Inspector Cheung (Nick Cheung) is sitting with his police partner in their car, watching for signs of life from a nearby apartment because inside are the notorious criminal Yuen (Richie Ren) and his gang, preparing to embark on a robbery. However, when they do emerge, a couple of uniformed cops approach them for their accomplice's bad driving, and they get into an argument as Cheung sits and sweats. Finally it looks as if the cops are moving away, but suddenly the gangsters shoot them dead and a full scale gunfight erupts - what will the media say?
I ask about the media because that's what the film is preoccupied with, that is, how news is represented by them, and how the police in particular come across. One of director Johnnie To's typically stylish thrillers, it was scripted by Hing-Ka Chan and Tin-Shing Yip and its themes and concerns lifted a fairly standard action suspense piece above the norm. Unfortunately, by the time the ending comes around the action has taken over at the expense of the earlier thoughtfulness, but the film was effective enough nonetheless.
In a bit of showing off, that opening sequence, complete with gunfight, is shot all in one go, a continuous item of camerawork that, once you notice what's happening, is undeniably impressive, especially for an action scene. The gun battle spreads into the rest of Hong Kong with Yuen and his allies chased by Cheung and his backup until they all end up at the apartment block where most of the film takes place. Despite being told not to, Cheung follows the bad guys in, and a siege is what follows when the hordes of cops arrive soon after.
But before that we are offered a dialogue with Commissioner Rebecca Fong (Kelly Chen) and her superior, as he is looking for answers about how to calm down the populace and Fong thinks she has the answer: public relations. Not only that, but have the police filming their own footage to give to the media so they can both be on friendly terms with them and go some way to controlling what is and isn't seen. Naturally, when all the lawmen turn up at the apartment block the TV and newspapers aren't far behind; this is a big story after all.
The media don't have one single representative in Breaking News as they did in say, Die Hard, they're more of a faceless, grasping entity that the police are desperate to control. But the accusing fingers continue to point when doctored footage of an assault on the evildoers is sent out to the television producers, which is swiftly contradicted by footage the gang broadcast to them, so that the fight is both over the airwaves and inside the building. Meanwhile, Cheung struggles to contain the situation as Yuen takes a single parent family hostage while Fong is more worried about how they're going to look on the box. As I say, the need to wrap this up in an exciting package somewhat sabotages a provocative angle on a well worn genre, but perhaps the thrills are all you're watching it for, in which case it should satisfy. Music by Ben Cheung and Chi Wing Chung.
Aka: Daai Si Gin.
[Tartan's Region 2 DVD has a trailer and behind the scenes featurette as extras.]