Sunday 14 May 2017

The Current Cinema - Barrie Pattison is thrilled by Herman Yau's SHOCK WAVE

Abruptly the Asian films we are getting feature these hyper kinetic action movies - the Korean Train to Busan, Jackie Chan's Railroad Tigers and, currently in the George St Event Cinema, and probably other multiplexes, Herman Yau's Shock Wave. 

This one raises the bar. It's a better film than Speed, joining the bomb disposal movie honor roll along with The Small Back Room, Ten Seconds to Hell, Hurt Locker and Soy Nero.

Star Andy Lau is first characterised by hoodlum Wang Ziyi as "The man my brother trusts more than me" in a terrorist group packing stolen taxis with C4, getting us into the first of a series of great action set pieces which are the spine of the film -exploding cars wiping off pursuing police pursuit, defusing a WW2 bomb big enough to take out a tank, finding a boxed exploding device in the Gloucester Road Court House Square overlooked by high rises whose glass would shatter and shower down on everything below, and racing across Hong Kong to heave a charge (C4 is very stable) into the bay before the timer runs out.

Andy Lau
Vengeful Wu (Touch of Sin) Jia's epic double take-over of the Cross Harbour tunnel, with a ransom demand pivoting on the threat to blow the thing up and pollute the bay into the foreseeable future, has been set up well enough to have real menace.

This establishes the film's strongest scene with cop Baby John Choi trapped in an explosive vest, having only his police discipline to stop him from panicking and creating a disaster. The cops swing into action in a spectacular shoot-out, a great cathartic climax with the camera traveling the length of the tunnel among the bullet proof shield officers shooting it out with drug peddler mercenaries as the trapped motorists struggle to scramble out of the lines of fire and the injured man's gurney skids unattended among the combatants.

Just enough attention is given to the characterizations to make the piece involving. Lau is wearing well, the great survivor of the Seventies Hong Kong movie, along with Jackie Chan. Andy gets a romance with newcomer Song Jia as a divorcee school teacher who goes on a drunken bar rampage which Andy contains with a night in the cells. Wu Jiang is a rather winning  mass murderer master villain. The less familiar cast all hit their marks. Production values are particularly strong giving the possibly deceptive illusion of unlimited means.

Veteran director Herman Yau is somebody who was just there for decades and now emerges as a master craftsman. His film is not telling us much about the great issues but it does play its audience like a well-tuned fiddle. They exit the theatre thinking they've seen something exceptional. It's films like this that bring them back again.

I rate it one not to be missed.

Andy Lau (with gun!)

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