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Review Breaking News a.k.a. Dai si gin (2004) and Review The Mission a.k.a. Cheung foh (1999)

genre: action, crime, gun fu

Breaking News opens up with one impressive long take that is pretty impressive if you think about it. Unfortunately apart from this Breaking News is anything but exciting. The 90 minute film is so tedious at times it will feel like three hours have passed.

How is this possible? It's not like there is not enough gun play. Almost like every five minutes shots are fired. But is it the thrilling kind? Nope. Each time when you think it's the start of a big kickass action scene the film halts the action. Why? To focus on a supposed cat and mouse play between the robbers and the police under leadership of  Superintendent Rebecca Fong played by Kelly Chen. The idea sounds compelling and perhaps could have done wonders for the plot. Except nothing remarkable is being done with this premise. It's unimaginative and quite dull. I think this can be blamed on the poor characters. It's obvious these criminals are a little more noble and honorable than the police is letting on. Still they have no problems killing people when it suits them. Was I supposed to be rooting for them? If that was the idea director Johnnie To surely failed. Now if I were supposed to be rooting for the cops then the same thing applies to them. Solely looking at the sheer number of police people that were involved it's quite disheartening to find out that despite their bravado they are very incompetent. I mean they had so many opportunities to shoot the criminals and yet failed to even hit them from a few meters distance. Perhaps this was intentional. To show that the police despite their propaganda aren't super cops. Some people claim that Breaking News is a satire and that much more is at stake that the good old cops and robbers stand-off. Except apart from one or two scenes there is nothing to laugh about. Well, I mean there is one recurring joke by one of the CID officers who apparently has a weak stomach.

I honestly don't have a clue what Johnnie To was going for. The lack of thrills and excitement whether it's story wise or action wise is pretty disappointing. With such a marvelous open scene why did he fail to make good on the promise? My guess is that To isn't as brilliant as many claim. Still, even if the pretension is just one big misdirection why wasn't the action better and more hard hitting? Breaking News is not only disappointing it's also very empty and pointless. Not worth your time!

genre: action, crime, gun fu

I suddenly realized I have yet to write a review for The Mission. So here goes. A film that is everything Breaking News is not. The gun play is more reserved and tactical. But carried out with such precision and efficiency it's a joy to watch. 

Story wise The Mission is quite simple. But the film is carried by the cast who are silent, competent and very deadly. They are assassins hired by Triad Boss Lung who has just escaped from an assassination attempt. Most of them have never worked together. However they are so professional and efficient you think they have been teaming up for years. Compared to Breaking News the acting is on a whole other level. Even if the main characters are just sitting it's compelling to watch. Actually you have to since apart from a few plot elements there is not that much going on to keep your interest. Normally I don't like this minimalist approach in films. But here it works. In that regard one could call Johnnie To a brilliant filmmaker. 

Breaking News is the more conventional one and should have been more appealing to action lovers like me. However The Mission points out what really matters. Pretension be damned. Just have a good enough narrative with strong characters and you have a winner on your hand.

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