Breaking News
MEGA STAR

 
Starring:
Richie Jen, Kelly Chen, Nick Cheung
Directed By:
Johnnie To
Year:
2004
Run Time:
100 mins
Producer: MEGA STAR
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Languages:
CANTONESE DTS ES, Cantonese 5.1 EX, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles:
Chinese (S & T), English
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1 Anamorphic
Region:
NTSC 0
Genre:
Drama / Thriller - IIB
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MOVIE
7/10

After an embarrassing moment of perceived police cowardice is caught on film by reporters at the scene of a shootout, the Hong Kong constabulary feel compelled to make amends. The ensuing coverage by news stations is less than flattering, calling into question the ability of the officers to defend the island's people.
The Mainland Chinese criminals at the centre of the original incident are still at large, and in a fit of peak the Force's top brass decide the only way to regain the faith of the public is to allow Kelly Chen's media-savvy Policewoman Rebecca to control the coverage of the gang's capture.

The CID officers involved in the original shoot-out don't take too kindly to Rebecca's introduction into proceedings, as she is given total control. Nick Cheung, the CID officer originally in charge, balks at the instruction to fall back after discovering the gang's hide-out, and instead carries out a sweep of the building - as do Chen's video camera-sporting PTU team.

As the criminals become aware of Rebecca's desperation to cast the Police in the best possible light, they take steps to contradict the jaundiced reports issued to the waiting news teams at the scene. Both sides know the score: the good guys WILL prevail over the bad, but as Rebecca is so keen to point out - "This is a great show ".

Johnnie To's superb, one-shot, 8 minute opening sets the documentary-style tone for his cursory look at the role the police have in the media, and vice-versa. It's by no means an in-depth study, as To prefers instead to entertain rather than inform his audience.
Richie Jen's role of gang-leader is a clever one, as he's vicious enough to be believable, but human enough to sway your loyalties at times.
Kelly Chen, sadly out of her depth as Rebecca, lacks the presence and strong characterisation afforded to Jen's villain. She never manages to convince in her role, and doesn't possess the hard-nosed aura of someone in total control of the media that her character requires.

The action sequences are tense affairs, and much like Expect The Unexpected, are designed to seem as realistic as possible. Anyone looking for John Woo-esque shoot-outs will be wasting their time, but anything flashier would feel at odds with the tone the director sets with his story telling.

Disappointingly, a number of To's touches feel somewhat half-hearted: Simon Yam, as a high-ranking chief of police, appears and disappears within the films opening segment, after hinting at a relationship with Rebecca.
Also, Nick Cheung as the never-say-die CID officer failed to really engage any of this viewer's emotions. The perma-scoul facial expression he wears throughout makes him appear extremely one-dimensional, and far less interesting than Richie Jen's character.

There's little more to say about To's film, other than it's an interesting, albeit somewhat hit-and-miss, effort which neither disappointed nor wow-ed this reviewer.

PICTURE
8/10

A very crisp looking transfer, this image would have garnered a 10 had there not been some minor speckles throughout and some soft-looking sequences. As much of the film takes place in and around the high-rise apartment block in which the gang take refuge, grey-looking interiors are well to the fore. These appear as they should do, with flesh tones also produced naturally.

SOUND
9/10

The DTS soundtrack is most definitely the way to go. Some nicely handled bass, and well executed directional effects bolster the clean audio reproduction. The mix on offer is loud and enveloping, and sits you right in the middle of the action when things start to go wrong for all involved.

SUBTITLES
8/10

Very little to complain about – the subtitles were grammatically perfect, although the font used was a little too large for my liking. Only at the conclusion of the film was there any problem – a repetition of the same line of dialogue – but otherwise these were very good.

MENUS
6/10

Not particularly striking, nor as ugly as some of Mega Star's other efforts, the menus are perfectly adequate.

EXTRAS
5/10

Most disappointing is the Mandarin-language deleted scene which contains removable Chinese subs, but none in English. Other additions were fairly standard (plot synopsis, theatrical trailer, a 3 minute behind-the-scenes featurette, cast & credits listing and trailers for Xanda and The Eye 2) but as expected, the featurette lacks English subtitles.

CONCLUSION
7/10

With a reported UK cinema release due later this year, Johnnie To will hopefully receive the coverage his excellent back-catalogue of productions deserves.
However, with this film being neither as visually stunning as Hero and House of the Flying Daggers, nor as emotionally engaging as the Infernal Affairs trilogy, I'm unsure as to how it will be received.

If the least Breaking News does is allow To to showcase his talents to a wider audience, and put them in search of his far better previous efforts, then maybe hoping for any more is being greedy.

A great idea, executed with skill, but lacking a lasting resonance, Breaking News is worthy of a viewing but maybe not a purchase.

MOVIE 7/10
PICTURE
8/10
SOUND
9/10
SUBTITLES
8/10
EXTRAS
5/10
MENUS
6/10
PACKAGING
7/10
OVERALL 7/10