PTU is an underappreciated noir masterpiece by one of Hong
Kong's most prolific and commercially successful directors. Johnnie
To Kei-fung has been called "the poet of post-1997 and the economic
savior of the Hong Kong film industry" for an extraordinary range
of films produced during some of Hong Kong cinema's most difficult
years. While many of To's celebrated films such as Election,
Exiled and The Mission feature themes of criminal
glory and revenge, PTU centers on the ethical dilemmas,
personal dramas and stoic teamwork in the elite Police Tactical
Unit. The story follows the PTU's all-night search for an officer's
missing gun as they navigate triad turf struggles and marauding
jewel thieves from mainland China. Shot over several years in the
hauntingly empty pre-dawn streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, and released
coincidentally amid the 2003 SARS panic, the film evokes Hong
Kong's post-handover economic despair and multiple identity crises.
In terms of character development and psychological complexity,
Mike Ingham argues that PTU is the most aesthetically
rigorous and satisfying of To's many films.
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