After the Batman wars, the only ethical choice was to look outside the country for cinema, and thus, when Johnny To's PTU: Police Tactical Unit appeared atop the spinner rack, we knew that we could find sanctuary.
Unfortunately, we at film fest HQ discovered that PTU was one of To's lesser-known works for a reason. While still hauntingly evocative and stylish, it's slow, dream-like unfolding is too subtle for most American audiences. Thirty seven participants fell asleep during the screening, and the remaining forty five spent the bulk of the movie pondering the post-Batman and Robin cinematic fate of Alicia Silverstone and Chris O'Donnell. Only Richard Oldstate remained actively engaged in the film, which slowly unfolds the tale of a police officer seeking his missing gun as the forces of crime and policing build to a Leone-esque confrontation in the final minutes.
Accustomed, as we were, to garish costumes, hilarious cold-related puns, and AWESOME VEHICLES, PTU suffered by comparison. It was a ponderous masterpiece, no doubt, but it lacked motorcycle stunts and Nicky Katt.
In the genre of cop-loses-gun, PTU doesn't even rank in the top three, falling just behind Kurosawa's Stray Dog, P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, and that sequence in season three of The Wire.
Says Richard Oldstate: "I found this feature film hilarious. I always enjoy a good farce, and this one was certainly up to snuff. Speaking of snuff, it reminds me of several snuff films I participated in during the '70s. They say it's easy to kill a man, but not when you use only a matchbook."