Nick Cheung and William Chan in "Bursting Point" (2023)

Bursting Point 爆裂點 (2023) Review

The last time Dante Lam directed a gritty Hong Kong crime/action thriller was That Demon Within <魔警> in 2014. And that was nine years ago before he shifted his focus primarily on the mainland market, resulting in big-budget productions like Operation Red Sea <红海行动>, The Rescue <紧急救援> and the two-part Battle at Lake Changjin <长津湖> <长津湖之水门桥>.

When Dante Lam decided to return to his familiar genre territory which made him a household name in Hong Kong cinema, it was a dream come true for many fans of his works. His new movie Bursting Point <爆裂點>, which I figured the literal translation of its Cantonese title was preliminary but turned out to be a curiously official title, also marks the director’s long-awaited reunion with Nick Cheung.

Lam, who co-directed alongside newcomer Calvin Tong (Wai-Hon), tells a familiar crime story that doesn’t waste time getting to the point. Following a botched police mission that goes awry, Hong Kong Island-based narcotics division inspector Bond Sir (Nick Cheung) not only fails to apprehend the wanted drug boss, Young (Shaun Tam) and even results in the death of a fellow officer (Ken Lo).

We learn Bond Sir is still determined to catch Young and his men (among them including German Cheung’s Tiger) one day and after years have passed, he decides to recruit an ambitious police officer Ming (William Chan). His job? Going undercover to infiltrate Young’s drug-trafficking business working under Cow (Philip Keung).

Of course, being a Dante Lam film means nothing will go as planned. Everything becomes personal when Young’s brother, Roy (Jonathan Cheung) ends up badly injured during a subsequent police bust. Ming has no choice but to stick to his undercover job longer than expected and this is where Lam gets to reference one of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s Chan Wing-Yan’s famous dialogues from Infernal Affairs <無間道>.

Shaun Tam in "Bursting Point" (2023)
Shaun Tam in “Bursting Point” (2023)

Bursting Point <爆裂點> runs a whopping 140 minutes and the heavy-handed nature of its storytelling is sorely felt when I watched the movie. Lam adds and magnifies his story wherever he sees fit and this includes throwing in subplots (Bond Sir’s troubled son with the local triad and Ying Xiu’s rebellious daughter).

The Ying Xiu character played by Isabella Leong, who shows up halfway in the movie is introduced as a drug maker coming to Hong Kong with her teenage daughter and her brother from the Golden Triangle. The thing is, her appearance comes across as a filler rather than a necessity to help advance the story.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Isabella Leong lacks the acting prowess of playing a frustrated mother trying to make things right, only to deal with a sense of hopelessness as we learn more about her character arc. It’s more of the way the story is added like an afterthought just to spice up the movie’s dramatic angle. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if her story is edited out altogether and Lam should better off focusing on the Bond Sir-Ming-Young angle.

Ming’s erratic fate working as an undercover gets a better and above all, more engaging story treatment and the same also goes for Bond Sir’s increasingly pessimistic character arc. Lam’s penchant for the cynical viewpoint on his characters no matter good or bad remains intact here. Reality certainly bites with no turning back as situations only grow worse and death in Lam’s gloomy world of cops vs criminals is inevitable.

Speaking of that, Lam doesn’t shy away from its graphic violence and matter-of-fact brutality, which earned the movie a restrictive Category III rating. Action sequences are expectedly messy and chaotic and I realise Lam’s years of experience spent working on China’s military-based films like Operation Red Sea <红海行动> and The Battle at Lake Changjin <长津湖> prompted the director to transplant the visual cruelty of the soldiers’ death into the cops and criminals meeting their ugly fates.

It’s nice to see Cheung Ka-Fai working with Dante Lam again and the former doesn’t disappoint with his typically engrossing lead turn as Bond Sir. I was initially worried about Lam’s decision to cast pretty boys like William Chan to play undercover. But thankfully, he improved a lot in his acting as Ming. Shaun Tam, who mostly appears in TVB series these days, gets the chance to play the lead antagonist role in a movie. Too bad his appearance doesn’t make much of a lasting impression here.

Bursting Point <爆裂點> is far from a great comeback for Dante Lam to the gritty crime-movie territory that I hope for. But his latest movie remains a treat for fans and audiences alike who missed watching Lam directed this type of genre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *