Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 12th November 2012
Reviewed as part of Hong Kong Asian Film Festival [HKAFF] and releasing in cinemas across Hong Kong from 8th October 2012 and Australia by Dream Movies on 18th October 2012
Hong Kong Box Office Taking: HK$42,801,776
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Probably the most heavily promoted local production in Hong Kong this year, comes the highly anticipated yet immensely overhyped “Cold War”. The film is by no means a total failure, but is a perfect example of a how a great script failing miserably in the hands of first time directors (also screenwriters), Sunny Luk and Longman Leung. Everything in the film happened too quickly and the result is a lagging second half that drags to the end. Definitely a blockbuster movie event, but far from meeting its own grand expectations. This is apparently the film to revitalize the Hong Kong industry since 2002’s “Infernal Affairs”, but unfortunately it is not to be.
I am great supporter for giving golden opportunities to rookie filmmakers a chance to direct and mange a Hong Kong movie backed by a major studio. However, in the case of “Cold War”, despite doing well in writing a good enough script, first time directing duo (Sunny Luk and Longman Leung) are just not up to the par. They may have shown glimpses of potential throughout the film, but those moments are far too indifferent, uneven and at times questionable. The pair should be congratulated by a great tense opening 40 odd minutes, where the film frantic pacing soar and soar to a crescendo so early on. Unfortunately the film never reaches the same heights or tone set by that moment. In fact, the moment the ICAC clan came into the show, the film began to fall rather flat to the point of dragging on, before a ridiculous twist that nailed the film to its own coffin.
I am not saying that “Cold War” is an outright bad film as the leading duo of Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Kar Fai provide a strong backbone to the story and a number of key players of the police force are suitably casted, but the ICAC clan seems far too amateurish, naive and terribly acted that almost singled handedly destroyed anything good about the film.
Aaron Kwok puts on a good show and at times is almost Andy Lau-like. There is one notable scene where Kwok confronts the ICAC with a trademark Lau’s thumb up. Perhaps, it should be put that the Police Commissioner role was born for Lau, but somehow Kwok manages to impress with suitably intensity and carries an otherwise lackluster film. However, Kwok plays far too safe and in turn is unable to excel in the role. Alongside Tony Leung Kar Fai, the two experienced head of Police lifts the film beyond its own material and provide the audience with some truly cinematic moments, especially in their confrontation. Leung is able to extract the more expressive character work, as he is a father caught in the middle of a battle with his son kidnappers, maintaining the rules and boundaries of the police force, dealing with ICAC issues and the ongoing struggling for power within the senior police ranks. Leung provides the audience with an interesting character to follow and despite Kwok’s best efforts, he undoubtedly overshadowed Kwok. Chin-Ka Lok does well in a short lived role, while Andy Lau appears in the film like a commercial break. Gordon Lam once again shines in crucial confrontation moments within the film, with his silent downplaying.
Aarif Lee who showed much promise in “Echoes of the Rainbow”, but is out of his depth in the role as an ICAC principal. Perhaps, the role required someone with more experience like some in the tune of Anthony Wong, but it was not to be. While former ICAC commissioner (Alex Tsui Ka-kit) appears nothing like a commissioner, despite being in the position in real-life. His acting is almost woeful and his presence is a detriment to the film. Eddie Peng (“Tai Chi Hero”) yet again show why he is better suited in a nice guy role than anything villainous, as his poor voice Cantonese dubbing affects his overall performance, making him extremely cartoony like.
All in all, “Cold War” is not a bad film, but it is a film that can be great. It possesses enough script for two movies, but it suffers from a poor sense of pacing, inexperienced directions. In the end, the film relies on explosions and action display to sustain the audience’s attention. It is a shame, as the opening build up provides an excellent backdrop, only for the film to fall further and further away from the attention that it worked hard to sustain. There are probably a lot more political undertones within the film, but the ICAC portion of the film suffers a lack of insight and integrity that goes to the profession. The film seems to flavor the police force and their importance, but at the end of the day, “Cold War” is an extremely forgettable experience. To say disappointment is probably an understatement, but “Cold War” is undoubtedly the most overhyped film of the year. (Neo 2012)
I rated it 6/10