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Johnnie To Kei-Fung's PTU

Johnnie To Kei-Fung's PTU

Michael Ingham
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 164
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  • Book Info
    Johnnie To Kei-Fung's PTU
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-988-8052-47-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Preface
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Ackbar Abbas and Wimal Dissanayake
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Introducing the Film; Introducing Johnnie — ‘One of Our Own’
    (pp. 1-34)

    Johnnie To Kei-fung has been an unobtrusive but prolific and innovative contributor to the Hong Kong cultural scene. He is an increasingly esteemed filmmaker in Hong Kong, admired among overseas aficionados of Hong Kong action films, as well as a highly experienced film producer and the creative heart of the independent film company, Milkyway Image. However he has shunned the short-lived ‘bubble reputation’ of celebrity, relying rather on his prodigious work ethic and his impressive track record to do the talking for him. As well as being a key figure in the industry, To has been a member of the...

  6. 2 ‘Into the Perilous Night’ — Police and Gangsters in the Hong Kong Mean Streets
    (pp. 35-64)

    Respected local critic, academic and creative writer Leung Pingkwan has astutely identified the inter-space between accurate and realistic representations of a recognisable Hong Kong milieu and the Baudrillard-esque hyper-real spaces that are evoked in many Hong Kong films, including such classics as Rouge, In the Mood for Love and Infernal Affairs. Such simulated reality in the depiction of place is typical of a virtual reality culture and technology, and we should acknowledge the huge shift in the modern film industry where digital techniques can blur the boundaries between fantastical and putatively realistic narrative genres. That said, famous predigital age Hong...

  7. 3 ‘Expect the Unexpected’ — PTU’s Narrative and Aesthetics
    (pp. 65-106)

    In this chapter we will explore the film’s plot and story as well as its mise-en-scène and the aesthetic principles underlying its composition. As one internet evaluation put it rather whimsically, PTUmust be ‘the best film there is about a bunch of men walking in the street’ ( This is not purely a tongue-in-cheek comment, since the film’s edgy narrative and forward propulsion rely on the simple device of following the police patrol on the beat, which has its own kinetic logic. As To has indicated in interview (see Appendix) the relationship between stasis and movement in film is for...

  8. 4 The Coda: What’s the Story? — Morning Glory!
    (pp. 107-126)

    The brief coda of the film following the decisive shoot-out is easy to overlook, since the tension has been entirely dissipated by the film’s explosive set-piece finale. However, like everything else about PTU, it is rewarding to examine in some detail. As Lo returns from his redemption in the alley, reports are being radioed back to headquarters. The Orderly informs his PTU superintendent merely that there was ‘a fire situation’ in Canton Road, that everything is under control, that there are six Chinese male casualties, and that all the officers are fine. Significantly, he makes no mention of Mike’s unorthodox...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 127-130)
  10. Appendix: An interview with Johnnie To
    (pp. 131-142)
  11. Credits
    (pp. 143-146)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 147-150)