PTU: Police Tactical Unit (Alliance, 2003) D: Johnny To, w/ Simon Yam, Lam Suet. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
An ordinary story: a cop loses his gun in a fight with street thugs; his unit starts breaking rules and heads to get it back before the dawn deadline.
Yet the movie is remarkable, a thriller that consistently finds unusual ways to tell its familiar story, and an atmosphere piece that slips from the hustle of frantic lives to an eerie late-night silence where people move like ghosts.
Leading Hong Kong director Johnny To (Exiled, Election) works visual magic, making a composition in yellow and grey look like both an ordinary location shot and something from the glory days of German Expressionism.
In the extras, To describes shooting this “personal film” over three years between other projects. Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan’s solid commentary fleshes out To’s remarks and provides good material on director, actors and locations.
Despite that schedule, the cast turn in solid, consistent performances. Lam Suet steals the show as the luckless cop who smokes and stews throughout, and Simon Yam puts a lot of energy into his relentless sergeant.
Yam, with 150 film and TV credits over 30 years, has some interesting things to say about his process and the Hong Kong approach to acting.
EXTRAS Logan commentary, To, Yam and co-star Maggie Siu interviews. Widescreen. Cantonese, English audio. English, Spanish subtitles.