Film review: "Cold War"
Starring: Tony Leung Ka-fai, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Gordon Lam Ka-tung, Chin Ka-lok, Aarif Rahman, Charlie Yeung Choi-nei
Directors: Longman Leung Lok-man and Sunny Luk Kim-ching
Category: IIB (Cantonese)
With a multiple award-winning actor (Tony Leung Ka-fai, above right facing Aaron Kwok Fu-shing) and a "Heavenly King"(Kwok) as its two leading men, Cold War has a star-studded cast that can get fans all agog and excited.
But it's potentially disconcerting to see two first-time directors (Longman Leung Lok-man and Sunny Luk Kim-ching, who also wrote the script) at the helm of such a major blockbuster, whose local release was preceded by months of advertising and screenings at the Busan International Film Festival and the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.
Put it this way, one would normally expect neophyte directors to opt for more modest and low-key debut film projects than this action-packed crime drama that has a pair of rival police deputy commissioners (with divergent policing philosophies and personalities) as its two main characters.
With the police commissioner temporarily away from Hong Kong, Waise M.B. Lee (Tony Leung) is the man in charge when a series of criminal acts lead to the hijacking of an Emergency Unit van with five officers onboard late one night. A hardliner by inclination, Lee - whose deputy (Gordon Lam Ka-tung) is open to water-boarding suspects - decides to deploy two thirds of the police force to rescue the officers.
Sean Lau (Aaron Kwok), Lee's normally more cool-headed rival, objects to this move, not least because he thinks that "Lee Sir" - whose son (Eddie Peng Yu-yen) is among the officers held hostage - is emotionally affected. With the support of his loyal lieutenant, Vincent (Chin Ka-lok), and senior press officer Phoenix Leung (Charlie Yeung Choi-nei), Lau moves to wrest control of operation Cold War from Lee, who initiated it.
Little do they know that these efforts are just preliminary ones in a "war" that threatens to tarnish the reputations of both Lee and Lau.
In addition, the first hour or so of Cold War boasts plenty of action and drama, but the filmmakers appear to have used that to merely set the stage for them to ambitiously weave in political comments about Hong Kong's status, identity and balance of power into the multi-stranded tale.
In doing so, they appear to have bitten off more than they could comfortably chew - the result being that the latter part of the film is distinctly less entertaining than its earlier engrossing parts.
The introduction of Aarif Rahman around an hour into the film also does not help matters. Indeed, Rahman's time on screen with the likes of Leung and Kwok only serves to show that he has a long way to go before he can truly match the charisma and acting chops of the veterans.
Cold War opens today