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Thursday, December 21, 2017

SHOCK WAVE -- DVD Review by Porfle

Bomb squad and hostage crisis stories are always inherently tense to some degree, but SHOCK WAVE, aka "Chai dan zhuan jia" (Cinedigm, 2017), takes things to a whole new level.  It's one of those "through the wringer" experiences that just leaves you...well, wrung out.

Chinese action superstar Andy Lau (THE WARLORDS, BATTLE OF THE WARRIORS) plays veteran bomb defuser extraordinaire J.S. Cheung, whose nerves of steel don't keep him from having a warm heart, as his girlfriend Carmen Li (Jia Song, RED CLIFF) will attest.

They have a nice meet-cute under odd circumstances that lead to a deep relationship which might or might not lead to marriage.  What we're already certain of, if movies like this have taught us anything, is that if there's a big bomb crisis later on in the movie then eventually the girlfriend will get mixed up in it.

Naturally, there's a big bomb crisis later on in the movie, thanks to Cheung's mortal enemy and top bad-guy bomb expert Peng Hong (Wu Jiang), whose brother was sent to prison by Cheung during an undercover assignment. 

Nursing a big, festering grudge against Cheung, Peng Hong plans a massive attack in which Hong Kong's Cross-Harbor Tunnel is taken over and its thousands of hostages threatened with explosive doom unless the imprisoned brother is set free.

What sets SHOCK WAVE apart from most of the other hostage-crisis films is its scale--it looks as though the filmmakers have full use of an actual tunnel filled with automobiles, and the mayhem that occurs inside it will involve all manner of full-scale gun battles, car crashes, and explosions. 

This isn't just some direct-to-video yarn here, but epic, heart-pounding action that exploits every facet of bomb-defusing, hostage negotiating, and all-around shoot-em-up chaos while also exploring all the emotional human elements.  Hostages get killed as do brave cops, and Cheung's character must suffer every tragic loss while feeling partly responsible for it. 

The film begins with a sustained action sequence involving a bank robbery that ends badly.  That leads us into the drawn-out suspense of the tunnel situation which will take up the rest of the film. 

Things slow down in the second half to concentrate on the human side of Cheung's ordeal (including the "girlfriend" part that we knew was coming) as well as exploring other peripheral aspects of the situation, but this just gears us up for one of the most calamitous finales imaginable for a film like this.  I'm talking "intense" in the full sense of the word.

Andy Lau is great as the heroic, likable cop, while Wu Jiang makes an ideal non-cliche' bad guy who loves putting Cheung and the city of Hong Kong through hell.  The rest of the cast are fine as well.
Director Herman Yau (THE WOMAN KNIGHT OF MIRROR LAKE, THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN) is in top form throughout, staging it all with brisk bravado and clearly aiming to knock our socks off.  My only complaint is the obvious use of CGI for many of the explosions, which had me yearning for the good old days when they just blew everything up for real. 

Still, SHOCK WAVE is mind-boggling in its mix of human drama with the most nail-biting suspense and explosive, car-crashing, bullet-spraying carnage one could ask for in an action flick.  And after all that, it ends on a note of genuine emotional resonance.  Well done.

Street Date:         January 2, 2018
Language:           Cantonese, Mandarin                      
Runtime:             119 minutes             
Rating:                Not Rated
Subtitles:            English
(Also available in Blu-Ray+DVD)

Making-of featurette


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