Whilst at the hospital following a sting on a major drug trafficking operation, captain Zhang Lei (Honglei Sun) of the police's anti-drug division is informed that a man has being brought in who lost control of his car and crashed it into a restaurant. Intrigued Zhang quickly discovers the man is drug lord Tian Ming (Louis Koo) and facing the death penalty for his drug operations. In return for sparing his life Tian agrees to help bring an end to the drug trafficking operations he is involved with. But can he be trusted especially as it seems they are on the cusp of making the big bust of their lives.
"Drug War" opens with a toll booth with a female operative collecting the money from those who pass buy and being extremely observant of the vehicles she deals with be it a shabby looking truck or a dirty looking car. And there is already this sense of something is about to go down which it certainly does when we witness captain Zhang Lei, in a cowboy hat, leap through the air and take down a fleeing drug trafficker. This whole opening series of scenes has tension, great pacing and the excitement of the action but then a bit of in your face as well as we see the drug traffickers force to squat over bowls to collect the pellets they are smuggling.
And this is how the rest of "Drug War" plays out because as the story evolves we get these series of scene which have tension, drama, action and usually culminating in a moment of high drama. But as the whole thing plays out and we watch Zhang Lei and his team build their case with the help of Tian Ming you constantly sense this is building to something more, it can't just be as simple from former drug lord turning snitch. And there is something more, something you will have to discover for yourself.
Now "Drug War" is a foreign language movie, a movie where you do need to pay attention to the subtitles to follow what is going on. But director Johnnie To has crafted such a fine crime, drama that you want to. And the entire cast deliver such committed performances that you quickly find yourself engrossed in both their characters and what is going on. Throw in that sense that this isn't going to play out smoothly and you are hooked on this movie from start to finish.
What this all boils down to is that "Drug War" is definitely worth the watch if you are a fan of tense, snappy crime, dramas. And whilst it is a foreign language movie and one where you need to pay attention to the subtitles to follow, it is so well made that you want to put the effort in.