Shock Wave: Hong Kong Destruction review – one long tick-tick-boom symphony

Andy Lau plays a bomb-disposal officer in this old-school action thriller with tricksy, Infernal Affairs-esque storytelling

The “2” in the original title of this film would suggest this Hong Kong-action thriller is a sequel – or more likely a prequel given its ending – to the 2017 film Shock Wave, which like this starred megastar Andy Lau and was directed by one of his regular collaborators, Herman Yau. In fact, there’s no connective narrative tissue at all between the films, apart from the fact that the hero in both works for the Hong Kong police department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) bureau, or bomb disposal unit. Still, the end result offers a regular drumbeat of suspense-followed-by-explosion throughout – one long tick-tick-boom symphony, in fact – which makes for fitfully stimulating entertainment.

Lau plays Poon Sing-fung, the EOD’s most reckless yet heroic debomber, who is best friends with his superior, Tung (Ching Wan Lau), and in a happy romantic relationship with pretty police officer Pong Ling (Ni Ni). The couple’s happiness is mostly represented in the early scenes by her looking simperingly at him while he laughs in a reckless yet heroic fashion. But one call-out goes wrong, and just when Poon thinks he’s saved everyone in a squalid flat, a cat in a booby-trapped microwave blows up and Poon loses half of his left leg. Nevertheless, he puts everything into building up strength in his remaining limbs in order to return to his old job, which not so coincidentally dovetails with Lau’s real-world support for the Paralympics and disabled athletes.

Then the movie rapidly gets much more tricksy in its storytelling: a group of terrorists called Vendetta are sifted into the mix; they are led by a white-haired Julian Assange-like leader (Tse Kwan-Ho) and are hellbent on blowing stuff up and getting revenge for past slights. Has Poon, like Lau’s character in Infernal Affairs (the model for The Departed), been a mole all this time in the terrorist organisation? Or is he a mole posing as a mole? A bad case of post-traumatic amnesia Poon suffers after yet another explosion means even he doesn’t know which side he used to be on, or which one he wants to be on now.

It’s all a bit otiose and a little stale, especially all the ersatz medical talk about brain injuries. Despite a few modish touches, this feels fundamentally very old-school, and not necessarily in a good way, right down to the repeated shots of people running away from fireballs in the background.

• Shock Wave: Hong Kong Destruction is released on 14 June on digital platforms.


Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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