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For love or money?

Updated: 2013-04-17 09:16
By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily)

 For love or money?

A scene from Johnnie To's new movie, Drug War. Photo/CFP

"Death by injection is less violent than death by a bullet in the head," To notes.

Some of his best gangster films, such as the Election franchise, rise above the genre. They are light on action and heavy on innuendo, which provides film critics with fertile ground for interpretation. But Drug War is more limited in ambition. It has to respect the parameters set by government agencies.

Known for his fiery temper onset, To is philosophical about his future away from his Hong Kong enclave.

"It's all about finding the balance," he explains.

Still, one is surprised how To and his latest movie pushed the boundary. For one thing, drug-taking, which had been a strict taboo for mainland films, is given ample screen time.

The trick is, To did not glamorize it.

He showed the instant consequence of the policeman, the good guy in the movie, who is posing as a drug dealer and has to pass a test by snorting. That scene also gives Sun Honglei, the mainland star on an upward trajectory in recent years, an opportunity to show off his acting chops as the character, as soon as the real drug dealers are gone, he desperately seeks a way to rid himself of the inhaled substance.

Still, this character is not glorified, To insists.

"He has to be believable to the mainland audience."

The plot, however, is driven by the other half of the equation, the nemesis of the cop, the Hong Kong drug-maker fleeing from an accident and ending up driving into a streetside restaurant.

When caught at the beginning of the movie, he agrees to collaborate with the police and tricks other triad members into a police trap. To attributes the guy's motivation as "a survival instinct", which causes the death of everyone, including all law-enforcement members involved in the final gunfight.


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