PTU: Police Tactical Unit (2003)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Comedy, Comedy of Errors  |   Release Date - Apr 17, 2003 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

As a filmmaker, Johnny To has always put style ahead of substance to entertaining effect. But there's a pervasive cynicism to his PTU which is actually quite bracing, and lends an edge to the seemingly pointless police and gang activities depicted over the course of a single Hong Kong night. Those who like slick, violent Hong Kong policers will not be disappointed. HK action vet Simon Yam plays the hardboiled PTU leader, Mike, with stoic grace, but the film's real star is Lam Suet as the corrupt, bumbling Sergeant Lo. Lo is first shown harassing a restaurant's valet parker, then some gang members inside during an early scene, and it's not much of a leap to write him off as a hopeless boob with a bad attitude. That restaurant scene, shot with precision and wit, and containing a couple of neatly unpredictable, but convincing reversals, is the highlight of the film. After that, there's a murder to solve, and a missing gun (Lo's, naturally) to track down, and it all ties together much less gracefully than it began, with one contrivance heaped upon another at the film's climax. But, thanks to To's skill at shooting action, his moody presentation of the neon-lit Hong Kong night, and Lam's engaging, and surprisingly complex comic performance, PTU never ceases to entertain. Slick, amoral, and rife with coincidence, PTU is like a grittier, more cohesive and pointed version of one of Guy Ritchie's "lad" films.