This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Filipe Furtado’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Something of a heist film in which Johnnie To and his Milkyway crew goes to China to try to do a crime film on their terms under Chinese censorship eyes and mostly pulls it off with minimal wounds. The usual HK cliché of the Long Arm of the Law-like mainland gangster causing trouble is reversed with many Milkyway regulars running away trough China adding a lot of color in a film that intentionally plays like a very somber procedural. It is To’s most Hawkasian film from the way character in it is seem through action (none of the Chinese cops are allowed every a minor scene to establish a backstory, they exist sole for work and will fade away as soon as their role in the film is done) and how it very self-conscious marries different strands of To’s filmography, borrowing a lot from both his ensemble cop films (Expect the Unexpected looms large over the procedures) and his Election series. Drug War postpones action instead substituting it for detail that keeps adding tension until it finally erupts in a last act set up to wipe out every body that his camera have previous set its gaze on. It is an infection narrative, after the titular Drug War is in your veins there is no outcome but violent death. One might even say it is the nightmare of death row convict (the entire film is predicted on Chinese law punish drug dealing with death). To succeeds because he and his actors (and extra kudos for the wonderful Sun Hong-lei) get a very blank and tight canvas and find a lot of possible cracks and unexpected turns in it (there’s a very odd scene in which a character nearly has an overdose that seems to be there just to push limit of what a spare procedural should allow) and because he finds the right balance towards a genuine moral ambiguity.