Drug War Image
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 19 Critics What's this?

User Score
7.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 18 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: A drug cartel boss who is arrested in a raid is coerced into betraying his former accomplices as part of an undercover operation.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    Aug 15, 2013
    100
    I'll go ahead and call Drug War the best Hong Kong action movie since "Infernal Affairs" (the 2002 film that Martin Scorsese remade as "The Departed"), even though technically it's a Chinese film.
  2. Reviewed by: Chuck Bowen
    Jul 17, 2013
    100
    The film is a singularly huge, relentless, all-encompassing set piece that mutates and spasms with terrifying lack of foresight. It's all business, business, business.
  3. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Jul 23, 2013
    91
    More traditional in terms of atmosphere and plot, Drug War nevertheless features a tense, unstoppable momentum, a morally ambiguous protagonist and hugely involving action scenes.
  4. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Jul 17, 2013
    90
    In Drug War, Hong Kong genre master Johnnie To gives a superlative lesson on how to give an updated, thoroughly engrossing twist to the classic cops-and-robbers chase.
  5. Reviewed by: Simon Abrams
    Jul 26, 2013
    88
    The film's flintiness and initially subdued nastiness set it apart from most other action films about the thin line separating cops from crooks.
  6. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Jul 25, 2013
    80
    While Drug War is ultimately more an exercise in craft than a movie with a lot on its mind, it’s a remarkably skillful exercise, and hardly devoid of ideas.
  7. Reviewed by: Tom Russo
    Oct 17, 2013
    50
    It’s clear To is striving to keep the action gripping and creative. Modestly inspired is more like it.

See all 19 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 2 out of 6
  1. Dec 7, 2013
    9
    Its sad when people rate a movie or a game according to their expectations, quite egocentric, leading to misleading scores. Drug War is exactly what it claims to be, a crime thriller that mixes a good amount of drama and action, and does it very well, not without minor flaws.

    The movie timeline is the summary of a couple of days, dialogue and character development is clearly not the goal of this movie. Therefore the 'Drama' isn't given by the usual standards since the viewer won't connect much with the characters, this choice works very well. No boring unessential nonsense dialogues to fill the movie.

    Plot 9
    Simple and very well done, presented in a linear timeline without any holes, held me to the screen until the very last scene, this is a thriller from the start to the end.

    Cinematography 9
    Good solid camera work, it has the right amount of movement and the shot montage in each scene is near perfect, the right pace for a thriller without at any time feeling like a drama or an action movie.

    Action 7
    Considering that this movie takes a more 'realistic' approach there's some action sequences that don't look as good as they could/should. While it never feels completely far-fetched, the same can be said about never feeling 'realistic', but its all acceptable and enjoyable.

    Acting 9
    Its not an acting intensive movie, but when the actors have to perform they do it very well.

    Special Effects 8
    Most of them are gun wounds and they made a good job, not perfect however.

    A good movie, enjoyed every minute of it, strongly recommend it for any thriller and/or crime fans. If you aren't into this kind of movie, if you want a movie with a highly developed story and characters, then this is not the movie for you, and if you choose to watch it, don't go later criticize it negatively just because you expect every movie to fulfill your egocentric needs.
    Expand
  2. Jul 27, 2013
    9
    The rules about on-screen violence are much tougher in China than in Hong Kong. How To got this past the censors is a mystery. Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To is a master of high-octane action movies like “Election” and “Sparrow,” but he’s yet to get a breakthrough hit in the US. If any of his flicks deserves to do so, it’s “Drug War,” a rare To co-production with China. The action is set on the mainland, mostly in the gritty industrial city of Jinhai. Drug-factory boss Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) faces the death penalty after being rounded up in an undercover operation, but makes a deal with a police captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) to rat out his pals in exchange for saving his life. (Manufacturing just 50 grams of meth in China will earn you a lethal injection.) Cars go crunch, bullets fly, blood spurts, bodies splatter and an unbelievable amount of cocaine is snorted. “Drug War” features a large cast of cops and gangsters, but the film’s center is the interaction between Timmy and Zhang. In one frantic scene, Zhang flips out after snorting coke, only to have his life saved by a fast-thinking Timmy. Expand
  3. Oct 30, 2013
    9
    Legendary director Jonnie To's "Drug War" generates a powerful suspense with extended action set-pieces that are truly exceptional, but it's the intense underplayed performances that ultimately leaves its lasting impression. To pulls out all the stops in this high-octane police procedural, shot predominantly in the Jinshan district on the Chinese mainland. This vast, operatic melodrama exhibits some extreme smarts in its bare bones approach to a drug unit's relentless pursuit of a drug cartel. The film proceeds with sequences that establish the war on drugs as neither a heroic crusade, or a hopelessly unwinnable war. They are no metaphors here it's a world where people make choices, and as a result, events unfold simply as a matter of process.

