Though probably stronger on form than on content, Yau's crime yarn displays superb professional mastery and should go far, both in festivals and on commercial circuits, especially genre specialist. Hollywood, always after potential talent to refresh its line-up, should also take note.
Just like PTU, a To movie written by Yau, the focus is again on the special police outfit known as Surveillance Unit (SU). Its officers dress as civilians, pass strenuous tests and use the latest gadgetry. On no account are they to reveal their identity.
All they have to do is unearth suspects, watch them and call in experienced SWAT units when an arrest is to be made.
Dog Head (Yam), one of the more experienced SU field agents, is tutoring a relative newcomer he nicknames Piggy (Tsui) when they are called on to help chase a ruthless gang masterminded by the fiercely cold Shau (Tony Leung Ka-Fai).
The stakeouts and chases coalesce into a series of perfectly orchestrated sequences that overstay their welcome as the script constantly introduces new obstacles.
But such shortcomings are minor. In the hands of other directors, such a set-up might become a paranoid parable on the loss of privacy and the threat of a police state. Not here, where Yau Nai Hoi crafts a crime story in which good and bad are defined by the genre, not theological treatises.
The veteran cast are strong. Yam looks adequately disheveled and displays a small potbelly that might surprise his fans; Tony Leung Ka-Fai is suitably threatening; and Kate Tsui has the right blend of innocence and mischievousness.
Excellent camera work using the saturated tones favored so often in To's pictures and brisk cutting make their own contribution to a highly entertaining exercise.
Sundream Motion Pictures Ltd
Au Kin Yee
Cheung Tung Leung
Tony Leung Ka-Fai
Cheung Siu Fai
Ng Yuk Sau
Lai Yiu Cheung
Pang King Chi
Xie Xue Xin
Wong Wah Wo