Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Saturday, April 29, time 8.00 PM


By date


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Shock Wave

Hong Kong’s bomb squad is at the centre of powerful blockbuster cinema in Herman Yau’s Shock Wave. Producer and superstar Andy Lau takes the lead as dashing bomb-disposal wiz JS Cheung, the top operator in the police force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau. Early in the film his skills are on show as he coolly defuses an unexploded World War II bomb dug up on a building site. But far bigger tests of his skills are set to come when a crime figure from the past re-emerges in Hong Kong and takes aim at key infrastructure and at Cheung himself.

Bombmaker and drug lord Peng Hong (Jiang Wu) had earlier met Cheung when the cop infiltrated his gang, leading to the arrest of his younger brother (Leo Wang). Now commissioned to seize a major Hong Kong target, Hong is back in the picture and looking to tie up loose ends. After first toying with Cheung through an attack on a partner and a downtown bomb-disposal double whammy, Peng makes his big move. Assisted by a small army of mercenaries, he blocks the busy Cross Harbour Tunnel at both ends and seals in hundreds of hostages, announces he has 1,000 kilos of plastic explosives on hand and makes his demands. Among the requests: Cheung must personally take Hong’s jailed brother into the tunnel.
From the moment the tunnel is seized, little more than 40 minutes into the film, Herman Yau ramps up the pressure to make Shock Wave a bold piece of high-tension thriller filmmaking. The script by Yau and Erica Li feeds in scenes of escalating menace and bravado to create a tough final act that runs more than an hour and doesn’t lose steam. The filmmakers built a convincing mock-up of the tunnel to stage the hostage drama – a sequence that runs from killings by Hong’s henchmen to intense moments of Cheung and his No. 2 (Ron Ng) tackling highly complex explosives.
Beyond the tunnel, early crime sequences provide the opportunity to whet action fans’ appetites with a bank heist, car chases and explosions. At quieter points Yau and Li’s plot throws in scenes of Cheung expounding on what he calls the divine mission of the bomb-disposal team, and there’s a love interest for him in schoolteacher Carmen Li (Song Jia). Hong’s odd request for the government to buy back the Western Harbour Tunnel meanwhile brings in white-collar crime and a locally focused angle. (In reality the privately run western tunnel is high-priced and underused; calls for a buyout have gone on for years.) Some of the film’s early passages can feel perfunctory, but ultimately the strength of the main hostage drama more than compensates.

Yau also delivers a strong team of players in Shock Wave. Jiang Wu’s casual and confident bad guy is one highlight, as too are the many policemen who are shown having tight bonds and being pushed to breaking point as the terror crisis deepens. But the standout is very much Andy Lau in a demanding performance that veers from showy antics early on to gritty heroics and punishing action drama at the film’s peaks. With Yau and Li’s script steadily upping the stakes for Lau and his cohorts, Shock Wave’s tunnel scenario turns into one of Hong Kong cinema’s most gripping finales.
Tim Youngs
Film director: 
Herman Yau
Running time: 




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