Johnnie To is more than an action director—his résumé includes hit comedies, romances, and social dramas. But as the crime-movie king of Asian cinema, he is the most rigorous and disciplined of Hong Kong action stylists. So far he’s resisted the siren call of Hollywood, but with Drug War he’s made his first crime thriller in mainland China. He trades the overcrowding and overheated capitalism of Hong Kong for the open plains and lonely highways of Tianjin, yet Drug War is still a classic cop procedural. His trademark police squad is lead by the tough, serious, unflinching Inspector Zhang (Chinese star Sun Honglei, all humorless efficiency), whose team executes his every order without hesitation.
Drug War begins with a police stakeout for drug mules at a border crossing, which yields a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the crime kingpins thanks to a remarkably accommodating informant named Choi (To regular Louis Koo, sweaty with mercenary self-interest). The whole police scheme is improvised on the fly.