IT'S been awhile since Hong Kong cinema looked anything like what it was during its heyday in the 70s and 80s. But the first-time writer-director duo of Sunny Luk and Longman Leung have reclaimed a slice of it with their debut feature Cold War.
Unlike the multitude of Hong Kong-China co-productions that have recently flooded the Chinese film industry, both Luk and Leung don't bother shoehorning any mainland actors into the cast or adding a Chinese city into the plot just so they can tap the lucrative market across the border. The result is an authentic piece of Hong Kong cinema not seen since its filmmakers decided to sell out about a decade back.
Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung lead an ensemble cast of new and old actors that includes Charlie Yeung, Eddie Peng, Aarif Rahman and even a cameo by Andy Lau.
All the action takes place in Hong Kong with some of the city's popular landmarks setting the stage for this police drama which has drawn comparison with Infernal Affairs for the cat-and-mouse games the characters play with each other as well as its plot twists.
At the centre of the action are Kwok and Leung, playing Lau and Lee respectively, two hot-headed police commissioners who lock horns when a van with five officers from the Force goes missing one night and both cannot agree on who should take control of the crisis.
They bicker among themselves in between trying to catch the baddies and as if that's not enough to complicate the situation, a young hotshot (Rahman) from the Independent Commission Against Corruption is assigned to investigate irregularities during the rescue operation.
Luk and Leung's story has strong political undertones as it looks at a country that is still coming to grips with itself more than a decade after the British handed it over to China. All this is played out through the actions of the two high-level law enforcers who claim to put country before self.
At times the plot becomes a little too convoluted and some over-extended talking scenes derail the film slightly when it could have used a bit of action instead. But Kwok and Leung are both excellent in their roles as the machine gun barbs their characters exchange help to maintain the pace during moments when bullets aren't whizzing above their heads.
Cold War is a rare recent Hong Kong movie that doesn't kowtow to anybody and in keeping their integrity, Luk and Leung have not only made a tense and convincing thriller, they've also opened a new chapter in the country's film industry.