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  PTU Here Come The Fuzz
Year: 2003
Director: Johnnie To
Stars: Simon Yam, Maggie Sui, Suet Lam, Ruby Wong, Raymond Wong, Eddy Ko, Lo Hoi Pang, Jerome Fung, Frank Michael Liu, Chang Chi-Ping, Chiu Chi-Sing, Roderick Lam, Wang Tian-Lin, Wong Chi Wai, Wong Wah-Wo, Ronald Yan, Courtney Wu
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's going to be a tough night in this district of Hong Kong, for a certain group of people on both sides of the law, at any rate. The gangster's son Ponytail arrives at a diner and starts throwing his weight around, not by shouting, but by ensuring he and his men are given preferential treatment since the owner knows there will be dire consequences if he objects. But also appearing is corrupt cop Lo (Suet Lam), known to all as Fatty, who is also able to throw his weight around - after all, he has more of it. But while Ponytail orders his minions off on a mission, he does not realise this makes him vulnerable...

PTU was one of the first films directed by Johnnie To to break through in the West thanks to riding on the coattails of his biggest hit to that date - though not in the East, where his dramas were better received than his crime thrillers. Perhaps To fit the bill of what the Western cult movie audience believed a Hong Kong director should be making, basically in the footsteps of the king of the genre, John Woo, and it was undeniable this contemporary had a lot of visual flair and a method of staging the action that tapped into the universal appeal of what a thriller should look like, particularly a gangster thriller or one with cops.

Nevertheless, PTU has generally been regarded as one of his lesser works, and while it was not up there with Exiled, and the Election movies were more showy and attention-grabbing, there was plenty here that demonstrated the director's skill with presenting a set of circumstances dripping with irony just as surely as they will wind up awash with blood. To was influenced by the Akira Kurosawa film Stray Dog, which also unfolded as a cop lost his gun and desperately attempted to retrieve it, though his efforts here were more attuned to the Hong Kong at the turn of the millennium, post-1997 when the industry began to change.

Years later, the Chinese film market is huge for many studios across the world, and Hong Kong projects, once the gem of East Asian filmmaking, have been somewhat lost in the shuffle amidst a barrage of big, brash, patriotic action and melodrama from their far larger neighbours. This means even PTU from 2003 seems to come from a different age, a throwback to the territory's glory days of its New Wave in the nineteen-eighties, and as a result it comes across as a little more precious, something to treasure, more than it did when Westerners initially clapped eyes upon it mid-noughties. Despite that, it did resemble more of a sketch, an extended vignette, than a prime example of its craft.

It is Fatty who loses his gun in an almost slapstick series of events as he chases down the gang members responsible for murdering Ponytail - but more importantly, for ruining his car. This brings in the attention of Simon Yam's PTU leader, basically a special forces police service, who understands they really need to get that firearm back or it will have serious and unhappy repercussions; Maggie Siu was also there as an officer who is more by the book yet is dragged into the corruption no matter what happens. There was a leisurely pace to the drama that belied the urgency of the scenario, and you may find yourself admiring To's way with the gleaming cinematography more than being invested in this roguish bunch, as it was a very good-looking production, there was no doubting that. As an almost last gasp of a once-great local industry, PTU was full of interest for established followers of Hong Kong thrillers, and those who wanted to delve into the genre. Intrusive guitar music by Chung Chi Wing, mind you.

[Eureka release this on Blu-ray with the following features:

Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase featuring new artwork by Grégory Sacré (Gokaiju) | 1080p presentation on Blu-ray | Cantonese audio (DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 options) | Optional English dubbed audio | Optional English Subtitles and English SDH | Brand new feature length audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) | Archival interview with director Johnnie To | Archival interview with actor Simon Yam | Archival interview with actress Maggie Siu | Trailers | PLUS: A Collector's Booklet featuring new writing by David West (NEO Magazine).]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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