Wednesday, July 01, 2009

NYAFF, Part 2: Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms (2009)

Law Wing-Cheong has paid his dues at Milkyway Image. Working as an assistant director and editor since 1995, he was the AD on Running Out of Time, The Mission, and PTU, among others. Milkway seems to work on the habits of the old studio system, where one apprenticed in technical positions before rising to the director's chair. Law has gotten his feet wet on a few sequels, with his first gig on Running Out of Time 2, up to his two sequels to PTU: Tactical Unit: The Code (2008, for TV), and Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms (2009, theatrical). The latter film recently screened at the NYAFF, and was another example of Milkyway's well-oiled genre machinery (also see Tativille's take on their Eye in the Sky).

All the characters from Johnnie To's original return, including Simon Yam's ramrod straight cop Sam, his careerist competitor May (Maggie Siu), and the lazy, demoted curmudgeon, Fat Lo (Milkyway axiom Lam Suet). Sam's unit is competing with May's unit for promotion, and this not-so-friendly rivalry starts the film off on a Keystone Kops vibe. Filmed with slapstick vigor, the two teams chase down a petty thief, down opposite sides of the street, eventually combining into a morass of tangling feet, dangling handcuffs, and bruised morale. May's boys win out, and eventually are bumped upstairs.

The day before the promotions are to take place, though, a major bank heist takes place, and the perps disappear into a forest. Thus the two bickering units are forced to work together to take them down. This is where the main body of the film begins, and Law shows a distinctly light touch in this darkly scripted tale. His deft use of cross-cutting shows the various bumblings of the teams, as they all variously get lost in the bowels of the night, not unlike an old dark house comedy-horror film like The Cat and the Canary (1927).

As funny as it is, Law doesn't skimp on tension, wrapping things up with a tightly choreographed shootout in a quaint rural church. Esssentially it has everything one could desire in a quick and dirty crime film. Definitely worth seeking out, especially if you're a fan of PTU.

There are no more screenings, but it's readily available on HK DVD at the usual vendors (YesAsia, HKFlix, etc.)

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