Friday, January 22, 2010

Breaking News - 3.5/5

Johnnie To has become one of my new favorite directors. After watching the slow burning "PTU", I moved onto "Breaking News" which ironically is almost just the opposite in style and substance. This film has a lot of big time shots and an almost John Woo feel about it, with its ballet like bullet work and bigger than life theme.

"Breaking News" starts off as the police bust a group of gangsters as they are about to heist a bank and the ensuing carnage depicts the police in a bad light with the media. The police then develop a plan to pursue the criminals with the media spinning their way by making it 'a show' for the public. Of course, the criminals find themselves between a rock and a hard place and begin counter spinning the media and looking for their way out.

I think conceptionally, "Breaking News" has a lot of solid things going for it. We've seen movies that tap into the idea of spinning the media but never in an action environment (at least I haven't) and with Johnnie To's minimalist scripting style and visual epic-ness, there is some great things spinning here. The opening 7 minute uncut camera shot of the initial criminal/police street gunfight is something of a directorial nightmare and massively impressive. Unfortunately, it also sets the standard for the film very high and the rest of the run time is spent trying to match that moment, for which, it never does. It does succeed in its visual prowess and general tone, which is still pretty enticing so that by the end of the film you feel a least moderately satisfied with your experience.

Of course, as with most To films, the acting is once again superb. His minimalist scripting approach makes actors and actresses have to act without the words, and in "Breaking News" they do so admirably. Unfortunately, because of To's minimal story depth and character work, there is also far too much left out in the open. We get to see a moment in time, but hardly ever get to see the 'why' ever explained. Why is police man Cheung so obsessed with catching these guys (expect for the fact that they humiliated him)? What's the story with the 'director' of the show and Simon Yam's police chief? What's the criminal's connection to one another? 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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