Action Movie Fanatix Review: PTU: Police Tactical Unit

PTU Police Tactical Unit banner

Night Is Still Young.

Where To Go?
Into The Perilous Night.

Starring: Simon Yam, Maggie Shiu, Lam Suet, Ruby Wong, Raymond Wong

Director: Johnnie To

2003  |  88 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Everyone in uniforms are brothers.” – Sergeant Mike Ho

I pretty much bought PTU: Police Tactical Unit completely on a whim.  Ebay recommended it to me, the cover looked cool and I bought.  No more thought was required.

When Sergeant To’s police issued firearm is stolen by a local gang, Sergeant Mike Ho (Simon Yam) and a group of police officers attempt to track down the gang to recover the gun before a CID officer finds out that To has lost it.

The entire story takes place over the course of a single night.  In that way it reminded me of Running Scared with Paul Walker.  Instead of following Walker’s street thug character we are following a group of police officers.  Take all of the crazy shit out of Running Scared that made it so ridiculously stupid and replace it with Hong Kong police officers not really doing a whole lot and they are very similar movies.  PTU is definitely better than Running Scared but it was missing something major in the script to keep things flowing.  The story doesn’t quite feel polished enough.  It ends up feeling like we are just watching cops wander around the city, eating in restaurants and occasionally beating up randoms in the street.

The movie starts pretty slow, building tension usually with a very low music track or no music at all where the only sound is the limited conversations between officers.  It is a really effective technique that gives it a much more realistic feel that a pounding soundtrack would have.

Sergeant To isn’t exactly what I would call bumbling but he does manage to slip on a banana peel and knock himself out allowing his gun to be stolen.

Simon Yam’s character, Mike, is more or less a by the book police officer who is 100% dedicated to the brotherhood of the force.  When the men in his unit take a fellow officer’s death lightly at the beginning of the movie, Mike quickly puts them in line.  He is also the one who

The majority of the movie is more of less action free but there is a huge blowout right at the end.  It starts with a great shot of the five officers running toward what they have to know will be a gun battle.  They end up blowing away three gangsters who are armed with automatic weapons but can’t seem to hit any officers with their spray of bullets whereas the cops hit each of the gangsters multiple times before they finally went down.

There is also an interesting shoot out between the two gang bosses at the end.  Johnnie To opted for a very unrealistic approach for this little showdown.  Each man got out of his car and stood still, almost like in a stand off, and then fired their handguns from the hip.  It is all very much like an old school western shoot out with each man taking 4-5 hits each before they go down.

PTU: Police Tactical Unit wasn’t a great movie and wasn’t exactly action packed as the cover would suggest but the story did keep me hooked and I got a real kick out of the slight twist ending.  I never saw it coming.  PTU was worth the watch but I don’t see myself coming back to it again.