Film Review: DRUG WAR (2012) – directed by Johnnie To

Posted: July 21, 2013 in Fantasia 2013
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DRUG WAR (2012) – directed by Johnnie To
I must confess that I’m not really familiar with the work of Johnnie To. Aside from the wonderful DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART (2011) that I saw at Fantasia a couple years ago, his filmography remains a mystery to me. So to say I went into DRUG WAR with any real expectations would be a lie as I simply took a friend on his word that this was a can’t miss film. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

There are many problems with this film but first and foremost would be the plot and the rather convoluted nature of it. On the surface, the premise of a drug dealer ratting on his friends to get a lesser sentence would seem simple enough. However, we’re introduced to hordes of characters that by the time the story finally settles down to a pace where we can soak everything in – which at my count was about 20 minutes into the picture – we don’t exactly know who’s who, nor do we really care.

I was also quite surprised by how horribly staged and filmed the action sequences are. Johnnie To is apparently up there with John Woo as being one of the pioneers of  Hong Kong action cinema, but you wouldn’t know it with DRUG WAR. The final shoot out sequence almost felt like I was watching a rough cut of the scene rather than a polished product as evident by the awkward editing and usage of some shots that only called more attention to how amateur the mis en scene was. Then again, the old adage of “fixing it in post” couldn’t really save this scene as the action itself was either shot way too close or when it was shot wide, it felt like we were watching a rehearsal where the actors were going through the motions.

And finally, my own personal objection to the material stems from my stance on the whole “war on drugs” to begin with. Here we have yet another film attempting to glamorize the “nobility” and the “moral superiority” of a war based on hypocrisy (the United States and many other first-world countries are secretly funded by drug cartels, why do we think we’re really in Afghanistan) that is financially and spiritually bankrupting the world we live in.


  1. […] Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about Drug War? Slant Magazine Beyond Hollywood Matthew Saliba […]

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