Shock wave that won't knock one's socks off

Andy Lau (left) plays the macho special agent and Felix Wong (right) his superior officer when he was working undercover in Shock Wave.
Andy Lau (left) plays the macho special agent and Felix Wong (right) his superior officer when he was working undercover in Shock Wave.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

Andy Lau plays the smug but not very interesting hero of this heavy-handed thriller

REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER

SHOCK WAVE (PG13)

121 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2.5/5 stars

The story: In an undercover mission, special agent Cheung (Andy Lau) takes down criminal Biao, but Biao's mastermind elder brother Blast (Jiang Wu) escapes. Seven years later, Cheung has risen up the ranks in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau. Blast exacts his revenge by holding several hundred people hostage as he threatens to blow up Hong Kong's vital traffic artery, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

The villain who likes to blow things up is called Blast.

That is an indication of how subtle things get in this, well, bombastic crime thriller from writer-director Herman Yau, whose varied body of work includes Cat III exploitation flick Ebola Syndrome (1996) and award-winning drama True Women For Sale (2008). The hero here is self-sacrificing and saintly, played with a certain smugness by Lau - which means that Cheung is not particularly interesting as the protagonist.

He gets a girlfriend early on, not so much to humanise him, but to have the damsel placed in distress.

Cheung is so macho that he does not even put on a protective suit while attempting to defuse a particular bomb because he reasons that the blast force would be too powerful anyway (by that logic, he might as well wear a T-shirt and shorts for his assignments).

The main event of the tunnel hostage situation is played out over an hour.

Yau draws out the tension as the clock ticks, Jiang chews up the scenery as Blast and the prospect of the tunnel getting destroyed looms.

On the whole, though, this is a workman-like and heavy-handed effort that is unlikely to knock anyone's socks off.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Shock wave that won't knock one's socks off'. Print Edition | Subscribe