    Manufacturing just fifty grams of meth in China will earn you a death sentence, and Timmy Choi (Louis Koo), manufactures on a massive scale. After a large meth lab explosion, Choi is under arrest and in the custody of Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei). Now he has only one chance to avoid execution: turn informant and help Zhang's undercover team take down the powerful cartel. As the uneasy allies must compress months of police work into just 72 sleepless hours, the increasingly desperate police are quickly stretched past their limits. As things spin wildly out of control, the line between duty and recklessness becomes vague, and it becomes unclear who truly has the upper hand.

    The first act of "Drug War" is an epic manifestation of To's talents: The camera is never in the wrong place, and we're swept effortlessly into the mindsets of a dozen people in the first act with few words or wasted gestures. The film works thanks to the riveting performances of Sun Honglei and Louis Koo. In addition to his two strong leads, To creates a large gallery of dynamic supporting characters, most notably two mute brothers played by Guo Tao and Li Jing who at first appear as comic relief, but eventually play a larger role in the story.

    The balancing act of the film relies on a long build-up for a large payoff. Director To incorporates just enough action and throughout to keep things interesting before the chaotic, bloody onslaught erupts in the third act. The visceral, brutal shoot-out between opposing sides takes place on a suburban street filled with pedestrians and children. It's intense and unflinching, with a fantastically dark resolution to the story. "Drug War" isn't particularly insightful or a profound viewing experience, but those looking for a top-notch thriller will be more than satisfied by this low-key masterpiece.
    Collapse
  4. Sep 22, 2013
    8
    The drab, dusty, industrial backdrop of what is purported as the unglamorous metropolis of Tian Jin, China, tacky haute facades are the setting for Drugs War’s series of raw, tension filled episodes. From a country riddled with censorship, Drugs Wars, a film by Johnnie To, is an unbridled glimpse of organized crime and crystal meth in China. Although perhaps a tad sensationalistic, the film delivers a bold statement: the Chinese the drug market is alive and well.

    Louis Koo plays a busted crystal meth baron who has a choice, either help police bust a massive organized crime syndicate, or be executed. He chooses to help police.

    In an elaborate tireless scheme, actor Honglei Sun dazzlingly plays a police officer portraying a criminal in the attempt to infiltrate this upper echelon syndicate. The best scene of the film is when Sun’s character is forced to rail two massive lines of crystal meth as part of this act. The effects of the meth play out into a powerful piece of cinema. Post- OD, literally having come back from the edge death, the chase for the criminals continues with out a flinch.

    At times this police tenacity is too exaggerated to be believable. The chase for the bad guys goes on endlessly for days. None of the cops ever eat or sleep. They seem to have inexhaustible resources at their disposal. They are able to commandeer an entire harbor just to put on a show of authenticity for the crooks. The cops risk their lives over and over, and for what? To rid the world of a few truckloads of drugs? The conventional divide between the good guy cops and bad guy criminals doesn’t blur, until it does. After an epic final gun battle, we have no idea who’s who.

    Drug Wars attains excellence as an action movie and serves as a rare example of a controversial work to emerge from a country that produces so much state-approved propaganda.
    Expand
  5. Jul 27, 2013
    2
    I really don't understand the wildly positive reviews this is getting. It's a basic police procedural. A drug dealer gets busted and agrees to cooperate with the police, but his allegiances remain unclear until the final third of the film. You can guess where this one's going. The last 15 minutes are full of over the top John Woo-style gun violence, but it's nothing worth sitting through the rest of the movie to see, especially since the film gives you absolutely no reason to care whether any of the characters live or die. Don't bother with this garbage. Expand
  6. Nov 27, 2013
    1
    undermines the credibility of the metacritic score. no story, no action, no characters, no effects, a major disappointment all around. skip this movie. a glimpse into crime in china, perhaps. Expand

Related Articles

  1. The Best and Worst Movies of 2013

    The Best and Worst Movies of 2013 Image
    Published: January 6, 2014
    There were more great movies released in 2013 than in any year in recent memory. Browse our official lists of the year's highest-scoring movies in a variety of categories, and check out 2013's worst films, too.