Time Out says
Hong Kong's brief heyday as the savior of the action movie has come and gone, but luckily for us, no one has ever bothered to tell Johnnie To. The director still churns out breathtaking, bullet-ridden tales of Triad hit men, amoral supercriminals and insanely committed cops as if the early '90s never ended, and his latest film to land in American theaters starts off with a set pice de rsistance. A gang of bank robbers gears up for its next job; a platoon of undercover detectives led by Inspector Cheung (Cheung) waits for the gang to play its hand. Then a meter maid stops the ringleader (Ren) as the bad guys are departing, and a Heat-inspired firefight spills out onto a busy street. And it's all captured in one continuous shot.
To's expert choreography of mayhem turns the opening sequence into a stunning example of directorial virtuosity; if his ability to handle the movie's meta-moralizing was just as assured, we might have had an all-around stunner on our hands. But once the story line, involving a gung-ho lieutenant (Chen) who prefers TV propaganda to old-fashioned policework, is up and running, the director's hand-wringing over the media seems less timely than trite. The film still has a few aces to play—when was the last time you saw hostages and captors bond over a dumpling dinner?—but its obvious message-mongering comes off as yesterday's news. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.)—David Fear