TO CHOOSE OR NOT TO CHOOSE
I remember my love for the 90’s action thriller genre. The over-the-top bullet ballet barrages. The bromo-heroic good guys. The somehow always weird-looking evil bad guys. I remember it all. Unfortunately, nowadays it takes a lot more than that to really sustain my attention for 90 minutes – even more so when the movie in question clocks in at 134 minutes. I suspect director Benny Chan hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but credit to him, he managed to bring together three of Hong Kong’s best actors in his latest film “The White Storm“.
Three lifelong friends, now narcotics officers, are hot on the trail of a wanted criminal. Unfortunately for our heroic trio, one of them is starting to get a bit power-drunk as the man in charge, one is at his absolute breaking point as an undercover narc and the last is sort of the glue that is holding them all together.
Tin ( Sean Lau ) is the superior officer in charge of his childhood buddies. He’s going after Hak Tsai, a notorious local drug dealer. On his way there though, he’s putting one of his best friends, Chow ( Louis Koo ), under tremendous pressure as an undercover operative. That leaves Wai ( Nick Cheung ) to pick up the pieces as best he can, which sadly includes singing… a lot.
Suddenly, the higher-ups decide to let Hak Tsai go in order to catch the next bigger fish up the ladder, the fearsome Eight-Faced Buddha. Now this is where things get complicated for Wai, Chow and Tin – having tracked Eight-Faced Buddha to Thailand, the narcotics unit faces off against a Thai mole, Buddha’s unusual two sons and a wave of mercenaries armed to the teeth.
Obviously, carnage ensues. Fight sequences reminiscent of John Woo‘s earlier work and Johnnie To‘s current body of work set off what ultimately becomes the culminating point of the film – a scene where one the three Musketeers must decide the fate of his remaining comrades.
From that moment on, the brotherhood forged by Wai, Chow and Tin collapses. The emotionally drained surviving officers go their separate ways, burnt-out from the disastrous Thailand operation. Until one fateful day, news of the elusive Eight-Faced Buddha resurfaces…
That’s as far as I’ll go story-wise. However, the real kicker here is the acting and star power swirling inside “The White Storm”. Koo, Lau and Cheung save the day. It’s a real thrill to see them gel so well on-screen. On the other hand, it’s not such a thrill to notice Benny Chan clumsily pulling the strings from behind the curtains.
At times, the story unfolds seamlessly, much like some of the essential and intricate gun battles. And then sometimes there’s a staggering level of goofiness that will make you involuntarily sigh and chuckle and subsequently draw you out of the scenes entirely. The film unfortunately struggles to maintain its ferocity, which is disappointing since it works quite well when all cylinders are firing.
Chan‘s “The White Storm” is ultimately a winner because of the performances from its three very talented stars. It’s also got a couple of seriously interesting twists and turns that will keep you hooked until the end. To summarize, fans of the genre are sure to find something that they will like and newcomers may get a kick out of the hard choices the lead characters have to make on their way to redemption.
TRAILER: The White Storm