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Original Title:
Kei tung bou deui: Tung pou

Hong Kong 2009


Law Wing-cheong

Simon Yam
Maggie Siu
Lam Suet
Samuel Pang
Vincent Sze
Ben Wong Chi-yin

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Tactical Unit - Comrades in Arms

Story: Sam (Simon Yam) and May (Maggie Siu) each are the leader of a PTU team. There is some tension between the two teams because soon the teams are transfered and possible promotions are also hanging in the balance. Eventually, May's team wins the jackpot, but soon there are people voicing their opinion that this is only the case because she dazzled the officer in charge, Ho (Ben Wong), with her charme. The dispute between the two teams get so serious that it negatively influences the effectivity of the police unit. When also a group of Mainland Chinese rob a money transporter and flee into the hill nearby it is up to the police to comb the area for the robbers and show that they are able to fulfill their duty despite all of their problems. But especially Fat Lo (Lam Suet), who has just been degraded to driver, is a model example of how insubordination can lead to outright incompetence and so the robbers have an easy time to always elude the policemen in the woods of the hills. Moreover, the police units also runs into other dangerous individuals that have found their shelter in the secluded area of this natural environment. Only when the PTU teams work together they might have a chance to capture the robbers.

Review: It's not necessary to have seen the several chapters of this now five parts spanning spin-off series of Johnnie To's "PTU" in a certain order. This also would be quite complicated as "Tactical Unit - Comrades in Arms" is the second installment that has been released even though other parts have been shot before that. So even if the several parts aren't build on each other old faces are returning to their roles and that's also what's the appeal of the series. The characters are still everything but your typical good cops as they weren't in the original work and thus look even the more human. The director's seat is filled by Law Wing-cheong this time, who already stood behind the camera for "Tactical Unit - The Code". This fact and the screenplay by Yau Nai-Hoi and Au Kin-Yee lead to the fact that with its ironic and fateful entanglements the movie comes the closest to the "PTU" we know of Johnnie To. A good achievement considering the low budget at hand.

"Tactical Unit - Comrades in Arms" has actually even been released in cinemas but in that respect the film is just solid. It's simply easy to spot at some times that one didn't have the financial means of a more bigger work. But the director makes use of this weakness by putting his focus on the characters and the atmosphere instead. Since a big part of the movie takes place in a hilly forest it's completely obvious that the filmmakers were trying to save money but the well-known faces and the fact that the forest is almost turned into a war zone with time through which the police unit is sneaking up on its enemies outwheighs some of the flaws. Naturally, you could also say on a negative note that that the setting of the movie is departing too much from the urban jungle of Hong Kong but in fact the initial cat-and-mouse chase becomes more and more a stealth mission during which later on the word tactics actually becomes the name of the game.

Before that, however, there are numerous disputes between the two PTU teams to be seen. The animosity constantly shining through on a subtle level also wears down the effecivity of the police units and so we permanently have to shake our heads about some of the mistakes of the tactical units. Apart from that Simon Yam and Maggie Siu as well as Lam Suet manage to give their roles some depth, though, only the supporting characters look as if they are just portraying a certain type that is supposed to fulfill a special purpose for the screenplay. Nonetheless, the emotions, apart from a few more or less corny dialogues, are brought to the screen quite well, especially since a lot isn't expressed by words. The relationships between the several individuals create a very special dynamic that is keeping the film running all the way through and which also manage to keep up a certain tension.

Director Law Wing-cheong seems to be an attentive student of Johnnie To because he succeeds in creating a similar tension during some scenes as his "master". It's the way a conflict being about to erupt is presented that creates the tension, the actual eruption is secondary, also since it isn't that spectacular in most cases anyway. Here the script written with a lot of irony and playing with fate and karma pays off as well. The individual team members are seperated on several occasions by different circumstances, after that they are facing enemies of which they didn't know anything before or they are running after some shadow which eventually leads them all to one and the same place where the showdown is about to take place in the end. You simply have to laugh out loud enthusiastically because of this in its own respect cleverly crafted script that in a subtle manner prepares the stage for the finale and then with a big wink makes all the characters enter the stage just in time.

The showdown itself isn't spectacular but we get to see that the police unit is actually well grounded in tactical missions which means that the thugs really have been dealt a bad hand. Of course we know right from the start that the police will be working in unison again and bury the hatchet in the end which leads to the fact that the quite positive picture of the police depicted here easily could have created a glorified superhero picture of the police if the individual characters weren't so tainted in the first place.
Besides a few more slow-paced parts in the middle and the fact that a little bit of supernatural horror has unnecessarily found its way into the movie "Tactical Unit - Comrades in Arms" just manages to deliver what makes us watch Hong Kong's Milkyway-flicks: Thrilling entertainment that might not be spectacular but always appealing. Therefore, this is most likely the best part of the series so that it missed a better rating just by inches.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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