PTU: ”Whatever happens, nothing beats returning home safe.”

Year: 2003
Directed by Johnnie To
Produced by
Written by Nai-Hoi Yau and Kin-Yee Au
Cast: Simon Yam, Lam Suet, Ruby Wong, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Maggie Siu, Wong Wa-Wo, Eddy Ko, Lo Hoi-Pang, Wong Tin-Lam, Jerome Fung, Frank Liu, and Courtney Wu

A unit of specially trained police goes on a hunt to locate the pistol of a colleague before their superiors are made aware of the lost pistol.

Deliberate, or a pure coincidence, Johnnie To’s PTU bears a striking resemblance to Kurosawa’s classic: Stray dog. The issue of lost firearms cast aside. Despite cultural differences and being decades apart, the great affinity between the two is the unblemished peek into down and dirty work of police officers. Film noir is a staple of Johnnie To’s career so the ins and outs of the criminal underworld and the law enforcement are no stranger to him. Under his tight direction, Johnnie To is able to weave a rather inconspicuous incident to an intense trial where the limits of police professionalism are pushed. Boundaries are crossed and justice is perverted not even for the sake of the greater good but to preserve someone’s reputation. The public good is not necessarily on the agenda. The pacing that’s kept in check by a plot that is on a literal time limit and a cinematography that takes advantage of the darkness of the night to produce a sleek candid noir. Although the absence of a main character might sound like a fault, the constant shift in point of views matches the overly naturalistic approach. There isn’t any heroism of a sole individual that saves the day, but much like police work in the real world, it’s a communal effort. Such an unconventional uncinematic handle on the narrative is PTU’s greatest aptitude. It is deliberately crafted to be this bold work that stands as a testament that high stakes action isn’t necessary for crime thrillers but just the careful coordination of suspense and mystery.

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