* What if you are a drug producer and caught by the police?
** In China you get the death penalty for making 50 grams of drugs and you have made a ton.
* Do you turn traitor to save yourself?
This is the basis for Drug Wars.
More Details. Drug Wars is a 2013 Chinese (produced) and Hong Kong (distributed) film that stars Sun Honglei as Police Captain Zhang and Louis Koo as arrested drug criminal Timmy Choi. In China, manufacturing fifty grams of drugs yields the death penalty. Timmy Choi has manufactured a ton. The only way Timmy Choi can save himself is to turn traitor and inform on the other drug criminals. As informer he helps Captain Zhang’s undercover team take down the other drug criminals. But Captain Zhang is never 100% sure that Timmy Choi is trustworthy. The tension ratchets until all the parties meet and things spiral out of control. Now it is police against drug criminals in a high stakes shootout. Who wins? Who loses? Who lives? Who dies?
What I liked about Drug Wars:
Louis Koo as drug criminal Timmy Choi. I first saw Louis Koo in Don’t Go Breaking My Heart where he played a compelling playboy charmer. As drug criminal Timmy Choi he has no option but to cooperate Police Captain Zhang. But Timmy Choi does not roll over and give all the information Captain Zhang and the police desperately need. He leads them on a wild ride of cat and mouse. Is Timmy Choi the mouse or the cat? Louis Koo was compelling and captivating as Timmy Choi. He has on screen presence. The camera loves him. Louis Koo delivered a steely, charming, and intelligent drug criminal. Awesome role and a fabulous performance.
Sun Honglei as Police Captain Zhang. I have never seen Sun Honglei perform before. He delivered the perfect counter point portrayal of a man forced into a temporary but uneasy alliance with the criminal he just apprehended. Louis Koo’s role was flashy but Sun Honglei’s role grounded the film as he followed the trail of drug criminal bread crumbs. Captain Zhang was smart, intuitive, and willing push his team to limit to capture the promised big drug criminal on the other side of the rainbow. What he had to do to get to the final showdown was more than I expected. Captain Zhang is dragged by Tommy Choi on a wild ride of cat and mouse. Is Captain Zhang the mouse or the cat?
Yi Huang as police officer Yang Xiaobei and Captain Zhang’s right hand man. Yi Huang deliver a hard nosed, no nonsense, performance of this police woman that was as gutsy and driven as Captain Zhang. This was my first exposure to this actor. Yi Huang rocked and Yang Xiaobei was important to the flow of the film and helped balance the two dueling men. This was a terrific role and Yi Huang delivered a performance that made Drug Wars stronger.
The writing of this film is taunt, crisp, layered and ratchets the tension to a peak where you do not know how it will end. It could have gone multiple ways and it would have worked. Simply superb writing of a thriller crime drama. The writing team was Ryker Chan, Ka Fai Wai (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart), Nai Hoi Yau, and Xi Yu.
The production was top notch. The director was Johnnie To (co-director of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart). There was not a wasted moment in Drug Wars. Each scene progressed the film. This film had violence that was necessary for the harsh world of drugs criminals and the police that try and catch them. Cinematographer Cheng Siu Keung created a dark with green overtones palette for the night scenes and gray and often foggy palette for day scenes. Drug Wars won best film at the 14th Chinese Film Media Awards.
What I did not like about Drug Wars:
Nothing. This was a superb film. If I wanted, I could quibble about who lived and died but I thought the writers choices and the production of the crucial show day worked in every way possible.
Drug Wars is a terrific, taunt ride. I did not know what would happen next throughout the movie. What a pleasant surprise this film was.