Midnight Movie Review: PTU (2003)

As most of us who are fans of Hong Kong cinema are no doubt aware, there have not been a lot of mind-blowing movies coming out of HK over the past decade or so. Sure there are some good ones, but hardly any that match the quality or calibre of, say, John Woo’s classics from the 1980s-1990s or 1987’s A Chinese Ghost Story.

However, back in the early 2000s just before Hong Kong cinema started its full-scale decline, there were a few action movies that hit the HK big screen which rank up there with those timeless HK classics of the late 20th century. One was 2002’s Infernal Affairs, which received a Hollywood remake several years after it came out. Another was 2003’s PTU (Police Tactical Unit).
In PTU, Simon Yam plays Sgt. Mike Ho, the commanding officer of a Police Tactical unit (sort of like a SWAT team). Lam Suet plays Sgt. Lo Sa of the Anti-Crime Division. After Lo loses his gun in a scuffle with some young gang members, Sgt. Ho sets out with his team to try to find the missing gun before daybreak…and before the gang gets the chance to use the gun in a violent turf war with a rival gang.
Also featured in PTU is Ruby Wong as Insp. Leigh Cheng, the rigid CID officer investigating the murder of a gang member that night as well as a possible link between the murder and Sgt. Lo. While Sgt. Ho hunts for Sgt. Lo’s gun, he must do what he can to keep Insp. Cheng off Lo’s back and avert a violent showdown between the two gangs.
PTU takes place in the gritty streets of Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui district during the course of one night. Or more specifically, within a matter of hours during the middle of the night.
Director Johnnie To did a great job in creating a crime thriller that’s literally dark and tense, although a little confusing at times as the storylines tend to overlap. His use of street lighting as overhead lighting was brilliant and added to the grittiness of the movie, as well as the feeling of being out on the deserted streets of TST in the wee hours of the morning.
This movie also spawned the “Tactical Unit” spinoff TV series, which lasted from 2008-09 and also starred Simon Yam, Lam Suet, and Maggie Siu (Sgt. Kat, the female PTU sergeant in the movie) and was also produced by Johnnie To.
If you want to see a great “night owl movie” that’s not only good for watching at night but also takes place during the middle of the night complete with streetlights and late-night dining, this is one you’ll want add to your “To-Watch List!” Definitely worth a watch, and definitely one of the better flicks to come out of HK in the past 10-15 years!
Also known as: Into the Perilous Night (USA alternative title), Police Tactic Unit.
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