The White Storm (NC16)
135 minutes/Opens tomorrow / ***½
The story: Tin (Sean Lau Ching Wan), Wai (Nick Cheung) and Chow (Louis Koo) are three friends who grew up together and then signed up to be cops.
Tin rises through the ranks and is senior to Wai, while Chow has to tough it out as an undercover mole for a drug lord. As they seek to bring down kingpin Eight-faced Buddha (Lo Hoi Pang) who operates in Thailand, friendships and loyalties are tested.
Oh no, not another drug movie, was my first thought.
Louis Koo played a weaselly drug peddler earlier this year in Drug War while Sean Lau Ching Wan and Nick Cheung have been on both sides of the cop-crook divide in other films such as Overheard (2009) and Nightfall (2012).
They have even teamed up in various combinations, though this marks the first time all three actors are in a film together.
But despite my initial reservations, The White Storm turned out to be a crackerjack of a movie which managed to be surprising in a well-worn genre.
It could have been another generic drug bust movie, but director and co-writer Benny Chan (New Police Story, 2004) ups the stakes by grounding the film with strong characters and extreme moral dilemmas.
The three seasoned actors inhabit their characters easily and also play off one another well.
Koo is the frustrated undercover mole, Chow, who is tired of living a double life. He lives in fear of picking up the wrong mobile phone and saying the wrong thing and just wants to be with his pregnant wife.
Lau is his superior, Tin, who is caught between wanting to protect his friend and pressure from his higher-ups to go after bigger fish - which means that Chow would have to remain as a mole.