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Director: Johnny To
Genre: Crime / Drama
Runtime: Germany:87 min (Berlin Film Festival) / USA:85 min
Country: Hong Kong
Another Crime/Polive movie from Hong Kong. Johnny To is nowadays one of the most styled and prolific producers and directors there, and was involved in dozens of movies since 2000. PTU has a very specific status in this bonanza of movies as 3 years were necessary to shot it.
Johnny To wanted to do a more personnal movie in a irreal Hong Kong by night, like in a desert town. The difficulty was that everything is always open in this city, 24h/24, at the very exception for the night between sunday and monday, between 1 am & 4 am, where a lot of shows close and streets empty themselves.
Logically, the film had to be shot in this very little time period, and during 3 years, all the crew had to gather on sunday night to do it, verty slowly. In the meantime Johnny To directed 3 other movies with more or less the same cast, this makes the team work very well together as it seems.
This has led to this movie whose strong point is aesthetics : it is gorgeous, images of men and women walking in desert urban landscapes with very contrasted lightnings. This gives a surreal & almost abstract aspect to the movie, this is not realetic in the way the actors seems to be on a stage, with white ultrapowerful lightnings & zones of total darkness.
The movie enters in the category of city night stylish crime movies, like Michael Mann's Collateral or another To's movie The Longest Nite. PTU is visually stunning.
This is the strong point of PTU, and its weak point too as in this movie style is substance, the plot is rather thin.
PTU stands for Police Tactical Unit. It seems to be a better police unit than the usual police, but it nevertheless seems to do very usual everyday missions in the city.
Officer Lo (Suet Lam) is a policeman who loses his gun running after a group of mobsters who eventually beat him. Recovering his spirits, Lo realizes that the loss of his gun could mean the end of his career. With the help of a friend of him who leads a PTU unit, Mike Ho, (Simon Yam), he will cross the town looking desperatly after his weapon.
The choice of this precise night was not great for losing the weapon, because a war arises between Chinese Triads, with the son of a gang leader being killed by another gang. A group of bank robbers is ran after for the killing of a policeman and there is a "war of polices" between the criminal police and PTU.
What will be the outcome of Officer To's quest ? How will all these people interfer the one with the others ?
This is not really an action movie, but there is gunfights anyway, in Johnny To's style, wich means that this is not acrobatic but like a geometry of group of people standings all around a place. This is very impressive, and there is a gunfight that depicts the confrontation of no less than 6 groups of different people, which the directing manages to make simple to follow. True mastering of a camera !
Most of the movie focuses on group of people in very stylish lights shown exploring the city. This is hypnotic after some moment.
The weakness of the movie is to me that it is rather difficult to identify with characters. Officer To is not sympathetic and is shown rather clumsy and inept, the PTU group is very army-style, the triads are far from being attractive here (they probably never are).
This has prevented me to enter in it, while I was facinated by the mood.
The various plots will converge in a manner that seems to be important to Johnny To. In the DVD bonus he develops a theory that empazises of differences between hazard, chance and coincidence. It seems that these ideas matter to him, and they are actually very topical subjects of Crime movies.
I let you see what is the outcome of this in PTU's plot.
I really appreciated the movie, but as I said I wasn't able to enter the characters completely, si I ll give it a 4/6.
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