Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Breaking News (2006)

It's inevitable that a Johnnie To film will open with an incredible feat of filmmaking, and this film is no exception. It's a typical depiction of a sting operation gone very wrong and devolving into a street shoot-out... or at least it is until you realize that the no-doubt-extremely complicated sequence has gone on for a good ten minutes without a single cut. It's also inevitable, though, that a Johnnie To film will never live up to its opening sequence. (A Hero Never Dies, which gets stronger as it goes, is the exception.) So it is with this film, which never quite makes the most out of its surefire premise (a standoff between cops and crooks waged not only on the battleground but also through the media). That it succeeds to the extent that it does is because the premise is enough; To may be coasting, but he's got an impressive wave upon which to coast. As the cops and crooks parry each other's salvos, we come to see that the manipulation of the image is just as important as the image proper (if you don't like the news, make it!). Everyone's desperate to keep up their appearance, and it's this desire that leads to the tangled interactions between both sides, mainly between Yuen (one of the lead crooks), Rebecca Fong (the police commissioner) and Cheung (a gung-ho inspector embedded in the building where the standoff takes place). Through it all, To returns time and again to one of his favorite themes, the commonality of human experience in seemingly opposite people; Yuen at one point tells Rebecca, "We just speak from different channels," and To means it. (Note, too, the role reversal that occurs in the film's climax/epilogue). Exciting and cynical in equal measures, though I'm not sure how certain aspects -- namely the hostage gambit near film's end -- are supposed to work.

Grade: B


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