Since it seems pretty dead around here now without me posting, I guess I'll throw up another review I've had on my site for a bit but refrained from posting here.
Johnny To, with his usual directorial deftness, orchestrates a seamless blend of action and the possibilities of hi-tech media controversy in Breaking News. Beginning with a breathtaking opening single-take shot that sets the scene, introduces the film’s characters, explodes into action, then dies down as the police are outgunned by mainland bandits-all caught by the ridiculously mobile camera-To puts at the forefront of his film the artificial construction of visual information. The criminals, lead by Richie Ren, quickly escape to a massive lower class apartment complex and hole up as the police descend at the scene. Wanting to avoid the terrible press of the initial firefight, police coordinator Kelly Chen institutes a fascist policy of information control over her handing of the assault, wiring her policemen with mikes and cameras and hiring a director to edit the footage to fit her PR announcements. Ren counters her falsifications by using the internet, and cunningly capturing police mistakes with his camera phone. Meanwhile, rogue police inspector Nicky Cheung shrugs off the elaborately orchestrated media frenzy of his superior and vows to track Ren down with any means necessary.
A genre picture through and through, To avoids a stringent ideological assault on the media and media manipulation by concentrating on his masterful handling of action atmosphere. Breaking News is unbelievably brisk and, for better or for worse, downplays the drama of Kelly Chen’s ambitious manipulation over broad, but endearing, time spent with Ram, his fellow bandits, and their hostage situation. Still, in To’s solid concision his point is made. The contemporary media’s desire to bring its viewers the story and the information immediately conflicts with the dynamism of news-in-progress. The big picture cannot be seen until the events are complete, not midway through, but that rationale is equally flawed in the way completed events can be arranged, manipulated, and spun by those in power. With his swift prowess at choreographing action and crosscutting between scenes and dramatic tones, To purposefully implicates filmmaking as a similar form of information manipulation. The difference with Breaking News is that To is well aware his film is pure entertainment.