Scott Howard, Lauren Gilmore as Lauren Kelly, Carlos Marquez as Carlos Marquez, CJ Ward as Detective Cambell

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