"Everyone in uniforms are brothers." -Sgt. Ho
I definitely had the wrong idea going into this film. It was my first Johnny To film and the cover art for the Dragon Dynasty version of the film made it look like an action oriented cop drama. To say that my initial concept going into the film was wrong is a bit of an understatement. Hell, I'm pretty sure that this was pretty much the exact opposite of what I expected. Yet, I still found this film to be inexplicably fascinating throughout and one of my favorite watches as of late.
"PTU" is a minimalist film. That's right, lets take a cop drama and have almost no dialogue, no action, and a storyline that never ever over explains itself. It was a ballsy move on Johnny To's part and not only does he make it work but he makes it memorable in every scene and builds a dynamic atmosphere of tension and foreboding doom.
The simplistic story goes as such. One night, the son of a Triad gangster finds himself dead and as frantic detective scrambles to find his lost police issued gun, gets himself and a team of officers caught in an oncoming gang war. Sounds as though it could have been action packed, right? But the focus comes down to the tension and the waiting game as the officers hinge on one another to find a lost gun before it creates an eruption between two rival gangs. At times I had trouble following the story, the dialogue definitely makes the viewer have to piece it together themselves and it leaves a lot of things unverified and left to interpretation (for example, the three crying women in the abandoned complex which many have debated of their significance and why factor of their need in the film). At times I wished they would have explained a bit more - I'm American I'm not used to having to think on my own! - but its minimalist approach has significant charm in the overall film.
The acting was superb. Again, due to its minimalist dialogue and depth of story, lots of emphasis was placed on the subtlety of the acting and the spare moments one is given. Which happens to be one of Simon Yam's strongest suits and his performance in this film is rather riveting. Between him and Suet Lam (whom plays the detective whose lost his gun in a fight) there is little time for the supporting cast but each make it worth their time on screen.
I have to admit, even with the wrong expectations going into the film I found "PTU" to be a riveting and intense film experience. The acting, the drama, the tension, and the atmosphere are all amazing and carry this film's minimalist approach beautifully. This is definitely not a film for everyone and if you can't stand almost no score, no dialogue, and no daylight then this is not for you. Otherwise just enjoy the visual work. Bravo To for having the balls to do this film.
Written By Matt Reifschneider