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Drug War

Drug War (2013)

tomatometer

94

Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 47
Fresh: 44 | Rotten: 3

A taut, solidly constructed action thriller with uncommon intelligence, Drug War delivers exhilarating set pieces without skimping on sophisticated filmmaking.

94

Average Rating: 7.9/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 15 | Rotten: 1

A taut, solidly constructed action thriller with uncommon intelligence, Drug War delivers exhilarating set pieces without skimping on sophisticated filmmaking.

audience

77

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 2,095

My Rating

Movie Info

Manufacturing just fifty grams of meth in China will earn you a death sentence, and Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) has manufactured tons of it. After a violent lab accident, he's in the custody of Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei), and now he has only one chance to avoid execution: turn informant and help Zhang's undercover team take down the powerful cartel he's been cooking for. But as the uneasy allies are forced to compress months of police work into just 72 sleepless hours, the increasingly desperate

Oct 29, 2013

$0.1M

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All Critics (47) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (3) | DVD (1)

Another inkling of the style limitations perhaps most responsible for To's lower visibility stateside compared with, say, his countrymen John Woo and Wong Kar-wai.

October 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[To] gives a solid 90 minutes of edgy foreplay before delivering the goods.

August 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Few other working filmmakers display this degree of visual sophistication and old-school craftsmanship.

August 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As always, To delivers fantastic set pieces ...

August 15, 2013 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Drug War is a deeply intelligent, exhilarating and eminently satisfying adult crime story, one of the best thrillers you're likely to see this year.

August 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An intense and constantly surprising crime story in which destiny seems to fold in on itself ...

August 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What the hell: "Drug War" is a taut, minor masterpiece. It felt like watching early Walter Hill for the first time-"The Driver," "Southern Comfort"-and that is a very good feeling indeed.

April 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity
Newcity

Almost perfect.

April 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

...as nimble as a ballet dancer, even while dancing in muck.

January 10, 2014 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm
LarsenOnFilm

A nicely tangled, smartly paced and cold little thriller-nothing more, nothing less.

December 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

The most purely enjoyable action film of the year, and I can only hope the inevitable American remake doesn't screw it up too badly

December 26, 2013 Full Review Source: EntertainmentTell
EntertainmentTell

The routine police procedural crime drama has dedicated Chinese narcotics cops closing in on a big-time drug manufacturer in a risky undercover operation.

December 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

This film about cops and drug dealers in China is a lot like a story set in the Old West with outlaws and lawmen engaged in gun battles. There probably is a point to all this conflict that is lost in the translation.

December 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Visually, it's a gritty throwback that's certain to please genre aficionados.

December 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinemalogue.com
Cinemalogue.com

Not only does the film never question the ethics of a war on drugs in which dealers and manufacturers are subject to the death penalty, it appears to enthusiastically endorse it.

November 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

"Drug War" may not add anything particularly new to the genre, but that doesn't make it any less of a thrilling ride.

October 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Examiner.com
Examiner.com

Cops and robbers, drugs and money, and the brutal violence at the end of it all: Yes, Hong Kong action director Johnnie To is back in town.

October 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Canada.com
Canada.com

To orchestrates a huge cast and multi-layered plot like the ringmaster of a three-ring circus, his explosive, nihilistic finale layered with betrayals.

September 29, 2013 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

To's film is solidly directed, and brutal and unflinching in its depiction of the drug world at the center of the story.

August 30, 2013 Full Review Source: KPBS.org
KPBS.org

Filled with intrigue, plot twists and monumental gunfights, it's an expertly crafted if at times quite violent affair.

August 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Montreal Gazette
Montreal Gazette

Like a cross between "The Wire" and "The French Connection," even if To's blood-drenched fatalism goes a little overboard by the end. Despite the familiarity, it's an impressive piece of work.

August 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Oregonian
Oregonian

Audience Reviews for Drug War

After his meth lab explodes, leaving him scarred and his wife dead, Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is apprehended by the Chinese police for a crime that warrants the death penalty. In the custody of Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei), Choi sees only one option to avoid execution; turn traitor and help Zhang's undercover unit bring down the powerful cartel that he has been cooking for. As the stakes get higher, it becomes increasing unclear as to who has the upper hand, and who will dictate the endgame.

Director Johnny To is a master of the crime film, and with "Drug War," he's created a near masterpiece of the genre. He never convinces us of being in anything but complete control of his multifaceted thriller, and exudes an unparalleled confidence in every scene and phenomenal set piece.

To's electrifying picture recalls some of the best work of his great contemporaries. "Drug War" possesses the technical brilliance of Scorsese's "The Departed," the ground-level knowledge and surveillance of David Simon's "The Wire," the gritty realism of Michael Mann's best work, and by the end the blistering, double-fisted action of John Woo's prime. These elements don't come together as a derivative; To is a filmmaker at the top of his game, and makes the most of his cast, his influences, the Mainland setting, and a little of the grotesquerie that often has Hollywood shuddering; in a singular whole.

Disparate from most Hong Kong action films, "Drug War" is a methodical, meticulous procedural first, exploiting a street-smart screenplay that knows the Chinese crime scene; and if that statement is indeed false, it never feels less than authentic. Much of the intensity derives from dialogue exchanges, and how rigorous both the cops and criminals try to not get made. Because of this well paced, equally well played dynamic, we never know who we should root for, and that's exactly the point. Mr. To's drama is incredibly intense... but then he pulls out all the stops.

The last 20 minutes of "Drug War" is the show-stopping action set piece of the year. An extended shootout that's brutal, ambitious, and a masterpiece of it's kind. It's a marvel of physical filmmaking that also works as an unexpected plot device, violently flipping our conceived notions of these characters on their ear; clearing the way for a fittingly ironic, ice-cold conclusion.

"Drug War" might just be the best pure crime film of 2013. Technically and narratively stellar, it already seems like a minor classic of the genre.
January 5, 2014
YLOWBSTARDreturns

Super Reviewer

A drug kingpin falls into the police's laps when they discover him injured in a car crash, but can they trust the criminal's plan to save himself from execution by engineering a sting on his fellow cartel members? Superior police procedural with slick action sequences that hearkens back to the days of New Wave Hong Kong cinema, and explains why deaf-mutes make the best footsoliders in your drug army.
December 12, 2013
366weirdmovies
Greg S

Super Reviewer

An adrenaline charged rush of a movie concerning a drug manufacturer who is forced by the police to turn into an informant against the company he's producing the drugs for if he hopes to save himself from a sentence of lethal injection. While not heavy in action, the movie is so well shot, acted, and filled with characters that are interesting despite being absolutely slimy, it maintains your attention throughout its short running time. The ending picks up some steam before going full-force into a shocking conclusion. It may have a feel of familiarity about it in terms of plot, but the stakes are noticeably higher, as is the quality of filmmaking on display here.
November 25, 2013
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

that ha-ha guy was fantastic
July 19, 2013
rubystevens
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Drug War (DE)
  • Drug War (Du Zhan) (UK)
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