There are laws and there are rules; those who break the law will be pursued and arrested by the police, but the unwritten rules operate in a wider framework. One of them states that anyone who wears the uniform will be protected by their colleagues, something upon which Sergeant “Fatty” Lo Sa of the District Anti-Triad Squad is dependent having slipped and knocked himself unconscious in pursuit of a suspect, waking to find his firearm was missing from its holster.

Presumably stolen by the culprit who also vandalised his car, Sergeant Lo confesses the loss to Sergeant Mike Ho of the PTU who attends the scene; regulations state the theft must be reported immediately, but instead his friend grants him leeway until dawn to find the missing gun, promising to help where he can much to the consternation of Sergeant Kat who recognises the slippery slope they are on.

An already difficult task, the situation is made more complicated by the murder of Ponytail, the son of prominent gangster Bald Head, targeted as part of a long running rivalry with Eye Ball, in the very same noodle bar where Lo Sa was eating before his own incident, immediately involving District Crime Squad Inspector Leigh Cheng of the Kowloon Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, a set of all-seeing eyes Lo Sa could well do without.

Set over a single night in Hong Kong in September 2000 but shot piecemeal over a period of three years before its 2003 release, the actors having to do their best to maintain a consistent appearance despite their involvement with other projects in the interim, PTU (Police Tactical Unit, 警察機動部隊) was directed by Johnnie To from a script by Yau Nai-Hoi and Au Kin-Yee which underwent continuous revision, the end result somewhat lacking structure but which just about remains entertaining throughout despite the uncertain tone which shifts from comedy to straight police thriller.

There are rivalries among the gangs and the different branches of law enforcement, there are loyalties among the squads, there are conflicts of interest and there is the missing gun and the cellphone belonging to Ponytail which Lo Sa hopes will put him in touch with the gang members who have it, except it is also tagged as official evidence in a murder investigation so out of reach by any accepted channels.

Playing the hapless Sergeant Lo Sa, straying far beyond the limits of his authority and dragging his colleagues with him, Lam Suet was actually a production assistant who suited the role perfectly, the other key parts filled by more experienced performers with both Simon Yam (Ho) and Maggie Shiu (Kat) present alongside To himself in the hour of assorted archive interviews included on the new Blu-ray edition of PTU now released as part of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series which also features a commentary from Frank Djeng of the New York Asian Film Festival.

PTU will be available on Blu-ray from Eureka from Monday 21st June



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