PTU: Police Tactical Unit (2003) Review
(More customer reviews)PTU (Police Tactical Unit) is the handiwork of award-winning Hong Kong director; Johnnie To(Full-time Killer, Exiled, Breaking News). I've always read that Johnnie To is the epitome of hard-boiled cool, his films usually have that dark, gritty style with sly humor and stylized, intense gunfights. PTU's screenplay all happens in one evening, and while its premise is quite simple, with a script not as polished as "Infernal Affairs", To's signature style is still represented quite proudly.
Synopsis derived from the dvd back cover:
Set against a TsimSha Tsui that never sleeps, a stolen police sidearm triggers a suspenseful chain of events. Tracking down the missing gun before dawn, police inspector Lo (Lam Suet, Dog Bite Dog) gets his car vandalized, then he gets beaten up by street thugs. Suddenly, he is wedged between two gangs on a brink of a bloodbath. While staving off investigations by both the anti-vice squad and homicidal unit embroiled in a turf war. His only lifeline is a maverick team of Police Tactical Unit headed by a cop named Mike Ho (Simon Yam, Exiled) who helps him search for his missing gun.
PTU stands for Police Tactical Unit, the film itself uses a very simple premise. But the film is full of the usual Johnnie To signature. Characters, all threads collide in one night, high contrasting light versus dark. A natural minimalization versus a deep sense of dark humor. The film has a very cool and precise timing in its proceedings that the film is a gritty visual ballet.
The delight of watching To's films is the way the scenes unfold; questions are answered and more questions arise. Although the film does leave some questions unanswered, a clever script, great acting, humor smartly dispersed in its proceedings and the film does have a few surprises in store for the viewer; makes for very powerful cinema. There's really a very slim chance that the viewer will figure out the climax that is the beauty of Johnnie's films. Also, the magic of his film-making is that the director always finds the right actors for the role. Lam Suet hardly plays a lead role and that adds to the feeling of unknown and the viewer will have no difficulty connecting with his eccentric character. Simon Yam fits the role of over-the-top policeman Mike Ho, his methods are a bit extreme and unorthodox at times, but he does have his own sense of loyalty and camaraderie that is very effective.
PTU, truth be told, is another "buddy flick" because Johnnie likes to emphasize friendship in his films, but he adds nasty and dark characters to balance the shades of gray, black and white, good and evil. The supporting characters are given a purpose in the film's direction. No wasted opportunity, as Johnnie To maneuvers the proceedings to ultimate irony. There is a lot of dialogue and the film balances out with its excellent cinematography, which brings us to its strongest point. The film is mostly shot at night, and the awesome use of lighting gives the film a dark, atmospheric feel. In a way, the film is presented almost like a stage play, the members of PTU move around in the rain and uses simple street lamps to emphasize attention to what is happening, that under the spotlight; something relevant that may affect the lives of others is going on. I rather thought that the spotlights were meant to represent the underworld, its dealings and the rules that apply.
However, on the minus side, the film's pacing suffer a bit because there are quite a few "slow" moments and the action is almost non-existent until the climax. Now, don't take this as negative comments, the film is great the way it is; a police drama that makes a really good effort in engaging its audience that even though the film is slower paced than most of To's films, the style is immersive as the story unfolds. That is one of Johnnie To's strengths; he has a great feel for storytelling.
PTU may not be as explosive as his other films such as EXILED, The Mission and Full time Killer, but the film is definitely worth a watch. PTU is a clever return to Hong Kong crime drama, that even with its rather slower pace, the film can stand on its own as one of Johnnie To's greats.
RECOMMENDED! For fans of cop/triad films [3 ½ stars+]
Note: I own the Hong Kong release by Mei-Ah entertainment, the Dragon Dynasty release should carry an English dubbed track.
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Follows a police tactical unit during one dangerous night on the streets of Hong Kong.The tough, single-minded team has until dawn to recover a cop's stolen gun and clean upthe accompanying mess, but things take a deadly twist when their mission intersects with a web of gangland crimes.