Movie Review: Breaking News (2004)

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Since Anders Banke, director of the Swedish vampire hit FROSTBITE (aka FROSTBITTEN), has directed a Russian remake called NEWSMAKERS (2009), why not have a look at the Hong Kong original?

In the middle of the 2004 Cannes Festival, BREAKING NEWS (Daai si gin) was suddenly thrown into the official selection – albeit out of competition. Sure, it was pretty cool to suddenly find a Hong Kong actioner in that section, especially since I got to see it in the enormous Grand Lumière theater. But after having seen it, I wondered how the hell this movie ended up getting selected for this prestigious section.

When it comes to director Johnnie To, you never know what you get. Sometimes he makes highly entertaining, instant classics like HEROIC TRIO (1993), while he sometimes makes totally uninteresting movies. BREAKING NEWS ends up somewhere just below an average To flick.

Cops are chasing a gang of bank robbers and locate them in a huge apartment building. In some kind of attempt to criticize or maybe parody today’s media climate, the pursuit of the robbers is aired live on TV like a reality show – but the satire disappears among all the gunfire and weird, silly comedy. There sure is a lot of action. The movie opens with a totally incredible gunfight in a street à la HEAT, it’s a very long scene without any cuts; instead the steadicam just floats around the people involved in the shoot-out, and it must have taken an eternity to stage this. Guns are fired every now and then throughout the movie, and sure, it’s well done and nicely choreographed, but it gets tiring and uinteresting. Sometimes a guy shows up and farts.

It’s possible I’d think the movie was better had I watched it on DVD at home while eating cheap candy. But I didn’t. I saw it at Cannes. And I expected more from Johnnie To.

Anders Banke’s version is said to be better.

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