Director – Herman Yau – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 118m
A bomb disposal expert must prevent a bomber from destroying the Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th
Undercover police bomb disposal expert JS Cheung (Andy Lau – Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002, Days Of Being Wild, Wong Kar-wai, 1990, As Tears Go By, Wong Kar-wai, 1988) of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) blows his cover during a daring operation by a gang of criminals to kill as many cops as possible using car bombs. The car chase mayhem ends with the arrest of Biao Hong (Leo Wang Zi-yi) the explosives nerd and little brother of gang leader Peng Hong (Jiang Wu – Wrath Of Silence, Xin Yukun, 2017; Monster Hunt, Raman Hui, 2015). Some time later, Peng Hong Blocks traffic in the busy Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel running from Kowloon to Hong Kong, trapping motorists and passengers as hostages and threatening to blow up the tunnel unless his brother is released.
A romantic sub-plot is supplied by separated teacher Carmen Li (Song Jia – Red Cliff, John Woo, 2008/9) who JS first meets when she’s drunk as a skunk in a nightclub. She later comments to him that girlfriends of superheroes never work out well, and given that some time after the vengeful Peng spots her with JS he ties her up in a car boot with a hand grenade in her hands, pin removed, she’s not wrong. She also gets scenes at home texting JS as he attempts to defuse the bomb in the Cross Harbour Tunnel.
On one level, this is little more than an efficient cops and robbers film, a genre at which Hong Kong has long excelled, with terrific car chases, impressive car bomb sequences and tense bomb disposal episodes. Both Lau as the hero who “gives thanks to God for the right decisions I make every day” and Jiang as the jocular villain eaten up by his hatred of cops in general and JS in particular cast a magnetic presence on the screen. Philip Keung (Shock Wave 2, Herman Yau, 2020; Sheep Without A Shepherd, Sam Quah, 2019; A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-keung, 2019; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018; The Heroic Trio, Johnny To, 1993) is also on hand as JS’s police boss and colleague Y.W. Kong who eventually starts to lose his marbles following his inability to catch Peng.
That said, Herman Yau, working from a script co-written with Erica Li (Shock Wave 2, 2020; Tracey, 2018; The Empty Hands, Chapman To, 2017; Ip Man: The Final Fight, Herman Yau, 2013; The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, Herman Yau, 2010) keeps the film constantly moving or, in the more static bomb disposal sequences, quiet and tense yet riveting. The romantic interludes provide welcome breathing space, though none of them quite deliver on the iconic promise of the first such scene involving the completely drunk heroine and the off-duty hero. The car and explosion stunts are top notch and there’s a lot of them – and while you might argue their realisation is the rationale for films like this, the stunts feel driven by the characters and their goals rather than the other way around as they so easily might have been.
A side-jab at a businessman villain seeking to profit from plummeting share prices as a result of the tunnel incident is thrown in for good measure.
In short, there’s never as dull moment and if you’re after a good chunk of action-soaked, explosive, car chase mayhem, Shock Wave is as good a place to find it as any. Enormously entertaining.
Shock Wave & Shock Wave 2 are now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th. Also available as part of a two film bundle with a debate on To Destroy Or Rebuild Hong Kong on Wednesday, May 22nd (limited availability – booking required).