Breaking News AKA Daai si gin (2004)
R2 - United Kingdom - Tartan Video UK
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (18th October 2007).
The Film

(Note that this review is pretty much identical with the alternate review of the R2 Finnish-release by “Another World Entertainment” that can be found HERE. These two were made simultaneously.

Media has a big effect on our daily lives, whether we like it or not. Often this is just a positive thing and we learn from the news and reports all around the world, but there´s a darker flipside of the coin: can we blindly believe everything we read, see or hear from the media? After all, media can be exploited for the various propaganda purposes and news can be fabricated. Sometimes based on the writing of one person or group, severe conclusions can be made. Throughout history, media has also been used as a tool for brainwashing - and in some countries it´s tightly controlled by the government. People have to learn to interpret and read - also challenge media and it´s not always easy. In the modern world, the media is now literally everywhere and the “cheap journalism” is rising. Many things are now turned into entertainment, sometime even the news.

Media is also the centerpiece of the Hong Kong action film “Breaking News AKA Daai si gin (2004)” by the highly profilic director/co-producer Johnny To. The film opens in a urban street, where CID Inspector Cheung (Nick Cheung) and his crew are following a group criminals - lead by Yuen (Richie Ren - as Richie Jen). Things go wrong from the get-go and a violent shoot-out is soon under way. During the process, there are casualties and most of the criminals manage to get away. The police are labeled as cowards in the eyes of the media. OCB (Organized Crime Bureau) will quickly take over the case from the CID and their new plan is set in motion; in addition to capturing the criminal gang, they also have to win over the regular people and regain the reputation of the police department. What would be a better way to achieve that than through the media.

It´s now evident that the remaining criminals are hiding in the big apartment complex, so the building will be surrounded. As well as guns and helmets, the police is also equipped with pinhole cameras and the tactical base by their superiors is now also the media station. Catching the bad guys will be a “good show for the citizens”, since police will now provide the material to the media and everything is “directed” by the OCB´s young, but determined, Deputy Commander Rebecca Fong (Kelly Chen - e.g. “Infernal Affairs AKA Mou gaan dou (2002)”). In the form of video, press material and media updates, the police is controlling everything. It won´t be long before certain “unfavourable moments” of the police are left out and propaganda is added instead. With music, editing and the “empathic interviews”, the news footage turns into PR-commercials. Chen is still underestimating her opponent, since the criminal mastermind Yuen is using cell phones, web camera and of course the internet to provide the “real news” for the media, contradicting the information of the police. Like one of the officers says: “technology has its pros and cons” - and the police is soon learning that in a hard way. To make things even more complicated, Inspector Cheung and some of his men are also in the building, along with mysterious hitman Chun (Yong You) with his partner. Things are going to explode. Literally.

“Breaking News” is a smart and high-octane film, which stays interesting pretty much all the way through. It´s clearly a distant cousin of the American crime and action films in terms of visual look and the general “tone”, but with added “Hong Kong flavour”. Outside the building, the camera is often moving and circling the location, wide angle is in effect and a certain “in-your-face” mentality is used to achieve the feel of the tense “cat & mouse” game. The police are making their moves, criminals theirs and Inspector Cheung is ready to make his. The media is waiting and watching. Director Johnny To uses the satire and also surprisingly well executed humour (mainly surrounding one of the residents of the building, Yip (Suet Lam - as Lam Suet)) to lighten the film and also to criticise the modern media frenzy. Still, while the “media aspect” of the film is the essential key to making the film work, it leaves something to be desired. There could´ve been potential for going deeper into the subject and create something truly unique with it. Now the action still dominates.

While the action is well executed, it tends to follow a bit of a dull pattern. Every once in a while there´s a minor shoot-out or explosion. After a while you tend move the action to the background and wait for the other story developments. In some parts it´s almost like “okay, let´s get this 5th shoot-out under way, so that we can focus on the more interesting parts of the story”. Action looks very solid, but repetitive. Scenes where e.g. two criminals are making food are still the real highlights of the film. Actors are all pretty good - yet not stunning, but Nick Cheung (Inspector Cheung) doesn´t really get his character going. With the same angry face and movement, he´s slowly falling to the supporting actor in the story (you would expect otherwise from the basic setting of the story). “Breaking News” comes recommended, but a few flaws here and there prevent it from being a true classic Asian action film. Good appetiser, though.

Video

While this review is about the R2 UK-release of “Tartan Video”, I had the chance to review also the R2 Finnish-release by “Another World Entertainment” of the same film. The differences are not huge, but here are my views:

**“Tartan Video” is presented in Anamorphic 2.35:1, looking pretty good. The image is clean, stable and black levels solid. While not the sharpest transfer I´ve seen, it´s still quite detailed. The transfer is most likely following the original look of the film, which in the end is quite dull in terms of colours. They´re often slightly muted and “grey” and the look can be a bit dark (in the end, the majority of the film is set in the apartment complex or in the city streets). I spotted some edge enhancement and line shimmering. The “dual layer” disc is “R2” encoded and has 16 chapters. The film runs 85:59 minutes (PAL).

**“Another World Entertainment” is actually quite similar (also Anamorphic 2.35:1), but I noticed additional compression artifacts in some scenes. Then again the transfer´s edge enhancement didn´t strike as evident to my eyes. Still, no major differences based on the testing I did. The “dual layer” disc is also “R2” encoded and has 8 chapters. The film runs 86:02 minutes (PAL), with additional “Nonstop” logo at the start of the film. “Another World Entertainment” is a Danish based company, but the disc is distributed in Finland by “Firebox”.

Audio

**“Tartan Video” includes three audio tracks: Cantonese DTS 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (with Surround encoding). Optional English subtitles are included. The DTS-track is quite effective and well balanced, with some surround activity and proper directional pans. Moody, modern musical track and the dialogue sounds also clear and pleasant. The track is not overly aggressive, but plenty of nice action still films the room.

**“Another World Entertainment” includes “only” Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (with Surround encoding)-track, even when the Dolby Digital 5.1-track is listed in the back cover. Note, that there are NO English subtitles, only Finnish, Norwegian and Danish (no Swedish ones, though). The 2.0-track is sufficient and clear, but it doesn´t offer the same punch as the DTS in the UK-release.

Extras

**“Tartan Video”-release includes only a short, promotional “Behind the Scenes” -featurette, running 3:03 minutes. It´s in Cantonese, with optional English subtitles. Some making-of footage, along with brief comments from the cast is included.

Cantonese (with optional English subtitles) theatrical trailer (2:34 minutes) rounds up Tartan´s extra features.

**”Another World Entertainment” includes a few additional extras and they´re all in Cantonese, with optional English subtitles (no Scandinavian ones):

-Same promotional “Behind the Scenes” -featurette is included, but for some encoding error, it´s in the disc twice (therefore runs 6:25 minutes).

-Cantonese (with optional English subtitles) theatrical trailer runs 1:56 minutes.

-Deleted scene (the menu says “deleted scenes and outtakes”, but this seems to be just one scene) runs 2:26 minutes. In the scene, four criminals are talking in the bar and the CID is monitoring them. Later on Inspector Cheung gets his assignment and is tailing the criminals. These events probably happen before the opening scene in the film.

-Director/co-producer Johnny To filmography includes also English titles and there´s also running film credits (0:30 sec) of “Breaking News”.

-Photo gallery runs 2:05 minutes and includes 25 stills.

-Bonus trailers include (you can use “Play All”) “The Nameless AKA Los Sin Nombre (1999)” - 2:01 min, “Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals AKA Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali (1977)” - 2:32 min, “Salon Kitty AKA Madam Kitty (1976)” - 3:55 min, “The New York Ripper AKA Lo Squartatore di New York (1982)” - 3:10 min, and “Keoma (1976)” - 3:36 min.

Overall

Entertaining Hong Kong actioner, with the refreshing media critic. Both DVD-releases of the film have their own advantages: “Tartan Video” includes DTS-track and English subtitles, while “Another World Entertainment” has a few (minor) additional extras. Both offer good transfers, with minor flaws.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Tartan Video (UK).

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.