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Breaking News
DVD disk
03.09.2006 By: Jason Adams
Breaking News order
Director:
Johnnie To

Actors:
Richie Ren
Nick Cheung
Kelly Chen

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When the Hong Kong Police Department’s failure to stop a simple bank robbery is embarrassingly captured on live TV, the commissioner demands that the criminals be apprehended immediately. After locating the thieves, the police bring in the media to broadcast their arrest, but things don’t go as smoothly as planned…
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Fans of the Hong Kong action genre know the name Johnnie To. THE MISSION and FULLTIME KILLER both rank as two of the best crime thrillers to come out of Asia in the past decade, and the director’s newest flick, BREAKING NEWS, doesn’t disappoint.

Two parts gritty action, one part satire on “the age of media,” BREAKING NEWS has more to say than your typical shoot-‘em-up (although there is plenty of bullets and mayhem). While maybe a bit exaggerated (i.e. each cop being wired with a camera), the film successfully plays with the idea of how our constant-information culture is more dangerous than helpful—covering everything from television to the Internet to cell phone cams. I might have been looking too much into it, but the combo of violence and the media seemed eerily reminiscent of the war in Iraq (with reporters spilling intel on live TV that actually helps the robbers, the press manipulating footage in the police’s favor, even some loudmouth celebrities voicing their unnecessary opinions). This critical commentary is helped by the realistic action/violence, which grounds the spectacle in believable realism. (You won’t see any slow motion ballet-like gunfights with doves in this movie).

At less than 90 minutes, the film wastes no time—by the half-hour mark it’s a nonstop action assault for the remainder of the movie. The quick, kinetic pace keeps the excitement level up, but there are some awkward shifts in focus as a result. Despite an interesting dynamic between criminal and hostage, the only character who gets any true development is the “bad guy;” which makes it hard to root for the actual police protagonists, who are mere clichés of the genre.

Nevertheless, BREAKING NEWS is an inventive execution of a tired formula, with cool camera work and an unapologetic style found only in HK cinema. Take, for example, the opening shot—an 8-minute continuous take (ala TOUCH OF EVIL) that travels fluidly up buildings, into rooms and cars, down busy streets, and in the middle of a gunfight. It’s mind-numbingly amazing. (Assuming you care about that kind of stuff…I was close to busting a nut, but my casual moviegoing friend, for the life of him, couldn’t figure out what I was so excited about.)
THE EXTRAS
Most foreign imports are just dumped on DVD years after their release without any bonus material. While there’s not much on this disc, at least we get something.

Deleted Scene (2:18): A quick bit showing the cops running surveillance on the robbers. This was already covered in the film, so I can see why it was cut.

Making of BREAKING NEWS (3:08): For being so short, this Making Of featurette is pretty effective. We get snippets of interviews with the cast and a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of the action sequences, including a look at how they pulled off the incredible opening shot. Nothing too in-depth, but you get a good sense of the energetic mood and fast pace of shooting.

There’s also a Theatrical Trailer, Previews and Weblinks to the official BREAKING NEWS site.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If the names John Woo or Tsui Hark get your heart pumping, you’ll find BREAKING NEWS a solid entry into the HK genre. Or if you’re just tired of American by-the-numbers action movies (FIREWALL, anyone?) try out this smart Asian thriller. Don’t let the crappy cover art fool you, this movie kicks ass and looks good doing it. (The first 8 minutes alone are worth a rental.)
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