Shock Wave (2017) by Herman Yau screening at Fantasia International Film Festival

An action blockbuster that stands apart due to its basic concept

Although HK cinema has been experiencing a downfall for some years now, local filmmakers have always shown a knack for producing blockbuster action films, and "Shock Wave" is not an exception.

"Shock Wave" is part of the Asian selection at Fantasia International Film Festival


JS Cheung, a Superintendent in Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau and the most capable man in his field in Hong Kong is in a very difficult position. 7 years ago, he went undercover in a gang led by one of the most notorious crime-bosses in the area, Blast. Although he managed to ruin their plans and even arrest Blast's brother, Biao, the boss managed to avoid arrest. Now, he is back with a gang, and is ready to take revenge on Cheung and the whole of Hong Kong, and even to make some money in the process. In that fashion, a series of bomb attacks start occurring in Hong Kong, which spark terror among the citizens. Soon enough, Cheung realizes that all of the attacks are part of a trap that targets him and everyone he loves. When Blast targets the city’s busiest tunnel, the Cross-Harbor Tunnel, Cheung is faced with a very hard dilemma that could ruin him and the whole of the city.

Herman Yau directs a film that throws itself immediately in the action with the events of seven years ago, before he takes a step back, to present Cheung's life at the moment, where he has become a decorated officer, one considered a hero.and his relationship with his girlfriend, Carmen Li. This short break from the action though, just serves to make the later situation worse, as Blast seems to take advantage of everything in Cheung's life, in order to lay a very intricate trap, which unfolds each time the Superintendent manages to disassemble a bomb.


This trait, of the unfolding of the traps that weave a bigger trap each time is actually the aspect that sets the film apart, as it provides a very interest background to the action, although the concept is a bit far-fetched at times. A second layer is provided by the concept of the market's reaction to the possibility of the upcoming disaster of the tunnel, with Yau making a direct comment about the greed that will make the people dealing with stock markets stop at nothing.

"After Shock" however, is foremost an action movie, and it is in that aspect that the film actually shines. Having the explosions and the disposal of bombs as his base, Herman Yau presents a number of agonizing and visually impressive scenes, where Joe Chan's cinematography, FreeD Wosrkshop's special effects, and Azrael Chung's editing reach their apogee, with the shocking scene of the finale being the most impressive of all. Apart from that, this is another movie where HK police truly suffers in the hands of the outlaws, with them being in the defensive from the beginning of the film, and the situation changing only when they decide to go on the offensive, headed by the brave recklessness of Cheung. Through this concept, Yau induces the film with a strong element of drama, which extends in many aspects of the story and not just Cheung. The romantic relationship, on the other hand, is largely undeveloped and a bit nonsensical, starting from the way the two meet.


Andy Lau as Cheung gives another performance in his usual great standards, although Yau could not refrain from focusing on his looks and general charisma, as is usually the case in the former's films. Apart from that, he is quite good in all the agonizing scenes, while his greatest moments occur when he loses his cool. Jiang Wu as Blast is also great, presenting the archetype of the "noble villain/mastermind." with gusto. Song Jia as Carmen Li has a secondary role, which focuses on her highlighting her character's almost constant sense of discomfort.

"Shock Wave" is a very impressive film, of the ones that deserve to be watched in cinemas, while it also benefits much from its script.


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Asian Film Vault: Shock Wave (2017) by Herman Yau screening at Fantasia International Film Festival
Shock Wave (2017) by Herman Yau screening at Fantasia International Film Festival
An action blockbuster that stands apart due to its basic concept
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Asian Film Vault
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