Review: Breaking News

Directed by Johnnie To and written by Hing-Ka Chan and Tin-Shing Yip, after a disastrous failure to stop a robber gang, the police attempt to redeem themselves through a series of publicity stunts and shootouts. Starring: Richie Jen, Kelly Chen, Nick Cheung, Yong You, Shiu Hung Hui, Suet Lam, Eddie Cheung, Haifeng Ding, Haitao Li, Simon Yam and Maggie Siu.

Police standoffs are a staple of cinema, crime gone awry leaving the gang searching for an escape while the cops close in, it’s hard to go wrong, many still have but Johnnie To does not. Firstly Hing-Ka Chan and Tin-Shing Yip create a classic cat and mouse story, each side meticulously putting together a plan while trying to outsmart the other. The style is tense and gradual, it uses action in its favour but sparingly in key moments, otherwise playing the long game with psychology and patience. They also employ a great dual perspective, the tone doesn’t pick a team, it works both sides of the story really well and in perfect harmony, even if you are still rooting for the gang to get away. It moves at a great pace, it’s not fast but it’s continually adding to itself and upping the stakes. It also has a good sense of humour which rounds things out perfectly.

Johnnie To’s direction follows suit, taking on a very classic crime-thriller feel, it’s sleek and captivating. The editing work is well done to create that quintessential back and forth, with some sly quips thrown in and highlighting the growing connection between criminal and cop, leaving you to question if it’s genuine or tactics. The action choreography and shoot-outs have a fantastic energy, they don’t rely on violence and over theatrics, they move with confidence and have a very satisfying tactical feel. They also made the clever choice to not spread themselves too thin, with the majority of the film taking place in one location. It’s not moving from city to city but instead building its intensity with a strong focus, to embrace the personalities and charm of its characters, as well as the tension and thrill.

One of the film’s biggest draws is the battle of wills between Richie Jen’s gang leader Yeun and Kelly Chen’s police commissioner Rebecca. Despite only briefly appearing on screen together, they have a great chemistry and create an interesting relationship that’s defiant and manipulative while flirtatious and holds a mutual respect. There’s then a whole host of great characters filling out the ensemble, from Simon Yam’s gang member with a brotherly connection to Yeun, to Nick Cheung’s trigger-happy detective, to the sweet and simple Suet Lam’s taxi driver caught in the middle, with his two charming and smart children. It’s a superb ensemble, with strong personalities and a lot of charisma.

Breaking News is a must watch for any fans of crime thrillers, it’s tense and entertaining as well as charming and funny. Richie Jen and Kelly Chen lead the film excellently, while supported by a wonderful ensemble. It’s full of great action choreography, the pacing is a slow-burn but it’s always pushing forward and raising the stakes. Johnnie To’s direction is slick, enthralling and feels both modern and classic.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Showing as part of The Heroic Mission: Johnnie To Retrospective at The Prince Charles Cinema on 14 July 2022 from UK-China Film Collab

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