Johnny To sees the relationship between criminal life, law enforcement, and technology as an inextricably bound circus act, and the breakneck speed of his latest stunt suggests an Entertainment Tonight exposé. Cops, robbers, even the victims of their crimes, are so busy putting on a show—for each other and for the constantly snapping cameras of the local media—it’s amazing they even have time to breathe. Except for something resembling a love scene between Inspector Rebecca Fong (Kelly Chen) and one of her paramours—a stilted exchange giddily disparaged by the sugary ballad on the soundtrack—and a winkingly absurd lunch break in a hostage’s apartment, there’s scarcely a pause in this quick-fire procedural, which loudly, if not exactly profoundly, mocks its media-obsessed culture. To is a master of the slick surface and Breaking News is, above anything else, technically proficient, beginning with a mesmeric long take that runs on empty for a few beats before exploding in a staccato of bullet fire. The film’s stand-offs frequently blur the line between hunter and prey, and many of the who’s-chasing-who compositions inside a run-down apartment building are nothing short of tense, but the story’s unrefined point about media one-upmanship is crudely spaced out across the film’s terse 90 minutes; this means Breaking News exhausts itself after the fourth or fifth time a character declares “This is a great show!” The director believes there’s a stringent dynamic between the media, police, criminals, and the common people, but the press gets the short end of the stick here, reduced simply to faceless pariahs conspicuous only by the sea of camera bulbs flashing away outside of the film’s crime scenes. It’s a compelling image, but since the media is scarcely as threatening as the police and criminals, Fong’s idea to turn her stakeout into a balls-out public relations spectacle as an affront to the media seems scarcely justified. More tragically, though, is the Michael Bay-like shot of a car’s booty and the see-sawing pans across the face of buildings, all of which may induce nausea and inspire fans of the director to belt out: “Breaking News: Johnny To is becoming a hack.”
- Palm Pictures
- 90 min
- Johnnie To
- Hing Kai Chan, Yip Tin Sing
- Kelly Chen, Nick Cheung, Cheung Siu Fai, Shiu Hung Hui, Lam Suet, Richie Ren, Maggie Siu, Simon Yam, Yong You
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