Johnnie To is a highly acclaimed director from Hong Kong. Quentin Tarantino has stated that he enjoys watching Johnnie To’s films. To’s first action film to be shot and set in Mainland China is getting rave reviews and praise from gangster film fans that have seen it. The film called Drug War is an action packed non stop thriller about a police captain Zhang played by Sun Honglei who becomes a partner of a drug crime lord Timmy Choi portrayed by actor Louis Koo. In order to escape China’s strict death penalty for selling drugs, Timmy Choi agrees to become an informer and turn on his criminal drug partners.
To does not hold back on the violence in Drug War. The 105 minute film features one of the most amazing shoot outs ever seen in a gangster film. The shoot out scene goes on for over ten minutes and the body count seems to never end, making Scarface look mild in comparison. In addition to the gun fights, you will also see car crashes, tons of dead bodies, gushing blood and excessive drug use.
One notable scene in Drug War features Zhang being forced to snort cocaine and almost dying if not for being saved by his quick thinking partner Timmy. It is an on your edge of your seat type of action crime thriller. The film received positive reviews when it screened in Italy at the Rome International Film Festival. The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles.
The cast includes Louis Koo as Choi Tin-ming/Timmy Choi, Sun Honglei as Captain Zhang Lei, Huang Yi as Yang Xiaobei, Wallace Chung as Guo Weijun, Gao Yunxiang as Xu Guoxiang, Li Guangie as Chen Shixiong, Guo Tao as Senior Dumb, Li Jing as Junior Dumb, Lo Hoi-Pang as Birdie, Eddie Cheung as Su, Gordon Lam as East Lee, Michelle Ye as Sal and Lam Suet as Fatso.
Some critics have stated that the film is light on action but makes up for it due to its great plot, editing and cinematography. Drug War was nominated for several awards at the 7th Annual Asian Film Awards. Drug War was nominated for Best Film, Best Screenwriter (Wai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Ryker Chan, Yu Xi), Best Editing (David Richardson, Allen Leung. Drug War has done well at the box office in China. In the United States the film was screening at the IFC Center in Manhattan, NY. The film was released on DVD and blu ray.
Johnnie To was quoted for saying the following about one of his previous gangster films called Election. “Other gangster movies might have been of some inspiration, but from any worldwide gangster movies – only Hong Kong’s films might have been of some influence. Election is a kind of New Age Hong Kong gangster movie, looking back at the 1997 handover. Actually, while I was preparing – and later on – shooting the Election movies, I told my crew not to take any influence from the Godfather trilogy, or from any other gangster movies. I told them I wanted to create a real Hong Kong gangster movie.”